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Fall Garden Ideas — No Mums Required!

By: Garden Gate staff
Get ready for autumn with this eye-catching combo.

coleus-fountain-grass-zinnia-combo-lead: Add a warm glow to your fall garden with this low-maintenance combo!

Fall garden planting without mums

A fall garden is a feast for all the senses — bold color combinations, pungent scents, the crunch of crisp leaves under your feet and a cool nip in the air. And some plants just get better and better as fall unfolds. Ready to try something other than mums for fall color? This beautiful fountain grass’ colors intensify in cool weather, and zinnias will keep blooming and blooming, right up until frost. Ready to get this look in your own garden? Here’s how!

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coleus-fountain-grass-zinnia-combo-lettered: Fall planting of coleus, zinnia and fountain grass.

Grow plants with fall garden interest

It only takes three plants to get tons of vibrant fall color — this stunning mass of coleus picks up the rich red and purple hues of the fountain grass, almost making it glow. Newer, smaller and densely branched zinnias, such as ‘Starlight Rose’, make a carefree low-growing edging all the way up to the first frost. They take the heat along a sidewalk or driveway and won’t need deadheading to look neat.

A) ‘Brilliancy’ coleus (Plectranthus hybrid)
Type Tender perennial (usually grown as an annual) Blooms Bright red leaves with gold-green scalloped edges; can pinch back light blue midsummer flowers for a tidier look Light Part sun to part shade Size 18 to 24 in. tall, 10 to 14 in. wide Hardiness Cold zones 10 to 11

B) ‘Fireworks’ fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum)
Type Tender perennial (usually grown as an annual) Blooms Deep red to purple variegated foliage; purple blooms in summer Light Part to full sun Size 24 to 30 in. tall and wide Hardiness Cold zones 9 to 10

C) Zahara™ ‘Starlight Rose’ zinnia (Zinnia marylandica)
Type Annual Blooms Large white bicolor flowers with pink-streaked centers from late spring to frost Light Full sun Size 12 to 18 in. tall and wide

Helpful Garden Tools:
Garden Snip
Water Wand
Hand Weeder


fall foliage combo coleus with letter labels: Even tender perennials that most gardeners grow as annuals can have foliage that looks great in fall.

Put on a fall show with annuals

Coleus foliage is always colorful but did you know there's a hibiscus with red leaves all summer? Even better, it turns redder as temperatures cool. And while the Arkansas amsonia leaves are green in summer they turn a glowing golden yellow before they fall.

A) ‘Haight Ashbury’ hibiscus (Hibiscus acetosella)
Type Tender perennial (usually grown as an annual) Blooms Deep red flowers in late summer, marbled leaves turn redder in fall Light Full sun Size 12 to 60 in. tall, 18 to 24 in. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 9 to 11

B) Arkansas amsonia (Amsonia hubrichtii)
Type Perennial Blooms Pale blue flowers in late spring, foliage turns golden yellow in fall Light Full sun to part shade Size 2 to 3 ft. tall and wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 5 to 8

C) ‘Trusty Rusty’ Coleus (Plectranthus)
Type Tender perennial (usually grown as an annual) Foliage Rusty orange leaves edged in gold Light Full sun to part shade Size 18 to 24 in. tall and wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 10 to 11

Published: Oct. 12, 2018
Updated: Nov. 29, 2023
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Product Recommendations

Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work in the garden. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.

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annuals tender perennials autumn fall plant combos plant recommendations

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