Flowering Autumn Plants
When fall announces its arrival, many plants have finished blooming for the year, leaving the garden lacking color until next spring. Do not despair because there are many choices for fall flowering plants that will pump up the color in the landscape and give the area a warm and welcoming appeal through autumn.
Bring an explosion of bright yellow flowers to your fall garden by planting tall goldenrod (Solidago altissima), hardy in USDA zones 4 through 10. Native to the U.S., this perennial species of goldenrod weighs in as one of the tallest, with a mature height of 5 feet that makes it a suitable backdrop of color in gardens. Long plumes filled with vibrant flowers bloom late summer throughout fall and attract butterflies and bees. This low-maintenance plant grows well in a variety of soil conditions from moist to well-drained and tolerates a sunny to partially shady site. Rarely bothered by pests of diseases, tall goldenrod brings color to the garden when other plants have stopped blooming for the year.
With silver-gray finely cut foliage and tall spikes of scented purple flowers blooming summer through fall, Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) adds color and interest to autumn gardens in USDA zones 4 through 9. This is a hardy and low-maintenance perennial tolerating average well-drained soils in a sunny site. Deer-resistant and drought-tolerant, Russian sage is the perfect choice for brown-thumb gardeners and makes a colorful addition to xeriscapes, mixed gardens and used as a backdrop, as it grows over 3 feet wide and tall with an upright habit.
Producing pink, white or lavender flowers resembling a crocus, Colchicum (Colchicum autumnal), commonly called autumn crocus, blooms in fall with the flowers rising from the corm before the foliage, giving the plant an interesting appearance. Hardy in USDA zones 4 through 8, it prefers well-drained soils kept moist during the blooming season and situated in a sunny to partially shady site. For the best visual impact when in bloom, plant in clumps. Growing up to one foot tall, autumn crocus makes an attractive addition to borders, ground cover, mass plantings, rock and woodland gardens. Handle the corms and plant with caution as all portions are poisonous.
Gardeners looking for a fall flowering perennial that thrives on neglect and requires little to no maintenance should add sedum (Sedum spectabile), also called showy sedum, to their gardens. The succulent grows up to 2 feet tall and wide and fills with round clusters of flowers in late summer throughout autumn. It is hardy in USDA zones 5 through 9. It makes a colorful addition used as a filler, mass plantings, xeriscapes or rock gardens and the flowers attract beneficial pollinators. For the best growth and flowering, locate showy sedum in a sunny to partially shady site. It tolerates a wide range of well-drained soils, even those lacking organic materials and is tolerant to drought conditions once established. This is a great choice for those who feel they kill everything they grow.
Red Spider Lily
Getting its common name from the red flowers appearing in the fall that resemble spiders, red spider lily (Lycoris radiate) is a prolific grower for gardeners located in USDA zones 8 through 10. The showy flowers spring from the bulb on long spikes up to 2 feet tall in early fall followed by the straplike foliage and the flowers last for days as cut flower arrangements. The perennial works well used in wildlife gardens as it attracts hummingbirds, woodland and low-water gardens located in sunny to partially shady sites and in soil that drains well. Use caution when handling the plant as all parts are toxic.
For a tall, blooming backdrop in fall gardens, consider growing Japanese anemone (Anemone x hybrid), which blooms for almost two months with its showy and constant display of 3-inch flowers. The perennial shrub is hardy in USDA zones 4 through 8, preferring a fertile site kept moist but that drains well, and in partial shade. Grown in preferred conditions, mature plants reach 4 feet tall and wide at maturity and require little care once established, including deadheading. When everything else in the garden finishes for the season, Japanese anemone adds color and interest used in mass plantings or mixed flower gardens. Use caution when handling as all parts of the plant are toxic.
