After Labor Day weekend, the annuals you so lovingly cared for this summer are probably getting a bit straggly. It might hurt a little to pull them out, but go ahead and get rid of them. After the bright, cheerful hues of summer, it's time for the deep, vibrant shades of fall.
Before you begin your fall planting, make sure you're using the right pot. Glazed ceramic and terra cotta absorb moisture, which will then freeze on cold nights, and you're likely to end up with a broken pot, so save them for summer. Bloem, based in Hudsonville, produces a variety of all-season pots made from recycled plastic, with UV protection that will keep them lasting for years. With a range of deep, vibrant shades to choose from, these planters will offer a gorgeous contrast to your fall plantings. Click here to see Bloem's designs, which are available at many local garden centers.
While yellows, oranges, and deep reds are common choices for fall plantings, the chartreuse yellow-green of some varieties of heuchera and creeping jenny offer a beautiful counterpoint to traditional fall colors. Eggplant purple or chocolate brown planters, layered with a lighter colored vine, building up to contrasting dark and bright foliage and flowers, makes for an eye-catching display.
For height in your containers, try decorative grasses, asparagus fern, or purple kale. Your middle level could include a combination of dusty miller, heuchera, coleus, primrose, hellebores, pansies, verbena, sage, oxalis, and lamb's ear. Sweet alyssum will fill in the space between your plants, creating a look of abundance. The effect of vines spilling out over the edges of a container can be created with creeping jenny or vinca vine. Take your time choosing your plants, comparing the effect of different colors and textures together. While the plants mentioned here are all frost-hardy, if you branch out to include other varieties, talk to your garden center expert so that you don't end up with a seaweed-like mess after the first frost.
Another option for your fall pots is to add some edibles. Spinach, kale, and some varieties of lettuce are frost-hardy, so throughout the fall, you'll be able to clip yourself a fresh salad, if the deer and rabbits don't beat you to it. If this is a worry, check out this list of deer resistant plants.
If you hope to plant your pots with perennials to use year after year, be sure to plant them in a big pot, to offer them more insulation. Generally, plants in containers need to be hardy to at least two zones colder than your regular zone. West Michigan is considered Zone 5 (Zone 6 if you're right along the lakeshore), so you'd need to choose plants hardy to Zone 3 if you expect them to overwinter in your fall pots. Moving your pots from concrete porches on to the ground also helps them regulate their temperature, once winter arrives.
Written by West Michigan Woman staff writer Jennifer Reynolds who is still in denial that summer is coming to an end.