There are plenty of fall-flowering perennials. Photo: www.scenicrootsgardencenter.com
Can it really be the end of August already? Where did the summer go? But you needn’t cry over its demise, at least, not if you’re a gardener, as you can easily extend summer into October—or even November in milder climates—with a selection of perennials that bloom at the end of the season. All you have to do is to add them here and there and voilà! Your flower beds will perk right up with extraordinary blooms and, since they’re perennials, the bloom will repeat each fall.
Here are 8 favorite fall bloomers:
1. Fall Anemone (Anemone tomentosa ‘Robustissima’, A. hupehensis, A. × hybrida and others): Generally a spreading perennial that forms large colonies over time, although some modern varieties are clump-forming and not as invasive. Beautiful maple-leaf shaped foliage forming a carpet. Large camellia-like single or semi-double flowers in pink, white, purple or red with a yellow center. Prefers partial shade, but tolerates sun in more humid locations. 12–40 inches × 12–24 inches (30–100 cm × 30–60 cm). Hardiness zone: 4 or 5 to 8, depending on the variety.
2. Fall Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae [Aster novae-angliae], S. novi-belgii [A. novi-belgii] and others): There is a plethora of fall asters in a wide range of hues—purple, pink, red, white and more—and heights, ranging from rounded domes for the foreground to tall backdrop plants. The small star-shaped flowers (Aster means star) are borne in dense masses. Some start blooming in late summer and continue into fall, others are strictly fall bloomers. For sun or partial shade in rather rich, well-drained soil that is not too dry. 10–80 inches × 12–36 inches (25–200 cm × 30–90 cm). Hardiness zone: 3 or 4 to 8.
3. Fall Mum or Cushion Mum (Chrysanthemum × morifolium and others): Masses of daisy or pompom-shaped flowers beginning at the very end of summer into fall for some, starting in fall for others, some continuing right to the start of winter. Wide choice of colors. Look specifically for varieties that are hardy enough for your local climate: no-name varieties sold at bargain prices are usually tender varieties unable to support cold winters. Sun or partial shade in rich, well-drained soil. 18–30 inches × 20–50 inches (45–75 cm × 50–120 cm). Hardiness zone: 3, 4 or 5 to 8 for hardy mums, 7 to 9 for tender mums.
4. Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea and others): The famous “purple coneflower” now comes in a much wider choice of colors—white, orange, yellow, red, pink and green—as well as shapes—single, double, semi-double, and so on—and blooms from August to September, sometimes October. The flower looks like a daisy with a raised yellow, orange, red or green heart. Let the flower dry in place for a nice winter effect and this will also feed seed-eating birds. For sun or light shade in well-drained soil. 18–50 inches × 24 inches (45–120 cm × 60 cm). Hardiness zone: 3 to 8.
5. Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum, now Eutrochium maculatum): Tall background perennial with beautifully whorled leaves, covered with domes of feathery pinkish-purple flowers that butterflies love. Flowers in August and September. Prefers sun or partial shade and rather humid soil. 60–80 inches × 60–80 inches (1.5-2 m × 1.5-2 m). Hardiness zone: 2 to 9.
6. Ornamental grasses (Calamagrostis, Miscanthus, Molina, Panicum, Pennisetum, etc.): There are lots of fall-flowering grasses and most continue to beautify the garden even after they have died, as they stand tall for months, carrying the season of interest right through to spring. Narrow leaves, feathery flowers. Most are adapted to full sun and well-drained soils. Variable height and diameter. Hardiness zone: highly variable, from 3, 4 or 5 to 8 for some, 6 or 7 to 9 or 10 for others.
7. Orange Coneflower (Rudbeckia fulgida): This popular perennial bears yellow daisy-shaped inflorescences with a dark brown domed center. In most climates, it will already have been in bloom since July, but will continue to flower through September. Easy to grow in sun or very light shade and any well-drained soil. 24–28 inches × 18 inches (60–70 cm × 45 cm). Hardiness zone: 3 to 9. There are several other fall-flowering perennial coneflowers: R. laciniata, R. triloba, etc.
8. Showy Stonecrop (Hylotelephium spectabile [Sedum spectabile] and others): This rather short plant is ideal for the front of the garden. It forms a dome of succulent leaves on thick stems. The massed domed flowers can be pink, red or white and attract butterflies. The leaves can be bluish green, variegated or purple. Full sun and well-drained soil. Highly drought tolerant. Plenty of choice! 12–24 inches × 12–24 inches (30–60 cm × 30–60 cm). Hardiness zone: 3 to 9.
Other Fall-Flowering Perennials
Here are some other perennials that either bloom in fall or whose bloom period spills over into fall.
- Blazing star or liatris (Liatris spp.)
- Blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica)
- Bugbane (Cimicifuga spp., now Actaea spp.)
- Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
- Coreopsis (Coreopsis spp.)
- Daylily (Hemerocallis spp., certain varieties only)
- Elecampane (Inula spp.)
- False anemone (Anemonopsis macrophylla)
- False aster (Boltonia asteroides)
- Gaillardia or blanket flower (Gaillardia spp.)
- Giant fleeceflower (Persicaria polymorpha)
- Goldenrod (Solidago spp.)
- Hardy Geranium (Geranium spp., certain varieties only)
- Ironweed (Vernonia spp.)
- Kalimeris or Japanese aster (Kalimeris spp.)
- Kirengeshoma or yellow wax bells (Kirengeshoma spp.)
- Monkshood (Aconitum spp.)
- Obedience plant (Physostegia spp.)
- Perennial hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos)
- Perennial sunflower (Helianthus spp.)
- Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)
- Sneezeweed (Helenium spp.)
- Toad lily (Tricyrtis spp.)
- Turtlehead (Chelone spp.)
- White corydalis (Pseudofumaria alba, syn. Corydalis ochroleuca)
- Yellow corydalis (Pseudofumaria lutea, syn. Corydalis lutea)