You don’t have to have a lot of money to be dripping in jewels — just look to your garden. Late summer and autumn are great times to showcase a rich palette of jewel-toned flowers, foliage and berries. Just as the growing season starts to come to a close for the year, these garden gems put on a show that’s fit for a king.
But with so many great rich, saturated hues to choose from, where do you start? Don’t worry; here are three beautiful late-summer or fall plant combos to get you started. With shrubs, perennials and annuals, these combos are bursting with flowers, foliage and fruit in the vivid hues of garden jewels. For each combination, you’ll find plant names and tips on growing them. Plus, for each color combo, we’ve included a couple of alternate plant suggestions to change up the look.
Whether or not you use these plants and combos or just let them inspire your own combinations, you’re sure to get the very best color show of the year!
1. Plant combo with a cool autumn palette
Say “fall” and most people think in terms of warm reds and vibrant oranges. But cooler tones are also well-represented in this season, adding more drama to the fall garden. Pretty purple spikes of Mexican bush sage create cool vertical accents in this full-sun border, aided by the dramatic deep purple foliage of the dahlias. The warmer hues of the apricot and yellow dahlia flowers are complementary colors for blues and purples, and make them even more vivid. All these plants prefer moist, well-drained soil. Deadhead the faded dahlia and Mexican bush sage blooms to keep the whole planting looking sharp.
A) Dahlia Dahlia ‘David Howard’
Type Tuber Blooms Soft apricot flowers on deep purple foliage summer through fall Light Full sun Size 24 to 30 in. tall, 18 to 24 in. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 8 to 11
B) New Zealand flax Phormium ‘Yellow Wave’
Type Perennial Blooms Strappy green and yellow variegated foliage; red summer flowers Light Full sun to part shade Size 3 to 4 ft. tall, 4 to 5 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 8 to 11
C) Mexican bush sage Salvia leucantha ‘Midnight’
Type Perennial Blooms Purple summer flowers; attracts hummingbirds Light Full sun Size 24 to 40 in. tall, 20 to 36 in. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 9 to 11
D) Dahlia Dahlia ‘Happy Single Party’
Type Tuber Blooms Single soft yellow flowers on dark purple foliage summer to fall Light Full sun Size 24 to 28 in. tall, 18 to 24 in. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 8 to 11
E) Red-veined dock Rumex sanguineus
Type Perennial Foliage Bright green leaves with red veins Light Full sun Size 10 to 12 in. tall, 6 to 12 in. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 5 to 8
Prefer hot colors?
Replace the dahlias with bright red ‘Freedom Fighter’ dahlia (Dahlia hybrid) and Mexican bush sage with long scarlet-red summer spikes of ‘Lady in Red’ Texas salvia (Salvia coccinea).
2. Fall plant combo in primary colors
You don’t have to have a huge plant list to make a splash with jewel tones. These three plants sporting the primary colors of the color wheel do it with ease. When the golden sunflowers, red bee balm and blue balloon flower are blooming in this sunny late-summer bed, the can’t-miss color show is as long-lasting as it is breathtaking!
A) Sunflower Heliopsis helianthoides scabra ‘Sommersonne’ (Summer Sun)
Type Perennial Blooms Gold summer flowers Light Full sun Size 24 to 36 in. tall, 18 to 24 in. wide Hardiness Cold-hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9
B) Balloon flower Platycodon grandiflorus
Type Perennial Blooms Bue, pink or white flowers in summer to fall Light Full sun to part shade Size 6 to 36 in. tall, 12 to 18 in. wide Hardiness Cold-hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9
C) Bee balm Monarda ‘Jacob Cline’
Type Perennial Blooms Long-blooming deep red flowers in summer; mildew-resistant foliage Light Full sun to part shade Size 3 to 4 ft. tall, 2 to 3 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9
Prefer smaller plants?
Try yellow ‘Double Cutie’ daylily (Hemerocallis hybrid), blue ‘Vision Violet’ geranium (Geranium sanguineum) and red ‘Fireball’ bee balm (Monarda hybrid). All stay under 2 ft. tall.
3. Fiery fall garden combo
Sizzling hot orange zinnias and chrysanthemums set this sun-filled fall border ablaze. Don’t overuse a striking color like this in your garden — a little goes a long way. Your eye can’t help but be attracted to the bold-striped canna, but the airier look of the persicaria’s red spires in the back and the fuzzy plumes of the purple fountain grass help soften the look of the bolder splashes of orange. In zones 6 and colder, lift the canna rhizomes in fall and store them in a cool, dry area through winter.
A) Purple fountain grass Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’
Type Tender perennial grass (Usually grown as an annual) Foliage Burgundy leaves Light Full sun Size 3 to 5 ft. tall, 2 to 4 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 9 to 11
B) Zinnia Zinnia Profusion™ Orange
Type Annual Blooms 2-in. orange flowers on a compact plant Light Full sun Size 12 to 18 in. tall, 12 to 15 in. wide
C) Nasturtium Tropaeolum majus
Type Annual Blooms Bright orange flowers summer to fall Light Full sun Size 8 to 15 in. tall, 1 to 10 ft. wide
D) Canna Canna Tropicanna™
Type Tender rhizome Blos Orange flowers; red, yellow, orange and green-striped foliage Light Full sun to part shade Size 4 to 6 ft. tall, 2 to 3 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 7 to 11
E) Persicaria Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Firetail’
Type Perennial Blooms Red spikes summer to fall Light Full sun to part shade Size 3 to 4 ft. tall, 2 to 4 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 7
F) Chrysanthemum Chrysanthemum Hannah™ Orange
Type Perennial Blooms Double orange flower in late summer to fall Light Full sun Size 15 to 18 in. tall and wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 5 to 9
Add structure with a shrub
Replace the fountain grass with burgundy ‘Diabolo’ ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius). At up to 8 ft. tall and wide, this deep-colored shrub is cold-hardy in USDA zones 3 to 7.