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8 late-season flowers

By: Garden Gate staff
Want beautiful blooms as long as possible? Try these 4 flowers for late-season color and interest.

Just as there are the stars of the garden that remind you it’s spring, fall has its own leading perennial characters that turn on the charm when many other blooms are starting to fade. Below, we’ll take a look at 8 plants that look their best in fall.

Several of these plants bloom for a long time — up to two months or more — helping to ensure your garden always looks great. Not only can you combine them with summer bloomers, but they’ll still be around to enhance the fall color show. Asters and Japanese anemone can shrug off a bit of frost, too. If cold weather comes early, just throw a sheet over the more tender plants to protect them from a few light frosts until the weather warms again.

Try cool color palettes for fall

Do you tend to have abundant red, orange and yellow hues in your fall garden? Why not include a few rich purples in the mix? The purple Mexican bush sage flowers will add drama and depth to your garden this time of year, especially when planted with red or orange. With more subdued sunlight in fall, this color contrast is easier on the eyes, too. Or try lavender-blue mistflower — which complements yellow flowers and chartreuse foliage. Whether you have a container to fill or a large cottage garden, there’s a variety of plants here to choose from for practically every situation and garden style.

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Autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale)

In late summer, space bulbs 4 to 6 inches apart in groups of five or seven 3 to 4 inches deep. They’ll bloom in just a few weeks the first year. After that, you’ll notice that foliage appears in spring and dies back then flowers appear in fall.

It’s a good idea to mark where you planted autumn crocus, so you don’t accidentally dig into bulbs or pull out foliage in spring. Wear gloves when handling any part of this plant as it’s poisonous and can cause a rash.

Type Bulb Blooms Orchid-pink or white flowers in fall Light Full sun to part shade Soil Moist, well-drained Size 3 to 6 in. tall and wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9

Mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum)

Mistflower has great lavender-blue blooms that begin when many other perennials are done with their show for the season. Pinching plants in late spring makes them bushier with more flowers.

Spreading by rhizomes, it can be rather vigorous. If it grows larger than you want, dig up part of the clump to add to another part of the garden.

Type Perennial Blooms Lavender-blue flowers in late summer to fall Light Full sun to part shade Soil Moist, well-drained Size 18 to 24 in. tall and wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 5 to 8

Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha)

This 3- to 4-foot-tall showy perennial stands out in any sunny part of the garden, especially at the back of the border or as a specimen plant. Mexican bush sage forms a nice mound of long arching stems with aromatic, gray-green foliage that grows about 2 feet wide or larger and has dark purple and white fl owers at the tips.

Drought-tolerant and deer-resistant, it’s an easy-care perennial in USDA zones 7 and warmer, but can be grown as an annual or in a protected, well-drained site in more northern gardens. Give it plenty of sun so plants don’t get leggy, but some afternoon shade is best where summers are very hot. Prune to the ground in spring to remove frost-damaged foliage and give your plants a fresh look.

Type Perennial Blooms Dark purple calyxes with white blooms from late summer to frost Light Full sun to part shade Soil Moist, well-drained Size 24 to 40 in. tall, 28 to 36 in. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 7 to 10

Sunshine Blue® bluebeard (Caryopteris incana (‘Jason’))

Sunshine Blue bluebeard offers bright yellow foliage on upright branches from late spring through the rest of the growing season. Light blue flowers cover the tips of the branches beginning in late summer and last until fall, attracting butterflies. A mass planting or low hedge is stunning, but you can also grow it in a mixed border or as a specimen.

The keys to growing bluebeard are well-drained soil and full sun — at least 6 hours per day. In northern gardens, bluebeard often dies back to the ground, but flowering isn’t affected because blooms form on new growth. Prune the previous year’s stems down to the ground in spring. In the South, prune plants to about 6 inches to encourage fresh foliage.

Type Shrub Blooms Light blue flowers in late summer through fall Light Full sun Soil Moist, well-drained Size 2 to 3 ft. tall, 3 to 4 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 5 to 9

‘Babylon Bronze’ dahlia (Dahlia hybrid)

While there are hundreds of dahlias to choose from, ‘Babylon Bronze’ above is a pretty fall pick because its rich salmon-orange petals aren’t brash and can be combined with pastels, as well as dark blues and purples. The giant 8- to 11-inch-wide, dinnerplate type, double orange blooms are close to eye level where they’re easy to appreciate.

Plant tubers 4 inches deep in spring once the soil has warmed and the chance of frost has passed. Dahlias begin blooming midsummer and keep going until frost. Stake tall cultivars and ones with large flowers. Deadhead spent blooms to keep them looking good.

