Fall gardens are the Cinderellas of the gardening world. While spring and summer flowers are blooming their heads off, fall flowers quietly sit biding their time. When the weather finally begins to cool off, your fall garden will explode with amazing golds, reds, purples, blues, pinks and white.
Fall flowers do best when they’ve been growing in the garden since spring. Keep these points to keep in mind when planning your fall garden.
Choose Plants With a Late Bloom Period
Look up the expected date of your first killing frost and plan accordingly. You’d hate to have your long-awaited flowers blasted by more cold than they can tolerate. If you’re not sure which plants to choose, help is available.
- Ask gardening neighbors
- Consult your local state extension service
- Visit your local nursery
- Online research
Encourage Maximum Bloom
Plant growing all spring and summer can become leggy. Without a little care earlier in the year, fall perennials can become top-heavy with only a few flowers.
To encourage plants to produce the glorious show you’ve been waiting for, try:
- Pruning or pinching ends of branches a few times, ending in early to mid-July. You’ll have a shorter, stockier plant with many more flowers. Not all fall flowers should be pruned. Research before cutting.
- Staking tall plants early in the season. Yes, it’s tedious, but better than having a plant fall over when covered with flowers.
- Planting fall plants in the back of your border to receive support from shorter plants.
The Fabulous Five shown below will bring gorgeous autumn color to your garden.
1. Chrysanthemums – Zones 4-9
Yes, you can buy mums just about anywhere in the fall. They’re wonder for fall decorating or to plant in a container or the border. While beautiful, you’re limited to a few colors and varieties. Chrysanthemums have so much more to offer.
Mums need pruning for best bloom and like sun and well-drained soil. Most mums set buds when nights are 10 hours long, blooming 6-10 weeks later. Mums can be purchased as plants or grown from seeds or cuttings. After blooming, mulch heavily and you’ll have more mums next year. Buy garden mums since florist mums seldom survive winter in the garden.
Mums are available in a wide range of sizes, colors and flower types. While typical mums are about 1 ft., the new Mammoth series will reach 3-4 feet.
2. Hardy Asters – Zones 3-9
Hardy asters (Asteraceae) bring glorious blues, purples, reds and white to fall gardens. Wild asters beautify meadows and roadsides. Once established, perennial asters put on a wonderful show for years.
Asters prefer moist, well-drained soil. Pinching ends of branches a few times gives you more flowers. Aster heights range from 8 inches to 8 feet. You can grow asters from seed or buy plants.
3. Beautyberry – Zones 5-11 depending on variety
Beautyberry (Callicarpa dichotoma) is a four-season shrub. You’ll love the lavender lilac-like spring flowers and the gorgeous fall/winter purple or white berry clusters and yellow leaves. Beautyberry is 4-8 ft. tall and wide and prefers light shade and well-drained soil.
4. Autumn Crocus – Zones 4-9
Autumn Crocus (Colchicum speciosum) grows from corms planted in late summer/early fall. These delightful small flowers grow in full sun to light shade. Usually seen in shades of purple, there are also mauve, yellow and white varieties. Autumn Crocus are reliable, needing little care and multiplying for a bigger show each year.
5. Japanese Anemones – Zones 4-8
Japanese Anemones (Anemone x hybrida) could become your fall favorites. Drifts of these elegant flowers will bloom from late summer to frost. Once established, little care is needed and you’ll enjoy them for years. White or pink anemones companion beautifully with purple asters.
These five plants would all highlight your fall garden. Other great choices would include Black-eyed Susan, Balloon Flower, Phlox, Plumbago and Sunflowers. Plan ahead and you’ll have flowers for the garden and the house until frost ends the display.