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Amazing Fall Flora for Pots

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”
– F. Scott Fitzgerald

Tired from the intense heat of our Iowa summer, our gardens have seen better days, and we eagerly search for that fresh life we were surrounded by in summer. Luckily, you can still have beautiful fall flora even as the weather cools, and these are our top choices for your pots.

Pansies

These annuals are year-round spectacles of color and spring vibrance. The soft, clover-like flowers burst into bloom against a background of dark, pointed leaves in the spring and last late into the fall. As annuals, they won’t be hardy into the winter, but you can make them weather the frost with a thick layer of mulch and plenty of sun. Our favorites are the bright and simple Mimosa Yellow, and the complex and stunning Endurio Blue Yellow with Purple Wing.

Pictured below: Chrysanthemums

Chrysanthemums flowers

Kale

This cool-weather-loving plant has lots to offer to your backyard aesthetic, with gorgeous, crinkle-leafed green and lacy tendrils of beautiful color that look fantastic in a pot. As delicious as other varieties may be, the fall kale we love, Red or White Peacock, is purely ornamental and is best observed with the eyes, rather than our mouths.

Mums

The ultimate fall annuals, mums – or chrysanthemums – are delightful, daisy-like flowers that are packed with colorful petals with beautiful ferny leaves that look amazing even after the blooms are spent. Though they are labeled as hardy, their breeding over the years has primed them for performance over weather tolerance. They are wonderfully easy-to-care-for, only needing sun and water to keep their blooms bright all season. Try our top choices, the Karelli Bronze and the Petit Orange for a beautiful fall spectacular.

Pictured below: Kale and Ornamental Peppers

kale and ornamental peppers in a black pot

Ornamental Peppers

While they are technically peppers that can be eaten, ornamental is the best way to describe these powerfully spicy and brightly colored vegetables. These peppers pack a punch of color – anywhere from yellow to black – to punctuate your fall garden, and only need rich soil, occasional watering, and full sun to dazzle in your pots.

Crossandras

Also known as a Firecracker Plant, Crossandras are the perfect plant to pot outside all year and bring inside when the mercury drops below freezing. They provide a luxurious, tropical aesthetic of orange-red flower spikes that will transform your space into an oasis that will have you forgetting about the weather outside. Better suited for the humidity of the jungle, these plants will need plenty of sun and water to keep them performing their best.

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Celosias

Celosias, or Cockscombs, are pretty plumes of brightly-colored flowers that bring summer colors to your fall landscape. Not only will you appreciate their unbelievable beauty, but you’ll also love the increased presence of butterflies in your yard when they are around. They are drought-tolerant and prefer full sun to keep them looking their best. For a full spectrum of stunning color, try Fresh Look RedKelos Orange, and purple Intenz.

Lemon Cypress

A beautiful, compact tree with a delicious citrus fragrance that follows it wherever it goes, the Lemon Cypress is a cool-weather-loving lovely that looks stunning in larger pots. It may prefer the cool weather, but our colder Iowa winters are a little colder than it prefers, so bringing it inside will keep their yellow-green needles happier and healthier. Make sure it still receives plenty of sun, though.

Crotons

These fabulous Variegated Crotons are full of interesting and bright foliage with plenty of personality to add to your pots. The large, glossy leaves burst with colorful variegations throughout the year. Plant them with rich, well-draining soil in full sun to partial shade and enjoy the spectacular show this low-maintenance plant provides.  Bring them inside before the temperatures dip below freezing and enjoy them as a houseplant this winter.

Pictured below: Crotons

croton plant

Other Fall Pot Favorites

Bidens are sensational, star-shaped flowers that are low-maintenance, drought-tolerant, and adored by butterflies. Our top choices are Campfire FireburstSun Drop, and Yellow Sunshine.

Mona Lavender offers spikes of lavender-hued, tubular flowers that hummingbirds love. As low-maintenance as they are, you’ll love them, too.

Coleus is a fantastic fall flora with fabulous foliage and a marvellous mounding habit. They come in many beautiful varieties, like Under the SeaCampfire, and Chocolate Covered Cherry.

Ornamental Grasses are the ultimate low-maintenance landscape addition to add texture to your life. As natives to Iowa, they are also phenomenally low-maintenance. We love the Purple Fountain Grass for its stunning color and texture.

Pictured below: Celosias

red celosia plant

Zinnias are another daisy-like flower with a terrific trailing quality that looks perfect in patio pots. They come in many vibrant colors, including the cheerful orange Magellan Orange, and are drought-tolerant enough to handle a little neglect.

When the leaves change and the air changes to that crisp, cool air the world comes alive with color and excitement. As lively as it may seem, though, the world is slowly falling into hibernation, and our gardens are a perfect example of this. With these stunning fall selections, though, you can still enjoy that burst of fresh life from summer right until winter comes.

To learn more about plants for potting in fall or to browse our selection, visit the garden center today!

