Updated Oct 13, 2022
Some gardeners dread the end of the warm season because their gardens will become bleak and brown. However, this idea couldn’t be further from the truth. Many flower species wait until cool weather arrives to erupt into eye-catching blooms.
Some flowers store energy from the sun and rain in the spring and summer. Others must wait out the stressful drought conditions of late summer before they grow to their full potential. Either way, fall-blooming plants are any gardener’s dream. Most species have diverse, brightly colored blossoms that bring visual interest to an otherwise browning landscape.
We’ve got you covered if you’re curious about what to plant when the temperature begins to drop. Here are the 15 best plants to use in your fall garden.
Chrysanthemums or “mums” are one of America’s most popular fall flowers. In fact, these fall beauties are the second most popular flower in the world, behind the rose. Mums are members of the aster plant family and come in hundreds of cultivars and 13 distinct classifications.
Chrysanthemums grow best in areas with full sunlight exposure and nutrient-rich, well-drained soil. They’re hardy perennial plants that will grace your garden year after year with the right conditions and care. Plant these beauties in the middle of summer to enjoy bright orange, yellow, red, and purple flowers throughout autumn.
Sedums are crassula succulents known for their drought hardiness and ease of maintenance. One sedum variety called ‘Autumn Joy’ is especially popular during the fall when it boasts lovely pink flowers atop tall, fleshy stems. The flower’s seed heads remain closed throughout the summer but burst into color once September closes.
Sedums, also known as “stonecrops,” are generally easy to grow and maintain in well-drained soils. Avoid overwatering and overfertilizing your sedum plant to keep it plump and tall. Succulents don’t need frequent moisture and will start to droop if given too much.
Black-eyed Susans are the perfect addition to your autumn garden. This daisy-like biennial gets its nickname from its dark brown center surrounded by bright yellow florets. As excellent pollen producers, Black-eyed Susan plants will have hummingbirds and pollinators buzzing around your outdoor space.
Black-eyed Susans grow naturally as wildflowers but are also popular in home gardens, where they bloom from mid-summer to mid-fall. Keep them happy by providing well-drained, moderately fertilized soil and full sunlight. Deadhead old growths at the end of the summer season to encourage vibrant blooms throughout the fall.
Pansies are popular cool-weather annuals that thrive in garden beds and window boxes alike. These lovely flowers come in dozens of colors, so you’re sure to find a variety that suits your style. Plant your pansies when the summer heat breaks, preferably in mid-to-late September. They work well amongst other fall plants, so consider using them as a border in a raised bed or filler plant for bare spots.
Pansies grow best in partial shade or full sun. Sunlight is crucial to a healthy pansy patch because too much shade produces droopy, weak flowers. Otherwise, they’re easy to maintain and will bring a much-needed burst of color to your fall landscape.
Sweet alyssums are stunning plants that produce delicate white flowers throughout fall. These attractive annuals are native to Mediterranean coasts, making them well suited for sunny, rocky gardens.
Sweet alyssum is an excellent choice if you’re seeking a groundcover plant for your landscape. They grow from mound-like foliage with numerous clusters of tightly packed blooms. Sweet alyssum isn’t just attractive to people; its honey-like aroma will have bees and butterflies swarming your garden for a taste of nectar.
Sweet alyssum plants won’t return year after year, but they have a long growing season, especially in milder climates. Provide your plants with full sun and well-drained soil, and avoid overwatering them. Then, help them bloom vigorously through fall by removing dead flower heads.
Violas, the parent plant of modern pansies, are another flower to consider for your fall garden. According to the Mississippi State University Extension, violas are more cold-tolerant than pansies, making them a better option for gardeners in chilly climates. Choose violas for your flower beds or hanging baskets to add a multitude of colors around your home.
Viola plants are lovingly called “Johnny Jump-Ups” for their tendency to produce new plants that seemingly spring up out of nowhere. Along with prolific seed production, violas are relatively low-maintenance. Simply provide them with routine watering, fertilization, and ample sunlight to watch them bloom all autumn long.
Plant marigolds in your garden to make it explode with fall color. Two marigold varieties are popular in home gardens. African marigolds have large flowers that can grow up to 4 inches in diameter. French marigolds are more compact, with shorter stems and smaller flowers. Most marigold varieties bloom from early summer until the first frost of winter. This means the plants have long growing seasons in milder areas of the United States.
Grow marigolds in loamy, well-drained soil with added organic mulch for the best results. Give these beautiful bloomers access to full sunlight, and watch them explode into an array of healthy flower heads. Deadhead old plants as the season progresses, and stake African marigold plants that grow too tall to stand on their own.
Heleniums are daisy-shaped flowers with velvety-soft orange and yellow petals. They’re sometimes called “sneezeweeds” for their historical use to induce sneezing that drove out bad spirits. Today, helenium varieties grow across North America, adding impressive visual appeal to home landscapes.
