Best fall plants for any space

Shannon Lee | Improvement Center Columnist | September 21, 2015

When the summer begins to wane, so do the showy flowers and bright foliage that was such a feast for the eyes. All too often your home and garden are left barren, grey, and desolate. Spruce things up this year by opting for plants that thrive and bloom during the fall and winter months. There is something for everyone, from those who have small spaces to those who want to enhance a huge backyard.

Small plants for a tiny space

Do you live in an apartment and have room only for fall plants in pots? The best plants for apartments are those that need only the sunlight that comes through the windows and don't grow too quickly -- you don't want them to outgrow their pots in a season, leaving you with difficult decisions about where to put them, or even if you can keep them at all.

  • Parlor Palm. Most palm trees thrive in hot weather, and they grow to a huge size. Not so with the parlor palm, which grows three to four feet when mature, and takes its time in getting there. It can also withstand temperatures of down to 65 degrees or so, making it perfect for the apartment-dweller who likes things a bit on the cooler side.
  • Amaryllis. This very popular flower is one of the showiest you will see during the winter, and it thrives in a tiny pot. They require a new pot only every three to four years, but always tend to stay on the smaller side. They love to bloom when the snow is on the ground, so put several of them on a sunny windowsill to create an indoor garden of color.
  • Pansies. These simple, straightforward flowers are something you usually see in spring garden plantings, but did you know that they can thrive in pots during the fall season? In fact, a light touch of chilly weather makes them brighter and hardier. Best of all, they are extremely cheap, so they work for the apartment-dweller on a budget.

Best fall plants for a small yard

If you have a yard the size of a postage stamp, every plant matters, and the placement of each can make or break your landscaping plans. These plants offer a bright spot in the usually dull and gray autumn ground, and can even offer impressive blooms when you want them most.

  • Coral Bells. Also known as Huechera, this interesting plant is available in almost 100 varieties. All of them offer showy foliage and a few have impressive flowers. The plant remains vivid through late November in most areas. Plant it in an area of well-drained soil that gets full or partial shade.
  • Sarcococca. These elegant evergreens are available in smaller sizes that provide great ground cover, or shrubs that can grow up to six feet. A celebrated winter plant, they have glossy leaves and white flowers that love to bloom when the cold hits. Besides that, the fragrance is heavenly.
  • Goshiki. Also known as "variegated false holly," this handsome evergreen means "five-colored" in Japanese, and delivers on that name with pink, orange, yellow, white, and cream colors on every leaf. Though it can reach six feet tall, it also does well when cut back to a small shrub every year, and can even be used in a container garden.

Fall planting when space is no object

If you have a very large yard and plenty of room for plants, your options are going to open up dramatically. The best plants for cold weather should be hardy and able to withstand the elements, even when the temperatures plummet and snow blankets the ground in the coming months.

  • Dwarf Conifers. These miniature trees serve as a gorgeous anchor piece to a winter landscape or garden. They grow quite slowly, reaching up to six feet within 10 years, so there is plenty of time to move them around and consider the options before letting them settle into their permanent location.
  • Winter Camellias. These gorgeous shrubs have small yet handsome leaves and offer big flowers. How big they get depends upon the variety, and there are several to choose from. Plant these with great forethought, because some can grow up to 12 feet tall.
  • Sedges. This interesting blade-like foliage provides an eye-catching border for any winter garden. It looks like an ornamental grass, but some varieties have interesting flowers. As a bonus, the plant looks great during summer or winter, so you are never without something pretty in the garden.

Always remember that plants need special care during the winter. Carefully attend to issues of proper fertilization, covering any plants that might need protection from snow, and not over-watering, especially for those plants in pots. Some plants will bloom and show off for a bit, then go dormant for a few months; when this happens, just give them minimal care. Most will brighten up and do it all again next year.

Photo credit to Myryah Shea

About the Author

Shannon Lee is a freelance writer and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she's not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.