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3 Reasons to Trim Back Your Annuals

A little pruning now and then keeps it healthy, but you shouldn’t pull it out and chop the roots up.“
– Len Goodman

Some of us feel a little timid when it comes to trimming back our beloved annuals. These bold bloomers captivate our hearts and backyards in their precious, short growing season and we can be nervous to start cutting away their blossoms. It’s time to be brave and grab the trimmers, though, because cutting back your annuals will rejuvenate them for the end of the growing season, boasting bigger, better, and healthier growth into the fall.

Once summer has embraced its best months and we start thinking about the fall and back-to-school season just around the corner, our star annuals that were lush and dense with vibrant color might be looking a little lackluster, despite some of our best efforts. A well-timed pruning can actually give them a second life by trimming the dead weight! Don’t spare the scissors, because they can give your favorite flowers new life to last longer in their prime right into fall:

Pictured below: Petunias

purple and white petunias in a pot

Reason 1: Some of Your Plants Can’t Take the Heat:

When we walk into a garden center to pick out our favorite blooms, we tend to fall in love with the look of our plants first. But a garden center is a bit like the United Nations of plants – something from the depths of the Amazon jungle might be on the shelf beside a desert dweller.

Your petunias are from South America, while Chrysanthemums come from China, and Rosemary originates from Mediterranean countries, like Italy. While they all come from different homelands, we adopt them here in Iowa and group them together in our own container designs. They might survive next to each other in a container, but some plants have some very different needs from each other.

Pictured below: Alyssum

Hibiscus yellow orange flower

While you’ve probably taken into account the most extreme needs when planting, once the season is in full swing the smaller differences become much more apparent. Annuals from temperate climates will thrive in the cooler nights of spring and fall while folding under the heat of July and August. Classics like Pansies and Violas, Osteospermum, Geraniums, Nemesia, Alyssum, and Snapdragons love cool temperatures and might not be looking their best by this point in the summer.

Once they start to struggle in the heat, they’ll benefit from a generous haircut and some fertilization. Your heat-lovers will be free to put on the best show they can in the rest of the hottest summer days, while the summer pruning will set up your cool-temperature plants to perform again as the days cool into fall. Without this trimming, they’d be too exhausted to even make an attempt at reviving in the fall. By pruning now, you invest in better color, later into the season. Your garden could still bloom with enthusiasm after your heat-lovers finish their season.

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Reason 2: Garden Interventions:

In the gardens of our childhood, your local garden center might have offered a maximum of 12 different annuals, known then as “bedding plants”. From those 12, you would make your selections, plant your annuals, and wait for them to bloom. It was formulaic, it was predictable, and it was easy to follow without negotiating different types of flowers, growing habits, and needs. In exchange for all the choice we get to explore and be creative with now, we have to be a bit more involved in our gardens.

With a wider selection of plants to choose from to fit our every need, we have more variables to balance. In creating our perfect aesthetic, we keep in mind how aggressive our plants are or how much water they need to pair plants successfully. Sometimes our “perfect look” calls for pairing some mismatch plants, like meeker and slower growing Marigolds or Snapdragons with much more aggressive Verbenas or Petunias. This doesn’t have to rule out matching them though, you’ll just need to keep your trimmers ready to save your passive plants from getting consumed by the stronger growers. Trimming back and taming your annuals opens up new pairing possibilities to create a container that is absolutely perfect.

Pruning Marigolds in a garden

Reason 3: Get A Response:

Pruning your plants gets them angry and ready to grow back with more conviction and a vengeance. Your annuals are like a champion boxer – they more you try to knock them down, the tougher they get. If you trim off a quarter of their growth a couple times a year, they come back bigger, stronger, better, and more gorgeous. You get to trim off any unsightly dead growth, only to be rewarded by even more stunning growth! This method works best on plants like Petunias, Pansies, Calibrachoas (Million Bells), Bacopas, and most foliage container plants.

Simply pinch back the foliage and give them a healthy dose of fertilizer to fuel their comeback growth. Check back in a week and you’ll be delighted to see that your plant making a comeback filled with stubborn growth and blooms.

Pictured below: Snapdragons 

Pruning Marigolds in a garden

Keep in mind that this isn’t a one-size-fits-all-annuals method, as some won’t respond well to being hacked back. Anything with a central blooming stem (like Canna Lilies, Snapdragons, Begonias, or Marigolds) won’t make a comeback in the same way or nearly as quickly. Don’t let them go to seed, as they’ll stop blooming, but don’t be quite as aggressive with the scissors on these plants. They still need your guidance and some trimming to be egged on to keep growing and blooming for our enjoyment, just in a gentler sense.

We can sometimes be a little nervous to take a generous snip off of the gorgeous annuals we’ve adored watching bloom all summer. Just as our kids need haircuts before schools reopen in the fall, a haircut is often exactly what our favorite hard-working plants need to come back stronger. Taking charge of your garden with scissors in hand is all you need for gorgeous blooms all summer and long into the fall.