5 Container Gardens for Fall and Beyond

Fall is a beautiful time of year in the Pacific Northwest. We're fortunate to have spectacular scenery around us, and the beginnings of the rainy season bring back the bright hues of green, but sometimes our container gardens begin to feel a little flat after the colorful flowers of summer have faded. Not to worry, there are many plants that will thrive as the weather cools and offer you dynamic container gardens that will hold up all winter (even through frost)! 

Here are a few mixed container gardens for a wide variety of conditions, from full sun to shade. Each has a "thriller" plant to add height and focus, "filler" plants that make up the body of the container, and "spiller" plants to cascade down or create movement. While there is usually a clear "thriller" plant, "fillers" and "spillers" can be more ambiguous, and certain plants can fill both roles. The most important thing is simply to have fun and play around with plant combos to create a container garden that suits you!


1. Container Garden for Full Sun

If you need plants for a sunny spot, this container has it all. Variegated foliage and contrasting colors in the "filler" plants at the base are a perfect complement to the berries that grow on Callicarpa (Beautyberry) in the fall. Black Mondo Grass adds the perfect dramatic touch, arching gracefully over the edges. 

Thriller plant: Callicarpa bodinieri 'Profusion' (Beautyberry)
Filler plants: Heuchera ‘Plum Pudding’, Aster ‘Purple Dome’, Abelia 'Kaleidoscope'
Spiller plant: Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens' (Black Mondo Grass)


2. Container Garden for Sun or Part Shade

Multiple shades of green really pop in this modern, clean container garden for sun to part shade. The "thriller," Cephalotaxus, adds structure and height, while the mix of textures and movement of the other plants make for a standout container in all seasons.

Thriller plant: Cephalotaxus harringtonia ‘Fastigiata’ (upright Japanese plum yew)
Filler plants: Cistus x ‘Mickie’, Hebe ‘McKean’
Spiller plants: Carex ‘Feather Falls', Hedera helix ‘Gold Child’


3. Container Garden for Sun or Part Shade

For those of us that like more color in our container gardens, this combination is striking with the red new growth on Pieris japonica 'Katsura' and the purple flowers of Liriope muscari. The leaves of Bergenia 'Winter Glow' turns a reddish bronze hue in the cooler weather and magenta flower clusters emerge in early spring. 

Thriller plant: Pieris japonica ‘Katsusa’
Filler plants: Liriope muscari ‘Variegata’, Bergenia ‘Winter Glow’
Spiller plant: Muehlenbeckia complexa ‘Tricolor’


4. Container Garden for Part Shade

A sophisticated palette of varied green tones is stunning in this container garden. Perfect for the minimalist who still wants a container that is lush and full of interest with variegated, lacy, fresh foliage. The "thriller" plant, Sarcococca, really shines in the winter with vanilla-scented flowers followed by small scarlet berries.

Thriller plant: Sarcoccoca ruscifolia
Filler plants: Hellebore ‘Snow Fever’, 
Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ (black mondo grass)
Spiller plants: Adiantum venustum (Himalayan maidenhair fern), Gaultheria procumbens   



5. Container Garden for Shade

The variegated foliage of this container offers a fantastic combination of green and white tones that change as the weather grows colder. This Euonymus develops a unique pale pink hue in the winter while the leaves of the Bergenia turn a reddish bronze. Bursts of red berries brighten the Gaultheria and often last into spring. 

Thriller plant: Fatsia ‘Spider Web’
Filler plants: Euonymous ‘Harlequin’, Bergenia ‘Winter Glow’

Spiller plants: Vinca minor ‘Ralph Shugart’, Gaultheria procumbens


We hope this gives you the inspiration you need to create interesting and enduring container gardens. Remember, all trees, shrubs, and perennials are 30% off during our Fall Sale, September 1-October 1!

Need more help creating your containers? Ask us on social media with #heyswansons. We will also create custom containers for you. Learn more about our Container Design department.