The Best Plants for Colorful Fall Containers in Central Iowa

best plants fall containers Ted Lare

With a little bit of a refresh, you can keep your planters, containers, and flowerbeds looking beautiful right through the fall. It’s definitely a good time to pull out and compost those straggly, crunchy, and sad looking spring annuals–but don’t dump out the soil and put the pots away just yet. 

Loosen up the soil a bit, rehydrate it, and work in some slow-release fertilizer. Then stop by the garden center for a visit and pick up some of these fabulous fall flowers and foliage to freshen up your yard for the fall season. 


Chrysanthemums are the ultimate fall classic. These easy to care for profusely flowering plants are perfect for fall containers. They come in a wide variety of vibrant colors, perfect for matching fall decor’s classic jewel tones. If you get relatively large ones, a mum can fill a pot all on its own. If you get smaller ones, they can make an excellent accent to other fall pot-fillers with more foliage. 

best plants fall containers Ted Lare

Ornamental Kale and Cabbage

Ornamental kale and cabbage are a perfect fall container plant. These hardy and beautiful plants come in shades from white to pink to dark purple. The leaves can be ruffled or flat and often fade from their primary color to green on the edges. These tough foliage plants can withstand temperatures as low as 5ºF, so if you want pretty planters until Christmas, get yourself some of these!


Crotons are all about those fall colors, while still embracing the lush greens of summer. Croton leaves are beautifully variegated, with different red, orange, yellow, and green patterning on each leaf, and veins in a distinct contrasting color. The undersides are usually orange or red. Croton’s have large, lush leaves, almost succulent like. Unfortunately, just like tropical plants, Crotons don’t like frost. You can keep them as houseplants if you want, just make sure you bring them inside when the temperatures get to about 50ºF.


Pansies are often a spring favorite for many people, but they’re also an excellent choice for fall planters. Pansies are a cool-season annual, so they thrive in spring and fall. With such a wide array of colors available, including gorgeous variegated types, you’ll be sure to find the right pansy for your pots. There are even types with double blooms or ruffled petals. 

best plants fall containers Ted Lare

Coral Bells

Coral Bells are prized for their gorgeous colored foliage and tall flower spikes. Technically, Coral Bells (also known as Heuchera) are perennial. There are many different colors of coral bells, and the darker colors fit right into a fall color scheme. From the darkest almost-black purple to fiery red, bright copper, and pale icy-green, Coral Bells are a great option as a ground cover. These plants will act as an annual in pots or containers, dying off once it freezes hard enough. In a flower bed, they should come back year after year. 

Lemon Cypress

Lemon Cypress, or Goldcrest, makes a beautiful evergreen centerpiece for fall containers. The foliage of lemon cypress is brilliant, chartreuse green, and is quite soft. On its own, Lemon Cypress grows into a classic, balanced conical shape. Unfortunately, these Monterey Bay natives aren’t hardy enough to last the winter outside. But, they also make excellent indoor houseplants and work very well for topiary. Just make sure to bring them in before the frost hits.


Snapdragons are a tough and cheerful fall plant that can add some height and visual interest to planters and flower beds. The uniquely shaped flowers, rising high on spikes, are available in a variety of colors. These easy-care plants are technically tender perennials in warmer zones, but we usually grow them as annuals in Iowa. The bloom time for Snapdragons can last for weeks, so they’ll give you colorful flowers all through fall.

best plants fall containers Ted Lare

Creeping Jenny

Creeping Jenny or Lysimachia is an excellent spiller for tall containers, hanging baskets, or retaining walls. Creeping Jenny is a perennial, with small, rounded chartreuse leaves and tiny bright yellow flowers. It spreads in a mat quite quickly, draping elegantly over the edge of whatever container or flower bed it is planted in. 

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Angelina Sedum

Angelina Sedum is a gorgeous perennial Stonecrop. It features golden-green needle-like foliage that turns a striking dark coppery orange for the fall and winter. This tough little plant will quickly make itself into a mat of greenery and works wonders as a ground cover in flower beds.


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