Growbag Blog

Pots that look perfect in September


Having perfect pots in September can be tricky; summer bedding starts to look tatty, but it’s too soon to swap to a winter selection.

Laura’s answer is to deploy some (slightly obscure) potted autumn bulbs, Elaine has some tips on container plants that hit their stride right now, and Caroline has surprised us all with a great idea she pinched from someone else and it actually worked.


Yes I like to bring something fresh to the table in September and luckily there is a range of bulbs that can do just this. For many bulbs from hotter countries, Autumn is a good time to flower and set seed as the damp of winter will help get their progeny established before the hot and arid weather returns. These pots can be tucked away somewhere out of the way before they burst into flower at just the right time to give your garden a September lift.

Crinums are my most impressive September flowering bulbs but you do need a pretty substantial pot to pull this one off. Mine are Crinum moorei which are a little more tender than the more common Crinum x powelli. I used to grow the latter happily outside in the ground but they grew absolutely huge and almost required a mini digger to remove them so now I prefer to keep these specatular bulbs contained which also has the advantage of bringing their lovely scent up to nose level.

Crinum moorrei
Lifting the giant bulbs of a Crinum to eye level helps you appreciate its flower structure and scent

My next two suggestions are both from the gladiolus stable. I have a personality clash with the garish midsummer varieties, but there are a couple of late summer species that are much more my bag. The first is Acidanthera murielae, stately sword shaped leaves that throw up elegant flower spikes of beautifully scented nodding white flowers.

Acidanthera murielae flowers best after a hot summer and bringing it on under glass can help if the weather is a bit grim.

My last recommendation is Gladiolus papilio, with nodding flowers in Farrow and Ball colours that are a million miles away from its frightful summer cousins.

Gladiolus papilio
You have to lift the gently nodding heads of Gladiolus papilio to appreciate its the subtle interior colours

I’ve made a short video of these three beauties in the flesh and the link is at the end.


I’ll have to admit that, for once, there are some very attractive plants among Laura’s ideas this week. But don’t you think they lack a bit of …..zing? Once we get to September,  I am in need of good punches of colour as the daylight begins to mellow.

I do recommend growing different varieties of plants in separate pots, because it’s good fun putting combinations of pots together to make satisfying ‘pictures’ – think horticultural Changing Rooms in miniature. 

Putting pots together to create vibrant pictures is good fun!

Zinnias and dahlias are always guaranteed to boogie in their party dresses of saturated colour through the weeks of early autumn. Growing dahlias in pots is a great idea anyway: you can bring them into a sheltered place to dry off in the winter after the first frost, and it keeps them a little safer from the slugs and snails.

Dahlia Bishop of Landaff

Of course, the Cosmos varieties will all bloom on and on, if you’ve been assiduous with your dead-heading. They are such generous flowerers, it’s impossible not to smile at them.

The honest bright faces of Cosmos -guaranteed to bring a smile

But I’m starting to use perennials more in pots too.  Rudbeckias sown this spring have already been glowing for at least a month and I’m hoping they’ll keep their end up through the next few weeks. I grow Persicaria ‘Purple Fantasy’ in pots (she’s more than a tad too enthusiastic in the flower border), and she’s now having a very elegant and stimulating conversation with mixed rudbeckias and Eucomis bicolor.  

Persicaria, Rudbeckias and Eucomis all having a great time together!

Her dramatic foliage enjoyed the company of bright nasturtiums earlier in the summer…..oooh, nasturtiums, I think I might have finally got Caroline’s attention….


Well you have Elaine but not really because of nasturtiums (mine are sadly over). It doesn’t give me pleasure to be critical of my sisters 🤥 but…. did you think Elaine’s pot combos looked, well, a bit messy? To be fair it’s not just her, the Gardener’s World ‘autumn pot’ feature similarly had me reaching for a trowel. All those scraggy perennials and untidy grasses expiring at different rates, flopping about and generally looking like teenagers at 3am.

Laura’s were better but why does she always pick plants the rest of us have never heard of? In June I planted these lily bulbs in a pot – as difficult as boiling an egg – look at them now – stunning!

Actually easier to grow lilies than it is to boil an egg. Easy to source and not expensive…

In August I bought this grass from Dobbies – Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’ – stuck it in a pot ON ITS OWN and wow (although – full disclosure – it turns out it’s rather tender. It’s going to have to sleep with me in the winter!)

My winter-tender Pennisetum ‘Rubrum’. But doesn’t it look great ON ITS OWN rather than competing with collapsing perennials?

If you must mix things up I can recommend doing as I did, and following Kirsty Wilson’s advice on the Beechgrove Garden, by planting up a pot of alpines. You will NOT regret it. This tidy bunch of industrious little growers, jammed happily in between some broken slates (our feature picture this week) , look great 12 months of the year and especially now with that wonderful sedum flush. 

So, wonderful friends and gardeners, over to you. Which pot do you think looks best?

Laura made a short clip of her pot choices – you can see it here

Louise’s choice plant this month is a gentle scrambling clematis that gracefully bridges the gap between summer and autumn. Click on the box below to find out which one it is.

More NB If you’re not already a subscriber and you’d like a bit more gardening chitchat from the3growbags, please type your email address here and we’ll send you a new post every Saturday morning.

An understated but busy clematis – a real beauty and it’s Louise’s Great Plant this Month. Click on the image to find out more…

As we slip from summer into Autumn we thought it would be a great time to offer 10% off everything in our shop – garden tools, gifts, books and cards. It’s just for a week so have a quick look now!

By the3growbags

We're three sisters who love gardening, plants and even the science of horticulture but we're not all experts. We'd love everyone even remotely interested in their gardens to be part of our blogsite.

4 replies on “Pots that look perfect in September”

Messy pot combos …. How cruel ! Poor Elaine. I liked her idea of displaying individual pots together. You can get different heights and contrasting colours. However as you know I love a bit of drama so Lillies for me every time!

So lovely ladies,
I love how I can gain a bit of knowledge from all of you, thank you!
I’m a massive sedum fan, what type is the red one in the picture please.
As my plant identifier app doesn’t know.
Thank you so much, I love sitting in bed every Saturday reading your post.
Emma x x x

Hi Emma thank you so much for your compliments – very much appreciated by all of us. The embarrassing part is that Im not sure what that sedum is. I follow Elaine’s advice and always make notes of my plant purchases etc, but according to my notebook the only two sedums that went into that container were S. Sunsparkler ‘Lime Zinger’ and S. Variegatum. Which do you think it is? It’s doesn’t really look like either. Im depending on you as a sedum expert! Very best wishes, Caroline

Well Lyn I wouldn’t feel too sorry for Elaine. She can be very hoity toity about my plant choices.So pleased you’re joining me in the lily love – we’re such connoisseurs you and me! Lot of love, Caroline XX

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