Type Tender perennial (usually grown as an annual) Blooms Large double salmon-orange flowers from midsummer to frost Light Full sun to part shade Soil Moist, well-drained Size 40 to 44 in. tall, 20 to 24 in. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 8 to 11

‘Tojen’ toad lily (Tricyrtis hybrid)

Here’s an exotic looking fall flower for the shade or woodland garden. Upright ‘Tojen,’ is larger than most, at 2 to 3 ft. tall. Plant it in a spot where you can see its orchidlike white flowers with purple edges up close.

Last to arrive and last to go is the toad lily’s way. Plants emerge in late spring and grow slowly until temps warm up. Toad lilies can be susceptible to anthracnose fungal disease, which causes orange spots on the leaves. Although it doesn’t kill the plant, it can spread in wet weather. Be sure to provide plenty of room for good air circulation and water at the base of the plant, not on the leaves.

Type Perennial Blooms White or yellow flowers with purple spots or edges Light Part to full shade Soil Moist, well-drained, slightly acid Size 2 to 3 ft. tall, 1 to 2 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9

‘Jade Princess’ ornamental millet (Pennisetum glaucum)

Are you looking for something unique for a late-season show in large containers? The strappy chartreuse foliage and dark brown seedheads of ‘Jade Princess’ ornamental millet provide an eye-catching bold contrast. At 3 to 4 feet tall, it makes a showy backdrop for late-season flowers in beds and borders.

Growing best in moist, well-drained soil and warm summer temps, ‘Jade Princess’ forms a tidy dense mound of varied lime to chartreuse leaves. Then in summer, thick pollenless seedheads form above the leaves and continue through fall. Keep plants looking their best by fertilizing every couple weeks with a balanced liquid feed and removing spent seedheads.

Type Tender perennial (usually grown as an annual) Blooms Bronze to dark brown seedheadsfrom summer through fall Light Full sun to part shade Soil Moist, well-drained Size 36 to 48 in. tall, 18 to 24 in. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 9 to 11

‘September Charm’ Japanese anemone (Anemone x hybrida)

Japanese anemone stands out in a fall garden, where it adds height and elegant blooms in late summer through fall, sometimes for up to two months. ‘September Charm’ has sprays of pale pink flowers with yellow centers at the end of long stems. It looks great in a cottage garden or planted near a wrought-iron fence where it can peek through. A fence can also offer plants a little protection from wind.

Don’t worry about early fall frosts — they generally don’t affect the flower show. Cut back foliage after a hard freeze or you can leave it in place to protect the crown through winter.

Type Perennial Blooms Pale pink blooms with yellow centers in late summer through fall Light Full sun to part shade Soil Moist, well-drained Size 2 to 3 ft. tall and wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9

Autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale)

In late summer, space bulbs 4 to 6 inches apart in groups of five or seven 3 to 4 inches deep. They’ll bloom in just a few weeks the first year. After that, you’ll notice that foliage appears in spring and dies back then flowers appear in fall.

It’s a good idea to mark where you planted autumn crocus, so you don’t accidentally dig into bulbs or pull out foliage in spring. Wear gloves when handling any part of this plant as it’s poisonous and can cause a rash.

Type Bulb Blooms Orchid-pink or white flowers in fall Light Full sun to part shade Soil Moist, well-drained Size 3 to 6 in. tall and wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9

‘Babylon Bronze’ dahlia (Dahlia hybrid)

While there are hundreds of dahlias to choose from, ‘Babylon Bronze’ above is a pretty fall pick because its rich salmon-orange petals aren’t brash and can be combined with pastels, as well as dark blues and purples. The giant 8- to 11-inch-wide, dinnerplate type, double orange blooms are close to eye level where they’re easy to appreciate.

Plant tubers 4 inches deep in spring once the soil has warmed and the chance of frost has passed. Dahlias begin blooming midsummer and keep going until frost. Stake tall cultivars and ones with large flowers. Deadhead spent blooms to keep them looking good.

Type Tender perennial (usually grown as an annual) Blooms Large double salmon-orange flowers from midsummer to frost Light Full sun to part shade Soil Moist, well-drained Size 40 to 44 in. tall, 20 to 24 in. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 8 to 11

Mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum)

Mistflower has great lavender-blue blooms that begin when many other perennials are done with their show for the season. Pinching plants in late spring makes them bushier with more flowers.

