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Gardening

10 Plants to Grow for Fall Color

royal purple flowers

Fall is the season for planting. Cooling temperatures present a fantastic opportunity to plan a new garden, amend your existing space, or add new plant varieties to enjoy for years to come. Trees, shrubs, perennials, and ground cover all stand a better chance of survival when established during the fall season; our mild weather gives them a chance to develop strong roots without risk of heat stress. 

Most plants put on a show in the spring and summer seasons with a rainbow of flowers. Many of our most popular perennials and trees bloom early in the year and fade by the time autumn begins. Fall is still a great time to plant spring and summer bloomers, but gardeners have to wait months before seeing a colorful payoff. This month, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite plants for bright fall color. Every plant showcased below can be planted now and immediately give your garden a boost of color!

Anemone Windflower

light pink round blooms

Anemone lends its height and unique foliage shape as points of visual interest through the spring and summer months, but they truly shine in the fall. In September or early October, large round flowers emerge on long stems that sway whimsically in the wine. Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’ is a common variety with large white flowers and other cultivars like ‘Pamina’ offer pink blooms excellent for cut flower arrangements.

Asters

royal purple flowers

Asters are available as annuals and perennials in zone 7. They’re a key perennial for pollinators searching for late season nutrition. Asters are typically purple, blue, or white, and grow in a range of sizes depending on the cultivar. ‘Purple Dome’ only grows up to 18” tall in a neat rounded habit and gardeners can expect an abundance of royal purple flowers throughout the fall.

Chelone Turtlehead

light pink flowers resembling snapdragons

Native to eastern North America, Chelone is an excellent choice to provide autumn blooms in any native pollinator garden. They thrive in filtered sunlight, so it’s best to plant near wooded areas or beneath the canopy of a tree. ‘Tiny Tortuga’ is a charming dwarf variety featuring light pink blooms reminiscent of snapdragons and dark glossy foliage. 

Callicarpa Beautyberry

bright purple berry clusters

Callicarpa americana is called Beautyberry for good reason; bright purple berries emerge in early fall and weigh down the branches for a striking arch effect. The fruit is edible and provides a valuable calorie source for local birds before winter migration. Because they’re native to Virginia, Beautyberry is particularly hardy and has no trouble adjusting to poor soil and unpredictable weather.

Cestrum Jessamine

yellowish orange flower clusters

Cestrum, commonly called Jessamine, is a reliable bloomer for the entire growing season. With bright yellow flowers beloved by hummingbirds, ‘Orange Peel’ adds visual interest to the garden for three straight seasons. As an extra bonus, Cestrum is deer resistant and rabbit resistant.

Helenium Sneezeweed

round flowers in an ombre of colors

No need to worry – sneezeweed isn’t likely to trigger seasonal allergies out in the garden, but it will provide weeks of cheerful color into the late fall. Helenium is a native perennial typically found along streams, ponds, and wetlands. The variety pictured, ‘Mariachi Fuego’, adds a festive fall touch to any cut flower arrangement.

Illicium Scorpio Star Flower Anise

star like red flowers

Star shaped, fragrant flowers and handsome foliage make a statement on this reliable evergreen shrub. Illicium typically blooms several times throughout the year, but gardeners can expect at least a few weeks of pinkish burgundy flowers in early fall. Plant it in dappled shade with fertile, well draining soil for best growth results.

Camellia

mid-tone pink camellia flower

Camellias are among the most visually striking evergreen shrubs. Their large, glossy leaves look fantastic all year long and their colorful blooms often emerge after the rest of the garden has faded. Some even reliably bloom just in time for the winter holidays! Try ‘Yuletide’ for a cheerful pop of red in the late fall or ‘Shishi Gashira’ for mid-tone pink blooms.

Itea Virginia Sweetspire

light filtering through bronzed foliage

Leaves changing from green to yellow to red is a classic sign that fall has arrived. Few shrubs change colors as strikingly as Itea, commonly called Virginia Sweetspire. The rust colored leaves of ‘Henry’s Garnet’ look especially beautiful in the early morning sun. Other honorable mentions for fantastic fall foliage include maples, willows, and dogwoods.

Dendranthema Garden Mums

buttery yellow flowers

Dendranthema is often called garden mums because they’re closely related to the annual mums so popular during the fall season. Unlike annual chrysanthemums, dendranthema will return year after year with daisy-like blooms persisting until the first frost. Plant ‘Sheffield Yellow’ for pale, buttery blooms or ‘Cambodian Queen’ for light lavender flowers.

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