Late Summer Container Care

It is the time of year when containers and pots with bedding plants start to look a little bit sad as early summer colour fades. Many flowering plants are running out of steam but you can breathe life back into late summer containers with a little know-how and extend their colour until the first frosts.

Routine Maintenance

This is just as important now as it was earlier in the year: keep deadheading, keep removing dead leaves, and keep watering. Even if it seems to be raining fairly regularly, your plants are now mature and need plenty of water so carry on doing the rounds with your watering can or hose every couple of days. 

Top Dress and Feed

Plants in containers have been living in the same compost since May and it is only supposed to feed for six weeks! Once you have deadheaded and tided up the container a bit, give the plants a feed with a good general purpose soluble plant food and top dress with any leftover compost. 


Clear Out the Old

The best thing to do with those plants that have finished flowering and died back is to pull them. It will leave spaces, but better spaces than dead plants which will ruin any container display.

Fill in the Gaps

Garden centres have later flowering plants in stock now, so go and grab yourself some autumn colour to fill the gaps left by removing the dead plants. Many of these plants are perennials and can be transplanted to the garden once you have finished with them in pots. These are likely to give you autumn colour for several years.

If you keep these ideas in mind, your containers will reward you with a few more weeks and possibly months of flowering, well into autumn, when you can then think about planting up containers with spring bulbs.

Here are a few hardy plant suggestions to use in our containers to fill in the gaps and give late summer into autumn colour:


This plant is normally grown in damp areas but we have grown it very successfully in pots. As long as you keep it moist, it gives a great show of scarlet blooms from August to October.

Lobelia cardinalis

Lobelia cardinalis ‘Queen Victoria’ has contrasting purple-tinted foliage which makes a majestic and exotic looking focal. It can reach up to 90cm and although claiming to be fully hardy, we overwinter ours in a cold greenhouse and keep it moist.


These fleshy-leaved perennials thrive in well drained containers in a sunny position. Large panicles of tiny flowers, pink or white flowers, make a showy display and are a magnet for butterflies. 

Sedum telephium ‘Purple Emperor’ has dark foilage


Ornamental grasses create valuable texture in borders. Pennisetum is an attractive genus, with many different forms and foliage colours. 

Pennisetum villosum ‘Cream Falls’

Pennisetum villosum ‘Cream Falls’ is a favourite for containers with fluffy, late summer flower heads above neat clumps of slender foliage.


Heuchera is widely available and can be grown in partial sun for autumn foilage, coming in a rainbow of shades from peach to deepest burgundy.


Tom’s Hidden Garden is located in Bonnybridge, Central Scotland – a small garden with over 630 different plants, 200 containers, and 30 hanging baskets. Tom Williamson has been developing the garden over the last 35 years, working with David Gallacher over the last 10 to create its unique look. Tom is a keen gardener, planting where he thinks a plant will be happy. David is a time-served gardener in commercial gardens and landscaping. Catch up with more secrets of their garden and their success with plants on their Facebook group.

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