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Plants For Abundant Fall Color

As the temperatures start to dip, especially at night, and the days become shorter, you may be noticing that autumn is on its way. Depending upon your location, leaves may be just beginning to change color, preparing to transform the landscape into a scene of fiery beauty. While the colors of fall are gorgeous and stunning, you may also mourn the loss of the hues of your summer garden. Fortunately, there are many ways in which you can extend the colors of your garden well into the fall and even add some in now so that you do not have to wait until next year. With a mix of perennials, annuals, shrubs, and trees, you can take the splendor of your garden into the cooler months to maximize color before the snow starts to fall.

Planting Now

Not many people think of adding to the garden at this late stage in the growing season, unless of course it is to put in bulbs for next spring. However, there is no reason why you cannot continue to landscape and design your outdoor space right up to early fall. There is no set date for fall planting. The trick is to find a window of time when temperatures have dipped enough for fall plants to thrive, but before it gets too cool. You must simply play it by ear and do a little trial and error experimentation. If you feel it is already too late to start putting in fall plants in your area, start planning for next year’s autumnal display. Generally, fall plantings should be done in August or September if you live in a northern clime, but if you live a little further south, you can stretch your planting season into September or October.

Hardy Plants

Any flowering plant that is described at hardy is a good choice for fall planting. Hardy plants are those that can tolerate colder temperatures. They will stay alive and will thrive well into the months of fall before succumbing to a freeze. Chrysanthemums are the classic hardy flower and are often simply called hardy mums. They come in a variety of colors, especially the rich tones associated with autumn like deep red, orange, golden yellow, and dusty lavender. Mums are great for containers and for edging beds or walkways.

Another hardy plant for fall decoration is the coleus. This leafy, prolific grower comes in bright colors like chartreuse, red, green, and white, and the leaves are often fringed with a second color, adding to the dimension. Expect your coleus to grow up to twenty inches in height. For this reason, it makes a great container plant or a backdrop to shorter annuals in a bed.

Heart-leafed or blue aster is a hardy perennial that produces abundant flowers in the fall. They grow up to four feet tall and begin to bloom in the middle of September. You can expect to get flowers for the remainder of the season. The clusters of small white and blue flowers look wonderful in the center of a bed surrounded by an edging of hardy mums.

Stonecrop is a pretty, yellow-flowering ground cover that is hardy. It will grow no taller than three inches and makes a nice cover along a low wall or in front of a bed. Stonecrop also does well in a rock garden to add a touch of color. It prefers soil that is gravelly and sandy with good drainage.

Decorative kales and cabbages are lovely additions to the fall garden. They are hardy and they add lovely shades of green, purple, and pink. In fact, these pretty greens only get more colorful as the temperatures drop. After the first frost, their deep shades will intensify even more. The cabbages, which are round, and the kale, which is spikier and more severe, are very unexpected and look great when mixed with more traditional flowers like asters and mums. They also work well in containers of all kinds.

Verbena is also hardy and will bloom all the way from spring through the later days of fall. They can flower well beyond the first frost and survive temperatures as low as 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Verbena flowers can range in color from purple, pink, and dark blue to deep and bright shades of red. They are also easy to grow, requiring only an average amount of water and no deadheading.

New Fall Garden Kit Helps You Extend Your Growing Season!


Of course, annuals are typically planted in the spring, and if you have never considered planting them this late in the season, you are not alone. Although they will have just a short growing season in your beds, putting in some autumn annuals is a great way to spice up your garden and add a little extra color. As an added benefit, the flats of annuals you will find in garden centers at this time of year should be heavily discounted.

Marigolds, with their autumnal shades of yellow, red, and orange, are a wonderful choice for creating more color in your fall garden. Consider edging some of your beds or walkways with brightly colored marigolds for several weeks of stunning colors.

Pansies are another great annual for fall. They are one of the rare hardy types of annuals that can survive into the colder months. Pansies add lots of blues, purples, and yellows to your gardens and look great on their own in containers or mixed with other types of plants. In milder climates, they can even survive through the entire winter and into spring before succumbing to summer heat. (I can speak from experience with this one!)

Like pansies, nasturtium will thrive in the cooler temperatures of fall. These flowering plants can grow and bloom all summer long, but in fall they really shine. As an added bonus, the red, orange, and yellow flowers of the nasturtium are edible. The vine-like plant grows well in containers and up trellises.

Beyond Flowers

Flower beds may be your main focus for color in the fall and at any time of year, but autumn is also a great time of year to get fantastic color in trees, shrubs, and grasses. Unlike some of the flowers, these are not plants to be put in on a whim, but consider them when planning your future landscaping.

The burning bush is a staple of North American landscaping and is one of the first shrubs to turn a brilliant, blazing red in the fall. Once the leaves are gone, the twisty and interesting branches make for lovely decoration when the snow begins to coat them. Burning bush is happy in many types of growing conditions and takes well to pruning and shaping.

Chokeberry is another plant that will give you brilliant color in the fall. The glossy, green leaves will turn red in autumn. Additionally, the bright red berries that are produced in fall give you another dimension of color and texture. The black chokeberry produces deep purple berries. As an added bonus, birds will not eat these astringent fruits, so your display is safe from ruin.

The deciduous smoketree is another lovely option for fall color. Also called smokebush and Venetian sumac, smoketree produces a downy substance in the fall that makes the leaves appear to be trapped in a smoky haze. As it gets colder, the down disappears, displaying the orange, red, and yellow leaves.

Ornamental grasses are another choice for fall color. These tall, pretty, and often grand grasses have become very popular in recent years as they add a different look to your garden. Indian grass is green, but turns to golden yellow with a bluish fuzz in the fall. It looks stunning in a wildflower garden or in a more formal bed. Northern oat grass produces hanging seed heads in a beautiful bronze color.

Just remember that gardening is not just for spring and summer. Plan your landscape to maximize the color and beauty for the fall season. It will help tide you over for the winter months of monochromatic gray and white.

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