ISSUE 39  |  Fall Foliage

DIY Outdoor Planter: Rich Fall Hues

September 28, 2015 3:00 PM

BY Julie Chai

I was born in New York, and after we moved to almost-always-warm California during my childhood, one of the things I missed most was fall. While we do get a small dose of the leaves changing color in the Bay Area, I still envy the East Coast’s vivid autumn trees and try to pay homage to the colorful season with plants in lush shades.

For an autumn planter, I chose plants in deep burgundy, green, and bronze. See step-by-step DIY instructions below: 

Photography by Meredith Swinehart. 

Above: Before shopping, I often cut a sturdy paper template that’s the same size as my container’s opening. I bring this with me to the nursery and use it as a guide for how many plants I can fit in a pot.

Above: A palette of burgundy, deep green, and a touch of bronze will look good all through the season.

Above: ‘Obsidian’ Heuchera–one of the deepest, darkest heucheras you can find–anchors this arrangement with its scalloped leaves in a super-saturated plum hue. Great Garden Plants sells Heuchera Obsidian in 1-quart pots for $11.95.

Above: Trifolium Repens ‘Atropurpureum’ is one of my new favorites. It forms a dainty mound of burgundy-edged-in-green clover that tops out at 8 inches tall. Plants are available seasonally; $5.50 from Joy Creek Nursery.

Above: Creeping thyme is perfect for planting between everything else. This low-growing ground cover creates a soft, delicate mat that will spill over the pot’s edge as it fills out. An organic Creeping Thyme seedling in a 3-inch pot is $4.95 from Mountain Valley Growers. 

Above: Thyme’s teeny leaves also balance out the broader leaf shapes in the pot.

Above: Upright, spiky leaves of ‘Surfer’ phormium offer contrast to the other plants’ rounded leaves and mounded forms. Its olive green foliage has deep mahogany edges that echo the others’ reddish hues.

Above: If plants have been squished at the nursery, I like to fluff them out a bit (rather than waiting for them to fill out on their own) so they look good right away.

Above: Keep this combination happy by growing it in full to part sun and giving it moderate water (though I often keep these plants on the drier side and they still look great). They’re all evergreen in mild winter zones, so will look good year round. You may want to remove some plants when they fill out after a number of months, but you can always transplant them elsewhere in your garden.

Want to know why leaves change color? Learn all about it in Fall Foliage 101.

And find more container gardening ideas in Dark and Stormy Shades and Pots and Planters.