Fall Flowers

Gardening, Home & Family, Outdoors
on August 11, 2002

Spring and summer may be the traditional time to plant flowers, but many perennials and hardy annuals can be planted this fall to keep your flower gardens filled with color even after several light frosts.

Chrysanthemums are one of autumns most popular flowers and come in a variety of shapes and colors. Mums, as theyre commonly known, consist of two basic kinds.

Florists mums, often used as gifts, may continue blooming through mild frosts until the first heavy frost, particularly if you repot them from their containers to your flower garden. Garden mums are perennials and are a little hardier than florists mums. Plant garden mums in full sun if you want them to grow back the following year.

Other commonly available perennials for a sunny garden in autumn include Shasta daisies, black-eyed Susan (rudbeckia), purple coneflower (echinacea), and asters. Asters, like mums, are available in several different colors and varieties. These plants may look delicate, but they stand up well to cold weather and often bloom for a week.

Sedums many varieties are a great garden addition because theyre practically foolproof. The succulent, gray-green foliage looks good in the garden even when the plant isnt blooming. Plant it in an area that will be undisturbed, though, because the stems can break easily.

Russian sage, another plant that offers more than just pretty flowers, produces spikes of fragrant purple flowers in late summer and early autumn, and has the added benefit of silvery white foliage that lasts all winter.

Sedum and rudbeckia also will grow in partial shade, though they may not bloom quite as heavily. The toad lily (tricyrtis) is a beautiful autumn flower for a shade garden. Its speckled flowers, which resemble orchids, form in September and October.

Annual flowers that withstand a few light frosts still can be planted in the autumn to dress up a bare spot in the garden. Salvia, violas, pansies, and snapdragons are good choices, and in mild climates or sheltered spots they might even remain in bloom through most of the winter.

Most of these plants easily are grown from seeds if started in the spring, but this time of year you can find them in garden centers, often already in bloom. Because perennials will return for several years, youll want to make sure the soil is well prepared before planting. Unless your winters are severe, no special care is needed to protect them from cold weather.

When summer blooms fade, dont give up on floral color in your garden. Visit a local garden center or thumb through a catalog, and explore the many varieties of flowers that will spice up your autumn display this year or next.