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Native Plants: Pumpkins, Pots & Pachysandra

Botanical decor, native containers and a one for one native plant substitute!


Fall is upon us and possibilities are popping. Pondering a different look for your pumpkin this year? Decorate your cucurbit with your favorite natives. These may not win traditional beauty contests but they are more unique, perhaps?

Magnolia seed pods and seed heads make ears and eyes while asters, goldenrod, anise hyssop, winterberry, and Christmas fern fronds form hair of sorts. Pumpkin possibilities to puzzle through.


Fall containers add color to an already colorful scene. Have you thought about using native perennials rather than annuals in fall pots? Some perennials will last several years or more in pots or you can plant them in a more permanent place in your garden whenever you are ready.

native perennial aster in pot
Aster "October Skies" in a pot at Mt. Cuba this fall

This pot at Mt. Cuba is a study in simplicity. Perennial asters can be moved into your garden when you are ready to change the pot so long as the ground is not frozen.

At home, I played around with heuchera (Heuchera). The plants have a graceful shape which lends itself to a single plant in a container.

native hairy lip fern in pot

The same for ferns I think. This is hairy lip fern (Cheilanthes lanosa). I am not sure anyone in marketing was involved in the naming of this plant.

Another potential for fall pots are shrubs with great fall color. These are both very large planters in the Allegheny Plateau garden featuring native plants at the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden. Smaller shrubs and planters could be used for the same effect at home. Please note, the cultivar of nine bark on the right changed the leaf color of the straight species (Physocarpus opulifolius) from green to burgundy. While research is still on-going, early indications are the best plant selections to maximize ecological benefit are cultivars of straight species that do not change leaf color. This short post from the University of Maryland explains it. That said, the straight species would make a fabulous fall container too.

chanticleer water artistry
Artistry of Chanticleer

If you have visited Chanticleer garden outside of Philadelphia, you have likely seen their incredible container displays. They are known for these as well as their use of floating botanicals in daily offerings. This display was created by an intern in 2016. Fall perfection! More ideas for fall containers can be found here.


native ground cover pachysandra
Allegheny Pachysandra in mid-October

Allegheny pachysandra (Pachysandra procumbens) is one of those native plants that has virtually the same appearance, spring flower and other attributes as the commonly planted ornamental pachysandra. It's an easy choice to go with the native if you are looking for a semi-evergreen ground cover to block weeds in a part shade or shade location. A gardening friend who is a landscape designer asked me a couple of years back whether the native pachysandra established as quickly as the ornamental. Having just planted native Allegheny pachysandra in our garden, I really couldn't answer.

Now, three years in, I think it establishes well. Faster than the ornamental? I still can't say having not planted them side by side. It's fast enough though.

Native pachysandra also offers more for your garden than ornamental pachysandra. It has color variation through the season which the ornamental does not have, adding dimension to your garden.

Whether you are decorating pumpkins, planting pots, planting pachsyandra or following other pursuits, thanks for perusing these ideas and gardening for the Chesapeake!


We want you to be as excited about planting Chesapeake natives as we are. “Plant This or That” gives you a native alternative to popular plants. Other posts highlight really fabulous fauna native to the Chesapeake.

Nuts for Natives, avid gardener, Baltimore City admirer, Chesapeake Bay Watershed restoration enthusiast, and public service fan.

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