Fall crocus (Crocus speciosus) starts its display of blue cheery blooms weeks before the foliage appears starting in early fall and making it a suitable choice for adding color to gardens in autumn. The perennial corm-producing plant is hardy in USDA zones 4 through 9 located in moist soil that drains well and in a sunny site. Plants grow about 6 inches tall and will naturalize into the planting site, adding years of color to the garden. This is a tough and low-maintenance plant requiring little care. Pump up the fall color by using it in mass plantings, as a ground cover, or in the front of mixed borders.
Gardeners in USDA zones 3 through 7 can fill their fall gardens with tall shoots of bright purple-blue flowers by growing monkshood (Aconitum carmichaelii), a herbaceous perennial. It gets its common name due to the flowers upper part resembling a hood. It blooms in late summer throughout early fall and trimming off the spent flowers after a summer bloom encourages another round of flowering. Growing up to 5 feet tall and almost as wide, monkshood grows best planted in a site receiving full sun to partial shade and in fertile, well-drained soils kept moist. It makes an attractive and hardy addition used in woodland gardens, mixed flower beds and as a tall backdrop. All parts of the plant are highly toxic and gardeners should wear gloves when handling and plant in a location children don't frequent.
If you are looking for a fall-bloomer that not only brings color to the garden during the cooler months of autumn, but has culinary uses too, then look no further than anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum). Resembling a salvia, anise hyssop produces colorful, 6-inch purple flower spikes on plants growing up to 5 feet tall. The seeds taste like anise and the leaves make a tasty tea. Gardeners living in USDA zones 5 through 9 can grow this hardy and low-maintenance plant in sites situated in full sun to partial shade and in well-drained soils kept moist. It makes an attractive addition to butterfly and wildlife gardens, woodland gardens, as a tall backdrop and mixed flower beds.
Sweet Autumn Clematis
When fall arrives and other vines have stopped blooming, sweet autumn clematis (Clematis terniflora) starts putting on its showy and fragrant display of masses of small white flowers. This hardy and aggressive grower quickly reaches its mature height of 50 feet and requires a strong structure to grow upon. For the best flowering, grow in a sunny site and in well-drained soil kept moist. Thriving on neglect, even black-thumb gardeners living in USDA zones 5 through 9 will have success growing this climber. Use the vine in butterfly gardens, to cover a fence or trellis or in an area to add some fall color.
Nothing hails the coming of fall like the autumn-blooming beauties garden mums (Dendranthema x grandiflora). Performing as a perennial in USDA zones 8 through 10, all regions can grow this profuse bloomer as an annual. Mounding plants fill with an abundance of flowers in a vast array of colors and can grow up to 2 feet tall and wide. Deadheading the spent blooms encourages another round of flowering. Garden mums are low-maintenance and hardy plants grown in partial shade with fertile soils that drain well. It makes an outstanding addition planted in mass, used in containers to brighten an entranceway, mixed gardens or used along a border.
Available in almost every color of the rainbow, pansies (Viola x wittrockiana) thrive during the cooler months of autumn, bringing a nonstop display of their showy face-like blooms to gardens, containers and hanging baskets. Typically grown as annuals, pansies are perennials in USDA zones 6 through 10, but have a tendency to get leggy and don't tolerate hot temperatures. For the best growth, plant pansies in rich, moist soil that drains well and in a sunny or partially shady location. Deadheading spent flowers promotes continuous blooms. Brighten the front of a border using these low-growing beauties or group them together in mass plantings.
Coneflower (Rudbeckia hirta), also called black-eyed Susan due to its dark center eyes, and orange coneflower, is a welcoming sight in fall gardens with its large daisy-like flowers bringing a bright pop of color to the area. Performing as a perennial in USDA zones 4 through 8, it delivers a constant supply of blooms late summer throughout the fall and will continue to flower with deadheading. It also makes an attractive cut flower. Growing up to 3 feet tall, coneflower performs best planted in full sun to partial shade in soils that drain well and is tolerant to neglect. Use it to spruce up wildflower, native and wildlife gardens, plant in large groups or used in containers.
