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Home > Lawn & Garden Resources > Fall > Great Plants for Fall

Great Plants for Fall

There are so many wonderful plant choices for annual and perennial beds along with great trees and shrubs for specimen plantings. Take a look at the list below for a handful of plants that are just coming into their prime in the fall.

Aster

Aster flower banner

A wonderful cut flower, asters make any garden explode with color at the end of the growing season. From miniature alpine plants to giants up to 6 feet tall, there are over 250 asters, with plenty of colors to choose from. Asters are a great way to brighten up the fall landscape in your backyard.

  • Common Name: Aster; Michaelmas Daisy

  • Botanical Name: Aster

  • Hardiness: Zones 3 to 8

  • Bloom Time: Late summer through fall

  • Size: 3 to 6 feet high (dwarf varieties are shorter)

  • Flowers: Purple, white, pink, blue, and red daisy-like flowers

  • Light Needs: Full sun to partial shade

  • Growing Advice: Can be planted any time during growing season, preferably early in northern states, so cultivars can get established before winter. Plant at least 2 feet apart with the crown even with the soil surface.

Chrysanthemum

Close up of orange mum bloom banner

Mum's the word for many gardeners in autumn, and with good reason. There are about 20 species of chrysanthemums, which are prized for infusing the landscape with vibrant color long after other flowers fade. Their frost tolerance ensures a long and lovely show well into fall.

These shrubby tender perennials are often called "hardy mums," but are generally grown as annuals. Mums are long-lasting, both in the garden and in bouquets, and bloom generously, sometimes producing over 100 flowers on a single plant.

  • Common Names: Chrysanthemum; Mum

  • Botanical Name: Chrysanthemum (Dendranthema) x morifolium

  • Hardiness: Zones 5 to 8; often grown as annual

  • Bloom Time: Late summer through fall

  • Size: 1 to 3 feet high, 2 to 3 feet wide

  • Flowers: Yellow, white, pink, orange, lavender, bronze, purple, and red

  • Light Needs: Full sun

  • Growing Advice: Hardened-off and container-grown plants can go into the garden any time during the growing season. To further ensure over wintering success, grow mums in protected areas.

Japanese maple

Leaves of a Japanese maple in fall color

The unique form, delicate and often colorful leaves and smooth gray bark give Japanese maples year-round appeal. These graceful trees work in traditional landscapes as well as theme gardens. There are more than 300 cultivars. With so many options, it's easy to picture one of these serene beauties in your landscape.

  • Common Names: Japanese maple

  • Botanical Name: Acer palmatum

  • Hardiness: Zones 5 or 6 to 8, depending on cultivar

  • Bloom Time: May or June

  • Size: 15 to 25 feet high, 15 to 25 feet wide

  • Flower/Foliage: Small red to purple flower clusters; deeply lobed leaves with five to 11 "fingers." Summer colors range from green to red and purples, with autumn hues of various reds and golds.

  • Light Needs: Prefers dappled shade, but will tolerate full sun.

  • Growing Advice: Plant balled-and-burlapped or container-grown trees in late winter or early spring. This gives the trees a chance to establish themselves before the stress of summer's heat or winter's cold.

Autumn Joy Sedum

Sedum Autumn Joy in bloom for the fall

This late-season favorite is aptly named. Its blooms shine when gardens need color the most, becoming brighter as summer fades into autumn. Broccoli-shaped flower heads emerge light green in midsummer, but slowly deepen from light pink to burgundy.

Like most sedum, this cultivar is succulent. It's hardy in all but the coldest climates, tolerates less-than-perfect soil and stands up well to arid conditions.

  • Common Names: Autumn Joy Sedum

  • Botanical Name: Sedum 'Autumn Joy' or Sedum 'Herbstfreude'

  • Hardiness: Zones 3 to 8

  • Bloom Time: Late summer until first frost

  • Size: 2 feet high

  • Flowers: Star-shaped blooms form clusters that start out pale green then become burgundy.

  • Light Needs: Full sun to partial shade

  • Growing Advice: Plant 15 inches apart from spring through early fall. Divide in spring.

PANSIES

A bouquet of pansy flowers of various colors

Arguably the most popular cool season flower available, pansies will give you the best color shows from fall all the way through until the following summer. Pansies come in a variety of different colors and are wonderful plants for containers, window boxes, along borders, or as a groundcover of color inside an existing flower bed.

  • Common Name: Pansy

  • Botanical Name: Viola tricolor

  • Hardiness: Zones 2 to 10

  • Bloom Time: Fall through late spring/early summer

  • Size: Around 9 inches in height

  • Flowers: Comes in a variety of colors

  • Light Needs: Full sun to partial shade in cool temperatures

  • Growing Advice: Pansies love cool temperatures so plant anytime once the temperatures cool in the fall. A well-established crop of pansies can thrive from the fall all the way through until the temperatures get consistently hot in the summer.

Ornamental Cabbage/Kale

A butterfly surveying rows of fresh ornamental cabbages

Vegetables generally aren't grown for their beauty. Ornamental cabbage is definitely an exception. With vivid colors and showy rosettes of fall foliage, you wouldn't dare planting ornamental cabbage among its more edible counterparts. Instead, use as a colorful border or groundcover.

  • Common Names: Ornamental Cabbage/Kale

  • Botanical Name: Brassica oleracea var. capitata

  • Hardiness: Annual

  • Bloom Time: Grown for foliage

  • Size: 10 to 18 inches high, 12 to 18 inches wide

  • Foliage: Colorful green, lavender-blue, purple, red, pink, or white foliage intensifies in fall and early winter.

  • Light Needs: Full sun to partial shade

Nandina

Heavenly bamboo (nandina domestica) with red fall berries

Nandina's canelike stems resemble bamboo, but its fine-textured foliage is different. Nandina leaves are made up of multiple lance-shaped leaflets, giving the foliage a lacy look. It takes on a red-to-purple cast in winter, and new growth is often red or purple, as well. The plant bears cone-shaped clusters of tiny white blooms in early summer, followed by red berries in fall that persist into winter.

  • Common Names: Heavenly Bamboo

  • Botanical Name: Nandina domestica

  • Hardiness: Zones 4 to 10

  • Flower/Foliage: Foliage is red-to-purple cast in winter, and new growth is often red or purple. Bears cone-shaped clusters of tiny white blooms in early summer, followed by red berries in fall that persist into winter.

  • Light Needs: Adapts to sun or partial shade

  • Growing Advice: Plant in well-drained soil and water weekly to establish a strong root system, which makes the plant hardy and drought-tolerant. Foliage color is best in sunshine.

Ornamental Grasses

Plumes of ornamental grass

Ornamental grasses are available in a wide array of colors, shapes, textures and sizes. The flowers and subsequent seed heads are equally diverse, ranging from "ho-hum" to truly spectacular. Each grass species has it's own unique form. They may form low compact mounds, tall screens, or densely spreading mats. The foliage colors include various shades of green, blue and red, as well as variegated varieties having red, white or yellow foliage banded with ivory or yellow stripes. In the fall, the spring and summer colors change to hues of red, beige, or brown, providing a great winter garden accent.

Ornamental grasses can be used as fillers or specimens, border plants or background plantings, as ground covers or screens, or they can be grown as container plants. Their adaptability and subtle beauty make them perfect companions to flowering plants and other woody ornamentals.

  • Hardiness: Zones 4 to 9

  • Flower/Foliage: A variety of colors are available, with seed heads and foliage color changes through-out the year.

  • Light Needs: Full sun is best

  • Growing Advice: Plant in well-drained soil in full sun. They are adaptable in many situations and can be used as container plants as well.

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