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Fall Containers with Ornamental Grasses

By: Garden Gate staff
Add texture and interest to your fall containers with low-maintenance and versatile ornamental grasses.


Autumn sunset container with ornamental grasses

Welcome autumn with a bold statement! This container (created in late summer, just for fall!) works with the rest of the fall decor on the porch: The grasses echo the corn stalks, while the orange bougainvillea and bittersweet pick up the orange of the pumpkins.

Container care tips

Bougainvillea is a tropical vine that can handle average to dry conditions. But set in full sun and given even moisture, it thrives! Prune it back to a set of healthy leaves if it starts getting too long. (Be careful to avoid the thorns!) Salvia, smokebush and the grasses are all low-care plants. Put them in place and let them be. Then, move them to the garden if they’re hardy (Japanese silver grass and smokebush survive as far north as zone 5, Napier grass into zone 7) or toss them and start fresh next year.


Plant list (number to plant)

A) Bougainvillea Bougainvillea ‘Bengal Orange’ (1)
B) Japanese silver grass Miscanthus sinensis ‘Bluttenwonder’ (3)
C) Smokebush Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ (1)
D) Salvia Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’ (1)
E) Napier grass Pennisetum purpureum ‘Prince’ (1)
F) American bittersweet Celastrus scandens (1 cut branch)

Container is 22 in. diameter

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Tremendous texture with ornamental grasses

Warm rusty-red chrysanthemums are the stars in this container...or are they? That’s a tough call! You could make a pretty good argument that foliage rules the roost here, too! But while you’re deciding whether it’s flowers or foliage that’s at the top of the list, take a look at how well they work together.

Bronze switchgrass and the red tips on the euphorbia echo the color of the mums (and the container!), while the lilyturf shares the same variegated edges as the euphorbia. And this gathering of plants will look great in your late summer or fall garden for weeks.

Container planting tips

There are a couple of ways to approach this container. You may decide to plant it in late summer, just in time for fall. If that’s the case, for the longest bloom time, choose chrysanthemums with lots of buds that haven’t opened yet. You won’t have to worry much about how much sun or fertilizer it gets if you use this approach — those plants won’t be in their container long enough for it to matter.

Or, try the old plant-swap technique: Plant this container up in spring, and include summer-flowering beauties like starflower, marigolds or even miniature roses. When they start to fade, pull them out and tuck mums and the kale in their place, to keep your container going even longer.


Plant list (number to plant)

A) Switchgrass Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’ (1)
B) Chrysanthemum Chrysanthemum ‘Helen’ (2)
C) Euphorbia Euphorbia x martini Helena’s Blush (‘Inneuphhel’) (1)
D) Ornamental kale Brassica oleracea acephala (1)
E) Lilyturf Liriope spicata ‘Silver Dragon’ (1)

Container is 14 in. in diameter

Published: Aug. 6, 2019
Updated: Sept. 14, 2021

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