With its fernlike foliage and tall spikes filled with a rounded mass of colorful flowers, yarrow (Achillea spp.) adds interest and dazzling color to various areas of a fall garden. Its tall growth habit, reaching 3 feet tall and wide, makes it a vibrant backdrop plant. Yarrow also works well used in native, wildlife and drought-tolerant gardens, as well used in mass plantings or as a larger ground cover. This hardy and low-maintenance perennial plant flowers best in full-sun and in soils that drain well. It performs as a perennial in USDA zones 3 through 9 and the flower clusters are suitable for drying or used in cut flower arrangements.
Gardeners seeking a long-blooming perennial throughout fall that is tough and requires little care should add African iris (Dietes bicolor) to their autumn gardens. The iris grows into large clumps with long spiky leaves and tall spikes holding 3-inch white or pale yellow flowers. It grows as a perennial in USDA zones 8 through 11 and tolerates a wide range of conditions from wet to moderately dry and partial sun to shade with no deadheading required. African irises have a variety of uses in the garden from rain gardens, mass plantings, tall ground cover or border plant and adding color to containers. This is a great choice for "plant and forget" gardeners.
What would a fall garden be without the addition of the impatiens (Impatiens walleriana) adding their flamboyant carpet of colorful blooms? Impatiens thrive in the cooler months of fall, adding nonstop color in a wide array of shades to containers, borders, used in mass plantings, hanging baskets or in shade gardens. Grown as an annual, they perform best in rich soil kept moist and in partial shade to partial sun. Gardeners will enjoy the constant display of color for months as well as their low-maintenance requirements.
Blooming year-round and into the fall with tiny clusters of colorful flowers filling the shrub, lantana (Lantana camera) is a hardy and durable perennial that requires little care to grow abundantly. Performing as a perennial in USDA zones 9 through 11, lantana's tall growth makes it suitable used as a flowering and bushy hedge, mass plantings, butterfly gardens or inside containers. It tolerates well-drained poor soils, drought and blooms best in full-sun to partial sun and the only pruning required is for shaping. This is a great plant for the lazy gardener who wants robust growth and flowering without any work.
Native to the U.S., witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) adds interest and color to fall gardens when other plants have finished and gone dormant for the year. The hardy, large shrub or small tree blooms in mid to late fall producing groups of distinctive and aromatic yellow ribbon-like flowers covering the branches accompanied by yellowing autumn foliage. It tolerates a range of soil and light conditions, from full-sun to shade, making it a colorful addition to shade gardens and is hardy in USDA zones 4 through 8. Use witch hazel as an informal hedge or screen, in woodland and native gardens or as an interesting specimen.
Fall Orchid Tree
Orchid-lovers living in USDA zones 9 through 11 who are seeking a showy fall-flowering tree that breaks into bloom with large and fragrant orchid-like flowers, should add a fall orchid tree (Bauhinia purpurea) into their landscape. When other trees are losing their foliage, the orchid tree puts on a stunning display of flowers. It is a hardy and drought-tolerant tree, performing best in sandy, well-drained soils and in sunny to partially shady locations. The tree makes an attractive specimen or used in shadier locations where other plants might not bloom.
An old-fashioned favorite, marigolds (Tagetes spp.) have been bringing warm and bright colors to fall gardens for years. The annual, easily started from seed, quickly puts on a scented show with its large single or double flowers and fernlike foliage. Use marigolds to brighten up borders and containers, as a ground cover, in mass plantings or mixed flower beds. It has low-maintenance requirements other than deadheading spent blossoms, and grows well in rich, well-drained soils in a sunny location. You can save the seeds from spent flowers allowed to dry on the plant and use them for a colorful display next season.
Regardless of whether you desire a fall-flowering vine, ground cover, shrub, tree, or annuals you can change out with each season, there is a wealth of plants fitting every gardener's requirements and desires.