Spreading by rhizomes, it can be rather vigorous. If it grows larger than you want, dig up part of the clump to add to another part of the garden.

Type Perennial Blooms Lavender-blue flowers in late summer to fall Light Full sun to part shade Soil Moist, well-drained Size 18 to 24 in. tall and wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 5 to 8

‘Tojen’ toad lily (Tricyrtis hybrid)

Here’s an exotic looking fall flower for the shade or woodland garden. Upright ‘Tojen,’ is larger than most, at 2 to 3 ft. tall. Plant it in a spot where you can see its orchidlike white flowers with purple edges up close.

Last to arrive and last to go is the toad lily’s way. Plants emerge in late spring and grow slowly until temps warm up. Toad lilies can be susceptible to anthracnose fungal disease, which causes orange spots on the leaves. Although it doesn’t kill the plant, it can spread in wet weather. Be sure to provide plenty of room for good air circulation and water at the base of the plant, not on the leaves.

Type Perennial Blooms White or yellow flowers with purple spots or edges Light Part to full shade Soil Moist, well-drained, slightly acid Size 2 to 3 ft. tall, 1 to 2 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9

Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha)

This 3- to 4-foot-tall showy perennial stands out in any sunny part of the garden, especially at the back of the border or as a specimen plant. Mexican bush sage forms a nice mound of long arching stems with aromatic, gray-green foliage that grows about 2 feet wide or larger and has dark purple and white fl owers at the tips.

Drought-tolerant and deer-resistant, it’s an easy-care perennial in USDA zones 7 and warmer, but can be grown as an annual or in a protected, well-drained site in more northern gardens. Give it plenty of sun so plants don’t get leggy, but some afternoon shade is best where summers are very hot. Prune to the ground in spring to remove frost-damaged foliage and give your plants a fresh look.

Type Perennial Blooms Dark purple calyxes with white blooms from late summer to frost Light Full sun to part shade Soil Moist, well-drained Size 24 to 40 in. tall, 28 to 36 in. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 7 to 10

‘Jade Princess’ ornamental millet (Pennisetum glaucum)

Are you looking for something unique for a late-season show in large containers? The strappy chartreuse foliage and dark brown seedheads of ‘Jade Princess’ ornamental millet provide an eye-catching bold contrast. At 3 to 4 feet tall, it makes a showy backdrop for late-season flowers in beds and borders.

Growing best in moist, well-drained soil and warm summer temps, ‘Jade Princess’ forms a tidy dense mound of varied lime to chartreuse leaves. Then in summer, thick pollenless seedheads form above the leaves and continue through fall. Keep plants looking their best by fertilizing every couple weeks with a balanced liquid feed and removing spent seedheads.

Type Tender perennial (usually grown as an annual) Blooms Bronze to dark brown seedheadsfrom summer through fall Light Full sun to part shade Soil Moist, well-drained Size 36 to 48 in. tall, 18 to 24 in. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 9 to 11

Sunshine Blue® bluebeard (Caryopteris incana (‘Jason’))

Sunshine Blue bluebeard offers bright yellow foliage on upright branches from late spring through the rest of the growing season. Light blue flowers cover the tips of the branches beginning in late summer and last until fall, attracting butterflies. A mass planting or low hedge is stunning, but you can also grow it in a mixed border or as a specimen.

The keys to growing bluebeard are well-drained soil and full sun — at least 6 hours per day. In northern gardens, bluebeard often dies back to the ground, but flowering isn’t affected because blooms form on new growth. Prune the previous year’s stems down to the ground in spring. In the South, prune plants to about 6 inches to encourage fresh foliage.

Type Shrub Blooms Light blue flowers in late summer through fall Light Full sun Soil Moist, well-drained Size 2 to 3 ft. tall, 3 to 4 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 5 to 9

‘September Charm’ Japanese anemone (Anemone x hybrida)

Japanese anemone stands out in a fall garden, where it adds height and elegant blooms in late summer through fall, sometimes for up to two months. ‘September Charm’ has sprays of pale pink flowers with yellow centers at the end of long stems. It looks great in a cottage garden or planted near a wrought-iron fence where it can peek through. A fence can also offer plants a little protection from wind.

Don’t worry about early fall frosts — they generally don’t affect the flower show. Cut back foliage after a hard freeze or you can leave it in place to protect the crown through winter.

Type Perennial Blooms Pale pink blooms with yellow centers in late summer through fall Light Full sun to part shade Soil Moist, well-drained Size 2 to 3 ft. tall and wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9

Published: Aug. 20, 2019
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