Container Gardening & Fall Weather

Lisha Utt
Frederick County Master Gardener Program

I love container gardening, too, and with many annuals still blooming this fall here are some ideas for your containers.

If your deck or patio is filled with containers like mine, you're probably finding some plants look very tired and need to be replaced, while others still look good.

Unfortunately, the flowers that are still growing well are usually spread amongst all the pots, so consider combining them into one, three or five pots (depending on how many you have to start with). You might also like to add some new plants such as pansies, fall kale or even small evergreens.

The tired plants can be removed, and containers you don't use can be put away for the winter. Place your "new" containers in strategic locations where you can best enjoy them, like by your patio door, outside a kitchen window or grouped by your outside seating area.

There are many summer annuals that can handle the cool temperatures, including verbena, nemesia, bidens, million bells (Calibrachoa), lantana, zonal geraniums (Pelargonium x hortum), red grass (Pennisetum rubrum), diascia and gerbera daisies.

Even if you haven't planted any of these particular plants this year, you may want to consider including them in your containers next spring. Like your perennial borders, where you plan to have something(s) blooming throughout the summer and fall, the same idea can be used with your containers by including annuals you know will look great throughout fall.

You can also bring favorite annuals inside for the winter. To care for the annuals, put them in the brightest light possible (a south-facing window is best), pinch the plants often to keep bushy, water the plants regularly and do not fertilize until the days become longer in late February.

You may also want to spray the plants with insecticidal soap before bringing them indoors to make sure you are not bringing in any pests.

Not all annuals will do well inside, but the following plants can be adapted to indoor conditions and bring you some welcome color throughout the winter: zonal geraniums (Pelargonium x hortum), celosia, verbena, argyranthemum, gazania, portulaca, mealy-cup sage (Salvia farinacea), diascia, dragonwing begonias, impatiens and felicia blue daisy.

When the cold weather has arrived for good, consider planting a winter container garden with dwarf evergreens, such as dwarf Alberta spruce (Picea glauca ‘Conica'), fern spray hinoki cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Fern Spray') or dwarf English boxwood (Buxus sempervirens ‘Suffruticosa'). These types of plants can keep the "green" in your containers all year long.

Just keep in mind of what your containers are made. Terra cotta containers generally do not do well outside all year round. They can crack and chip with the freezing and thawing of the soil. Fiberglass, iron and plastic containers are ideal for leaving outside in the winter months.

So, if you are a container garden lover like me, there's still time left to garden outside before we are dreaming by the fireplace with our spring catalogs.

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