Fall Decorating

Fall is one of the best seasons for enjoying the outdoors and always seems to arrive just as you are tiring of the summer heat. The cooler weather and change of season evoke a sense of nostalgia for friends and family and turns our attention to seasonal harvests and holiday decorating.

Mums are a hardy choice to revitalize the fall garden when bright pinks and vibrant greens give way to rusty reds and warm oranges.

As the summer unwinds, it’s time to change your color palette from those bright greens and vibrant colors to cozier reds, oranges, purples, and golds that harmonize with the season. Replace those summer annuals with fall favorites to change the look and mood of your garden, patio, entryway, and holiday table. Fall brings an exciting assortment of mums, cabbages, kales, pansies, violas, gourds, pumpkins, and corn stalks ready to take center stage in planters, baskets, and garden beds. 

Extend your garden into fall by replacing impatiens, geraniums, and any plants past their summer peak with fall mums. When it comes to putting on a spectacular show, mums are unrivaled with colors ranging from white to yellow, purple, bronze, red, crimson, and all hues in between. Their flower types are just as varied, including single or double blooms, as well as more exotic pom-poms and quilled varieties.  By mixing varieties, it’s easy to extend the bloom period from September through Thanksgiving.

Multi-colored pumpkins make a beautiful display that can be repurposed as pie, muffins, bread, or soup when you'reready for change.

Mums require minimal care and thrive even under adverse conditions. They pair perfectly with ivy, sedum, dusty miller, evergreens, and other plants to revitalize window boxes, planters, and garden beds. And they make a great alternative to cut flowers with showy flowers that add drama and rich color that lasts for months.

Ornamental cabbages and kales are another seasonal favorite that introduce an air of sophistication and style to fall garden beds and flower arrangements. Originally cultivated by the French, their lacy leaves in shades of silvery grey, off-white, aubergine, and pink are a great alternative to fall flowers, adding subtle color and fullness to indoor displays and instantly filling bare spots in the fall garden. They combine perfectly with pansies, mums, marigolds, asters, ageratum, and pumpkins and are compact and hardy even when exposed to frost—making them a great transition plant from the end of summer to early winter. Recently, cut-flower varieties with longer stems have become widely available and are a favorite of floral designers for Thanksgiving centerpieces. 

Create a scrumptious harvest table display with your garden pickings—berries, gourds, pumpkins, and greens.

Pansies and violas are also cold tolerant and offer stunning fall colors on velvety variegated petals. Their small faces float above the dark green foliage, creating cheerful movement whenever the wind blows. In the country’s midsection where climates are moderate, pansies reward gardeners by returning in the spring. In warmer areas, they bloom throughout the winter months. Pansies now come in colors and combinations that are perfect for fall and holiday decorating—including popular orange and black varieties that work great with indoor or outdoor decorations for Halloween. At Thanksgiving, their edible blooms provide a pretty accent to place settings and are a nice garnish for the turkey platter, side dishes, and holiday deserts.

Of course, pumpkins and gourds are classic fall decorating accessories. They pair perfectly with fall flowers and plants, adding color and form to any seasonal display. Pumpkins and gourds are available in virtually any size and shape desired and last for weeks with no care or attention. They also have the distinction of serving a dual purpose as jack-o-lanterns or comfort food depending on the variety you select. Field pumpkins go under the knife on Halloween to become smiling faces that welcome trick-or-treaters. Sugar pumpkins, scaled perfectly for containers, window boxes, and tablescapes, are not only a great decorating accent, but can be repurposed as pie, muffins, bread, or soup when you’re ready to change your display. A medium-sized (4-pound) sugar pumpkin yields around 1½ cups of mashed pumpkin, which can be frozen and used in any recipe calling for canned pumpkin. 

Pumpkins go under the knife to create glowing characters for young and old alike. Roast the seeds to double the fun.

Fall is also the time when ornamental grasses are at their peak. Their feathery flowers emerge on tall spikes adding texture and interest in the garden throughout fall and into winter when other plants have faded. Ornamental grasses add height, movement, and balance to the fall garden and pair perfectly with mums, pumpkins, and other fall plants. Their color mellows from green to parchment, brown, or orange as the seasons change. Even in the coldest weather, their swaying fronds rustle in the wind to bring the garden to life.

What to know


  1. Mix fall plants into existing window boxes, planters, or garden beds for an easy, inexpensive update. Rather than starting over, selectively replace summer colors with fall colors and fading plants with new ones.

    Embellish fall plantings for the holidays. Let out your kid-at-heart and create frightful displays for neighborhood youngsters with scarecrows, ghosts, witches, skeletons, tombstones, cobwebs, lights, and more!

  2. Give a nod to tradition at Thanksgiving with wreaths, swags, and garlands made of intertwined branches, Indian corn, gourds, mums, berries, and decorative ribbon. 
  3. Place a mum into a decorative container, add ribbon, and surround with fall leaves, gourds, and pinecones for an easy fall decorating idea.
  4. Hollow out a pumpkin and insert a vase of fall flowers for a creative table setting.
  5. Use a waterproof marker instead of carving your pumpkin to create a seasonal message written in calligraphy.

See Also

Ornamental Grass