Although some varieties have variable growth periods, most heleniums bloom late summer through early fall. They grow best in moist, rich soil with ample access to sunlight. The University of Wisconsin-Madison Extension suggests planting heleniums in a perennial garden alongside ornamental grasses, rudbeckias, bee balm, and fall-blooming asters.
Coneflowers are herbaceous perennials that bloom throughout the summer and fall. They sprout eye-catching cone-like flowers in purple, yellow, orange, and white hues. Along with their vibrant petals, coneflowers produce centers full of nectar and nutritious seeds that will attract butterflies, bees, and birds to your outdoor space.
Coneflowers are an excellent choice for a low-maintenance garden. Though they prefer ample sunlight and well-drained soils, they’re adaptable to various conditions. Coneflowers do fine in hot, dry climates, so consider adding some to your southern garden for autumn interest.
Goldenrods are fall perennials that bloom with stalks of bright yellow flowers. Some gardeners call Goldenrod “Sun Medicine” for its amazing medicinal and diuretic properties. The plant’s flowers are so pigmented that they’re sometimes used to dye fabric.
Goldenrod’s remarkable qualities don’t stop there – the flower is a fantastic ornamental for fall landscapes. Goldenrod is easy to grow in full sun conditions and medium to well-drained soil. However, the plant is tolerant of other conditions and will likely multiply rapidly, even in drier soil types. Once established, it will produce its signature yellow flowers from mid-summer through fall.
Oakleaf hydrangeas are deciduous shrubs that can grow up to 8 feet tall. The plant gets its name from its distinctive oak-shaped leaves, which turn reddish purple in the late fall. Like other hydrangea varieties, it produces clusters of tiny white flowers that change color as the season progresses.
Oakleaf hydrangeas thrive best in rich, moist, and well-draining soils. They prefer partial shade but need some sunlight to produce the best flower crop. Hydrangeas can survive the winter with a little help; insulate the bushes with mulch and burlap fabric to protect them from cold temperatures and harsh winds. After winter passes, prune dead branches and flowers to help your hydrangeas thrive another year.
Celosias are tender perennials that thrive as garden ornamentals and cut flowers. These plants get their name from the Greek word for “burning” because their flowers resemble small flames. Along with their unique feathery shape, celosias produce various colors, including fuchsia, pink, yellow, red, purple, and white.
Celosia is the plant for you if you want a flower bed erupting with foliage and bright colors. These flowers grow easily in full sunlight conditions and well-drained, rich soils. Plant them about a foot apart to ensure they have room to expand their vigorous root systems.
Russian sage is an herbaceous perennial and member of the mint family. Its silvery-green stems produce bouquets of light purple flowers that superficially resemble lavender plants. Plant these lovely bloomers around spring to enjoy delicate flowers through the summer and fall.
Russian sage’s unique herbal appearance makes it an excellent choice for diverse fall gardens. The Wisconsin Horticulture Division of Extension suggests combining it with white flowers, ornamental grasses, or dark-leaved plants for visual contrast. You can also let it grow freely in a pollinator garden to produce ample nectar for beneficial insects.
Japanese anemones are delightful fall-blooming flowers for any autumn garden. These perennials produce dark green foliage and white, pink, and lavender flowers that bring a much-needed boost to drab landscapes. Japanese anemones are also perfect for adding height dimension to gardens, with their stunning flowers growing atop foot-tall stems.
Japanese anemones prefer well-drained soil in an area with partial shade. They’re prone to root rot in wet conditions, so ensuring drained dirt and bright morning sunlight is crucial to their success in the cooler months. Otherwise, Japanese anemones grow prolifically and might take over your garden with too much care. Prevent them from smothering your other plants by dividing their root systems every few years.
Autumn crocuses are fall-flowering members of the lily family, well known for their broad leaves and tulip-like appearance. Autumn crocuses are native to North Africa and Europe and grow naturally along meadows and forest beds. The flowers are now popular in North America and can withstand cool temperatures throughout much of the U.S.
Plant autumn crocuses in the middle of summer to enjoy their pink and purple petals by fall. They prefer moist, drained soils and grow well amongst grasses, shrubs, and trees. Once your flowers are well-established, you can divide them in the summer before their fall bloom. Dividing your autumn crocuses is the perfect way to increase their vigor and produce more specimens for your landscape.
With your newfound knowledge of flourishing fall flowers, you’re ready to start planning your dream autumn landscape. Fall-blooming flowers are as diverse as they are beautiful, so you’re sure to find a variety that suits your aesthetic and climate. If you need a little extra help preparing your garden for the upcoming season, read our guide to outdoor fall projects to complete before cold weather arrives.
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