When you think about fall color in your landscape, what comes to mind? Colorful leaves that give trees and shrubs a moment of brilliance before falling to the ground for you to rake up? Or perhaps chrysanthemums (mums)? Colorful leaves are short lived and mums all by themselves are quite boring. This post gives you ideas for other colorful fall plants that are hardy in our area.
Flowers that provided early spring color can also provide late fall color. These include violas like pansies and violets. Snap dragons and marigold will also bloom well into the fall, as will petunias. You may have to refresh or replace them in the late summer or early fall, especially if they didn’t get enough water or deadheading but they’re well suited to the weather that’s in store.
If you started the season with crocuses, you may want to end the season with the plant we call fall crocus. This bulb isn’t just a rebloom of the spring crocus. It just looks like it. Actually, the spring crocus is a member of the same family as the iris while the fall crocus is a member of the lily family. Another common name for the fall crocus is meadow saffron but don’t get excited about the saffron name. In fact, you won’t want to confuse it with the very expensive spice. The meadow saffron, or fall crocus, is actually poisonous. The fall crocus photo was taken in October at Chanticleer, a public garden in Wayne, Pennsylvania.
I’m not trying to minimize mums. Mass plantings are beautiful. I’m just making the point that they aren’t the only plant that flowers in fall, and suggesting that you diversify your autumn plant palette. Monoculture (limiting your plantings to one species) is never a good idea. Asters are the most common companion to mums. That’s because they both have similar growing requirements and blooming schedules. The list of fall blooming plants also includes Black Eyed Susans, Autumn sedum, Cranesbill (hardy) geraniums, sweet alyssum and heuchera, which is also called coral bells. Daylilies can also bloom into the fall, as can sunflowers. Bleeding hearts, another early spring bloomer, also adds another dimension to your fall plant palette.
Don’t forget shrubs when planting for fall color. The hydrangea is an example of a late blooming shrub. Witch hazel blooms in late fall into winter. But shrubs can show color in other ways. For example, the beauty bush displays its fruit (pictured) well into the fall and dogwoods are famous for their red twigs.
Fall doesn’t have to be any less colorful than spring and summer. Before you start packing things away and battening down the hatches for winter, why not take a trip to your garden center and see what they’ve got to make your autumn more colorful than ever? We have two or three months before you have to think winter. Make it joyful and colorful. Fall is for planting bedding plants and perennials as well as trees and shrubs. If you’d like help making selections and planting them, our landscape professionals are happy to lend a hand.