Classic colorful fall plantings that usually come to mind are chrysanthemum, aster and goldenrod. Granted these can be spectacular in the fall garden, but they are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the myriad of fantastic fall flowering plants that provide lots of great color all
autumn up to frost. There are hardy perennials, annuals, vines and even bulbs, some of which are exclusively fall bloomers, while other plants start earlier in the season and continue flowering straight through autumn. In addition to flower color, many perennials and annuals now are starting to produce seed heads that are just as attractive as their blooms, with the added
bonus of providing food to birds and spreading their seeds for volunteer offspring next season,
Some lovely summer blooming plants that are underappreciated for their fall color are Walker’s Low catmint (Nepeta), several colors of coreopsis, lavender (Lavandula), annual and perennial Salvias, hardy geraniums, orange flowered ‘Tango’ hyssop (Agastache), orange ‘Fiesta del Sol’ Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia) and fall crocus, to name a few. Right now in October, they
are full of blooms and pollinators.
Most of the coneflowers (Echinacea) have finished blooming and are loaded with tall stately seed heads that are such a favorite of the goldfinch birds who seem not to mind the sharp seed head spines when pecking out the obviously delicious seeds. It is a treat to watch them perched on the seed heads waving back and forth while feeding. Other seed heads they prefer are
those of the orange Mexican Sunflower and hyssops Blue Fortune and Golden Jubilee. And, if any seeds remain, one gets volunteer seedlings next spring – to relocate or share. Periodic deadheading (cutting off faded blooms down to a side bud or to the next bloom) is key to keeping these plants producing more blooms and, deadheading also defers seed formation.
Annuals giving fall color right now are orange ‘Fusion’ zinnias and pink and fuscha colored celosia. In addition to flowers, there is a wealth of leaf color in the form of coleus and perennial heucheras (Coral Bells). Coleus breeders have gone over the top in terms of leaf color, leaf size (the newer Kong series), and even more sun tolerant plants. It seems the sky is
the limit. Discover the value of heucheras in providing color to shade gardens. Heucheras range in color from stainless steel grey to dark burgundy to rose and coral toned shades. A lovely heuchera relative called heucherella ‘Pacific Crest’ has green sharply pointed leaves with burgundy central streaks. What a lovely contrast when planted near its solid burgundy
A few other perennials providing color right now are white blooming Chocolate Eupatorium, yellow Rudbeckia hirta, orange Helianthus perennial sunflower, purple feathery Russian Sage (Perovskia), Bee Balm (Monarda), and fantastic looking pink and white Anemones. Other perennials in bloom now are sedums such as Autumn Joy and Autumn Fire, monkshood (Aconitum), and
Japanese silver grass (Miscanthus).