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Fall Annuals- Plant Bio: Podcast Ep#15

Updated: Oct 10, 2021

Fall annuals are a wonderful addition to your deck, porch, patio or even dining room table! They

add a pop of fall color and replace the summer annuals that have been pushed to their limits.

*** FYI, I will be referencing commonly used terms within the horticulture industry when talking about container gardening, such as "Thriller," "Filler' and Spiller." The best container gardens have a taller, more prominent plant, called "Thriller;" a mid-height plant that fills the middle of the container called "Filler" (shocker...); and a plant that hangs off the edge of the container, bringing your eyes down, called "Spiller." In the picture to the left the white blooming Mandevilla is the "Thriller," the blue Lobelia is the "Filler," and the lime Creeping Jenny is the "Spiller" (the container shown is a summer container, not fall).***

Mums- AKA Chrysanthemum

  • These usually come in pinks, red, orange, yellow, green, purple, white & a combo.

  • The flowers look JUST like the cut flowers but there are varieties that look closer to a daisy-like flower too.

  • They come as annuals most of the time BUT some GCs have them available as perennials!

    • They are VERY hard to find as a perennial around here (at least in my experience).

  • Usually the cooler it is and the more shade these are in, the longer the flowers will last.

  • These need lots of water so make sure you are watering about every day if you planted it outside in a draining pot.

    • They will wilt if they are thirsty so it's easy to tell.

  • Mums are mostly commonly used as a 'filler' in container gardening.

  • According to mums symbolize different things in different countries: life and rebirth in Asia, sympathy in Europe, and respect, and honor, in America.


  • You can find these in pink, purple, white, blue, yellow, orange and a combo.

  • Around here they are only available in early spring and fall because pansies prefer cooler weather over hot humid summers.

  • I would consider these to be a 'filler' or 'spiller' in container gardening. They still tend to be shorter so they would be best placed near the front or edge of your pot.

  • Weird fact- these flowers actually creep me out a bit! They look like little faces!

Ornamental Kale & Cabbage

  • These guys come in purple, green, shades of blue, white, and yellow.

  • These don’t flower or anything (as you could imagine) but they add amazing color and texture.

  • I would also consider this a 'filler' or spiller' for the same reason as the pansies. Although there are some varieties that come ALOT larger. In that case, it could be a 'thriller'.

Ornamental Peppers

  • These plants are leafy green with small ornamental peppers that come in red, orange, yellow, green, and purple

  • These add bright, vibrant colors, a little more height and a totally different texture.

  • These could be considered a 'thriller' or 'filler' depending how large your container is.


  • This is one of the few fall annuals that are also great in a summer container garden!

    • Usually in fall, they come into greenhouses and nurseries much larger than in summer.

  • You can find them in pink, yellow, red, and, orange.

    • In fall, they are commonly seen in bright pink or purples.

  • They look pokey but they are super fuzzy and have amazing color!

  • FUN FACT- they are perennial in zones 10-11 (southern tip of FL or Hawaii).

Ornamental Grasses

  • I LOVE grasses because they are super versatile in your perennial landscape and your containers.

  • They can be a "Thriller," 'Filler," and "Spiller" in you landscape because they come in every color and size imaginable, but they are definitely a "Thriller" or "Filler" in your container.

  • You can use perennial grasses or annual grasses in your container! You can also use them all summer long and into winter.

  • They come in (obviously) shades of green, red, and blue. The plumes range from red, white, tan, green, and purple.

  • The plumes also range from super fluffy to thin.

  • Some examples of perennial grasses are Karl Forester, Grazilla, Elijah Blue, Shenandoah Red Switch, Morning Light, Northern Sea Oats, Purple Flame, Tall Moor, and MANY more!

  • Some examples of annual grasses are Fireworks Fountain Grass, Purple Fountain Grass, Blue Mohawk Grass, King Tut Grass, Prince Tut Grass, Baby Tut Grass, Fiber Optic Grass, Hakone Grass, and more!

  • Grass adds so much adds fullness and height within your container and landscape.

  • You can also use this in your summer annual pots that way you can enjoy it all season long.


  • These usually have pretty short flowering life.

  • These are not the SUPER tall ones you see in fields. They are smaller varieties that kind of fit perfectly inside a pot.

  • These bring amazing yellow flowers with that traditional fall look.

  • You can definitely use these as a "Thriller" or "Filler."


  • These are commonly used as a perennial (Goldstrum Black Eyed Susan and Little Viette Suzy are common varieties seen around the Midwest).

  • As a fall annual, you will more commonly see then in shades of orange but they do come in yellow, and red.

  • The flowers are much larger and fuller than the perennial Black Eyed Susan.

  • You could use this as a "Thriller" if the plant is tall enough...or a "Filler."


  • These are commonly used as a perennial which come in varieties of Wood’s Blue, Wood’s Purple, Wood’s Pink, Purple Dome, New England Aster.

  • But they are available in fall as great annual fillers.

  • As a perennial and annual, they typically come in pinks, purples, and shades of blue.

Pumpkins, Gourds, Squash OH MY!

  • Never underestimate the color orange! Pumpkins!

  • Some squash and gourds have amazing texture and great colors that can definitely add that extra pop!

  • If you are on a budget, instead of buying an $8 fall annual, consider buying a $0.50 colorful gourd or squash to put in your pot!

    • Or instead of planting up multiple pots, plant up only one and buy a few pumpkins to place around it to fill up your space!

  • Be careful not to “water” the gourd or squash because they could rot easily. Instead remove it when you have to water the pot or place them in an area you know they won't sit in water

Other Facts:

  • I want to start by saying that just because, in the Midwest, garden centers are putting fall annuals out at the beginning of August does not mean you should be bringing them home yet. August is still considered summer and the hotter temperatures do not work well with these cooler weather-loving plants. Now, of course if you wanted to bring them home, it's up to you. But you will more than likely have to replace them before Halloween.

  • These plants will not get much larger because this time of year is cooler and it's a short growth season. Typically they are sold a little bit larger than normal because of this.

  • The more shade your plants are in and the cooler the weather, the longer the flowers last.

  • Mums are the MOST popular which usually makes them the MOST expensive- never underestimate the the impact of the other annuals I listed above. Some Garden Centers have mums in smaller 4-6” pots which is much more cost effective. The GC I worked at had HUGE mums and they would sell out super fast because it would make a big impact and they didn’t have to create their own pot of mixed annuals.

  • If you struggle with making your own pots if you just type in “fall container ideas” in a google search you will find lots of great, reliable websites with already made-up pots so you can just copy it! DIY Network, Better Home & Garden, Southern Living and OBVI Pinterest has TONS of ideas. You could also do this with spring and summer pots!

  • Don’t limit yourself to just outdoors! These plants can easily survive for the season inside! You can find a cute decorative pot at some GCs or even Hobby Lobby or Michaels to put the nursery pot in! No planting needed! Just make sure you either have a pot with no drainage or a saucer underneath so you aren’t destroying furniture. On your dining room table you could have a spread of a mum, a pepper, and some gourds. A truly easy way to make your home feel like fall!



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Always written with extreme plant passion!

Love, Holly


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