In the cooler days of autumn, many summer perennials stop blooming. But don’t despair; your gardens can continue producing colorful blooms throughout the autumn months if you include certain plants in your landscape and containers.
Commonly Used Fall Blooming Plants
Many gardeners extend their gardening season by using the staples of autumn: goldenrod, aster, chrysanthemum, and black-eyed Susans are all good options.
These flowers are often encouraged to grow more compact and bushy by cutting them back in the early summer. Alternatively, gardeners will pick them up from garden centers and nurseries in full bud in the late summer so they will continue to bloom through the next season and even into early winter in some climates. The second option makes it easier to fill in gaps left by spring and early summer flowers that have finished blooming.
Fall Foliage Options for Autumn Gardens
While lots of attention is given come fall to bursts of red, orange, and yellow in ornamental shrubs or colorful trees, it’s worth considering the perennial plants out there that also have beautiful pops of autumn color and attractive foliage.
Coral bells (Heuchera spp.)
Coral bells are known for their dramatic foliage color that adds a real splash to a fall flower bed. Sizes range from a few inches tall to about two feet with beautiful flower cluster spikes. The foliage is the most dramatic feature and is often variegated with splotches or veining. Leaves can range in color from lime green to dark purple-black, with tones in peach, orange, red, green, white, and silver.
Ivy – (Hedera spp.)
Ivy is a popular ground cover year-round and is a fabulous choice for fall borders. Ivy is available with white and green variegation. The evergreen or semi-evergreen foliage means that as flowering plants begin to fade, the variegation accents can take center stage.
The most popular fall flower is the chrysanthemum, commonly referred to as a ‘mum’ for short. Today, mums exist in practically every color thanks to the prolific breeding from horticulturists around the world. Orange, yellow and red mums complement the colors of fall, but blues and pinks can also be found. Mums thrive and are hardy for zones 3-9. Plant these in late summer and water well. Mulching helps them handle the frost better.
Although feverfew has been labeled a weed by some gardeners due their rapid spreading, the snowball variety is much tamer. Lovely, tiny, white flowers have a very strong scent and have also been historically used as a medicinal herb. Hardy in zones 5-7, plant these in full sun for best blooms. Feverfew is recommended for beginner gardeners due to its ease of growth and limited maintenance.
Hardy in zones 5-8, the crocus is a welcome sign for spring’s arrival but fall-blooming varieties also exist. Plant these flowers in large clumps for a more impressive display. Crocus comes in shades of purple and blue, and their vibrant hues add interest and color to an otherwise pale fall garden.
Though its blooms are somewhat small, sweet asylum is a perfect addition to your fall garden. The tiny, white flowers spread well, making them a great border or accent plant. Sweet asylum does best in cool weather, but it needs sun as well. Plant them in partial shade or in full sun for best results. Like feverfew, sweet asylum spreads and germinates quickly, so do not cut blooms back as this encourages even more growth.
These tall, wispy, yellow flowers add texture and interest to a garden. Goldenrod is hardy in zones 3-9 and resembles a bright burst of fireworks. The plant has been used for various medicinal purposes and although criticized for causing hay fever in the past, goldenrod has overcome this myth and re-emerged as a popular fall bloom in many gardens.
Ornamental Grasses for Fall Interest
Grasses can go from background or filler plants to shining accent pieces in the cooler weather. Many ornamental grasses have attractive seed heads that catch the wind so nicely! Some of the ornamental grasses that bloom in September include Red-Head fountain grass, most Maiden grasses, and Dallas Blue switchgrass.
Planting just a few ornamental kinds of grass can create a rainbow of color in the garden; the red fountain grass, for example, picks up the fall foliage colors in shrubs and trees around it. Maiden grasses are available in a variety of greens, yellows and variegated colors. And the switchgrass gives a darker backdrop for brighter colors, letting them glow in the fall light.
Gardeners who want to add fall color to their landscapes need only look at some unusual choices to create unique and colorful gardens that will continue to hold interest for weeks to come.