Grow flowers that pop with fall color
Plant this grouping in spring, and the combination of texture and color will reward you in fall! Plus, these plants all continue to look good long after the first frost. Leave sedum and switchgrass to provide winter interest, but dig the dahlia tubers to save for next year. Garden mum foliage left standing will protect the crown from cold winter temperatures and late spring frost.
Growing conditions for this fall garden border
Full-sun and well-drained soil will give you the most flowers with the 'Nicholas' dahlia and garden mums, although the switchgrass and mealycup sage can tolerate clay soil. Stake the dahlias and sedum in spring when planting to help support heavy stems, and fertilize and pinch or cut back the flower buds into July to get a heavy flush of blooms in fall.
Plant care tips
‘Nicholas’ dahlia has vibrant 6-inch-wide melon-orange flowers that look beautiful in any autumn color palette, whether it leans cool or warm. You'll want to place metal or bamboo stakes when you plant the tubers to support the tall stems as they grow and provide consistent moisture.
Switchgrass is a sturdy ornamental grass that grows best in full sun and can handle sandy or clay soil. Its gray-green leaves have an upright, dense habit with rose-colored panicles and leaf tips in fall.
Garden mum is the colorful star of the fall season, coming in a wide array of hues. Always plant hardy mums in full sun and well-drained soil. Avoid locations that stay wet or where water collects. Garden mums are heavy feeders, so start with a granulated 10-10-10 fertilizer as soon as you see new growth in spring. Give them another dose of fertilizer in early August, or when you spot the buds forming.
Mealycup sage packs a purple punch all summer long and keeps going into fall. All it needs is full sun — it doesn’t mind the heat, won’t need frequent watering and it handles clay soil.
Tall sedum hits its stride in late summer to fall, when flat-topped flowers make the perfect landing pad for hungry bees and butterflies. Available in a variety of colors from green and chartreuse to pink and burgundy, tall sedum grows best in full sun and well-drained soil. The succulent-like foliage is drought-tolerant; in fact, too much water can cause the plant to rot. You can stake or cut back tall sedum in spring to help prevent the tall, heavy plant from splaying open.
Garden plan plant list
A) Dahlia (Dahlia ‘Nicholas’)
Type Tender bulb Blooms Melon-orange blooms from midsummer to frost Light Full sun Size 36 to 48 in. tall, 18 to 24 in. wide Cold hardiness USDA zones 8 to 11
B) Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum ‘Apache Rose’)
Type Perennial Foliage Leaf tips turn rose in fall, just as rose-colored seedheads appear Light Full sun Size 40 to 48 in. tall, 24 to 30 in. wide Cold Hardiness USDA zones 4 to 9
C) Garden mum (Chrysanthemum ‘Red Carousel’)
Type Perennial Blooms Flowers have quilled red petals in early to late fall Light Full sun Size 24 to 26 in. tall, 12 to 16 in. wide Cold Hardiness USDA zones 5 to 9
D) Mealycup sage (Salvia farinacea ‘Victoria Blue’)
Type Annual Blooms Flower spikes of deep blue from late spring to frost Light Full sun to part shade Size 18 to 24 in. tall, 9 to 18 in. wide Cold Hardiness USDA zones 8 to 11
E) Tall sedum (Hylotelephium Autumn Charm™)
Type Perennial Blooms Flower buds open pink in early fall and age to brick-red Light Full sun Size 10 to 18 in. tall and wide Cold Hardiness USDA zones 3 to 9