Fall Color on Your Balcony Garden


This past weekend I flew out to Vermont to visit my brother who is going to college there. We were a tad bit too early to see the trees in their full Autumn glory, but we were still treated to quite a show.

One thing that struck me though, is how different September is across the country. In Vermont, the first frost of fall comes in September, and I would guess that they only have 1 or 2 more months of viable gardening time left. In Southern California, by contrast, September is often one of the hottest months of the year, with the Santa Ana winds bringing temperatures in the 80s, 90s, and even 100s in some places.

Take this next statement with a huge grain of salt, because I have never gardened in a place with such a short growing season, but I would imagine that if you haven’t switched up your containers for fall in a climate like Vermont’s, you’ve missed your chance for this year. But if you live farther south, or closer to the ocean, you almost certainly still have time to pop in some of the following great plants for a splash of fall interest.

Japanese Blood Grass is a beautiful, upright grass whose tips are dipped in a deep red. It is happy in either full sun or part-shade, which is useful this time of year as the shorter days and changing location of the sun may mean that you have full-sun on your balcony in September and several hours less sun in November.

Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ is a stunning silver-white plant with finely cut, feathery leaves. It is a great contrast to other foliage colors and provides needed brightness and texture. Hardy down to zone 5 and drought tolerant, it is tough enough to handle most winter’s with little special attention.

Black Eyed Susan ‘City Garden’ is a great choice if you’re feeling nostalgic for these cheery flowers but don’t really have the room for the full-sized version.  City Garden will stay compact and top out at 12 inches tall and less than 18 inches across. They’re also a great choice if you want to lure songbirds onto your balcony by helping them out when food sources start to become scarce.

Dwarf Pampas Grass is the perfect plant for a container gardeners who either need some privacy, want to make a serious statement, or both. The plumes top out at about 5 feet tall and are pretty low maintenance.

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