Flowers for Fall Gardens


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Flowers seem to breathe an audible sigh of relief when the final dog days of summer are past. Many gardeners are familiar with the popular garden mums that appear in every home improvement store and grocery after Labor Day, and mums are grand, but there are other flowers to complement the fall garden. Discover annuals, hardy perennials, and even a flowering vine that will make your fall garden sparkle.

  • 01 of 11

    Don't Blush When You See These Naked Ladies

    Picture of Lycoris squamigera flower
    mizuki/ a.collectionRF amana images/ Getty Images

    I’m not sure what kind of search results you’d get for looking up “naked ladies” on the internet, but just to be on the safe side, you can search for the proper Latin name of this flower, Lycoris squamigera. This flower is also known as the surprise lily or magic lily.

    These plants are well-adapted for areas with wet springs and dry summers, so they’re a good choice for the Midwest. The foliage appears in late winter and becomes dormant by the end of spring, so you may forget all about them until their three-foot stems pop up, bearing trumpet shaped flowers. The “naked” nickname refers to the lack of foliage to frame the gangly stems.

  • 02 of 11

    Plant Goldenrod for Wildlife

    Photos of Goldenrod
    Ryan Wightman/ Flickr/ CC BY-ND 2.0

    Goldenrod has served as the fall guy for ragweed, a similar looking flower that causes fall allergy symptoms in many sensitive individuals. If this beautiful wildflower could escape its unfair reputation, many gardeners might welcome this tall accent plant to their fall landscape.

    Goldenrod is an important source of pollen to bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects. The plants are vigorous, sometimes to a fault, but they are a good choice for large gardens and cultivated wildflower meadows.

  • 03 of 11

    The Fragrance Is Sweet, but the Vine Is Tough

    Photo of Clematis Paniculata
    Lori L. Stalteri / Flickr/ CC BY 2.0

    Plant this easy flowering vine wherever you want a large specimen to scramble over a fence, cover a gazebo, or even climb high into the branches of a tree. Although sweet autumn clematis isn’t usually advertised as a plant for dry gardens, I watched this vine flourish in my garden as temperatures soared past the triple digit mark for weeks on end. With no rain and no supplemental irrigation, the plant didn’t exhibit a single droopy stem or brown leaf margin.

  • 04 of 11

    Toad Lilies Bring Beauty to Shady Spots

    Picture of toad lily (Tricyrtis)
    Wendy Cutler/ Flickr/ CC BY 2.0

    Have you met the toad lily? What a fabulous flowering perennial for the woodland garden. The foliage often exhibits attractive mottling, and the orchid-like blooms attract hummingbirds. Best of all, when the plant is happy in its habitat, it spreads steadily but not aggressively to form a handsome colony. Toad lilies don’t compete well with other plants, so give them a place of their own in the shade garden.

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  • 05 of 11

    Hardy Houseplant Look-Alikes

    Photo of Cyclamen hederifolium
    Leonora (Ellie) Enking / Flickr/ CC BY-SA 2.0

    The florist’s cyclamen is a temperamental houseplant that appears in nurseries in the winter months, but Cyclamen hederifolium sports similar blooms on a winter hardy plant. Buy corms of these fall bloomers and plant them in a shady location in your zone 5-9 garden.

  • 06 of 11

    The Hardy Sunflower

    Photos of Helianthus maximiliani
    Aiko Vanhulsen/ Flickr/ CC BY 2.0

    What a glorious specimen! To think that these flowers grow with no care or cultivation at all. In many parts of the country, you can enjoy looking at large stands of the hardy sunflower, Helianthus maximiliani, growing wild in fields and on roadsides. For the garden, try the better-behaved Helianthus variety ‘Sunshine Daydream.’ In zones 4-8, it grows up to five feet tall, and has double flowers that resemble dahlias.

  • 07 of 11

    Compare and Contrast Mums and Asters

    Some Hardy Mums Require Staking to Support Their Copious Blooms. Photo © Armin Vogel

    Mums and asters continue to be fall favorites of gardeners everywhere. The plants are often sold side-by-side, and they look similar with their daisy-like flowers and compact bushy shapes, so what’s the difference? Mums come in a rainbow of colors, while asters are limited to purple, blue, pink and white. However, asters win over mums for hardiness: mums are only marginally hardy in zone 5, but asters come back reliably in zone 4 and sometimes in zone 3.

  • 08 of 11

    Dare to Tame this Flowering Giant

    Spotted Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium maculatum)
    Joshua Mayer/ Flickr/ CC BY-SA 2.0

    Beware of any plant that has the word “weed” in its name, but don’t discount the Joe Pye weed altogether. This plant will assert itself in moist areas, but if you have the space, its ornamental qualities are outstanding. The plant attracts butterflies in droves, the seven-foot flowers provide height at the back of the border, and the pink flower clusters emit a vanilla fragrance.

    Continue to 9 of 11 below.
  • 09 of 11

    Bog Plant Beauties for Fall

    Photo of Chelone glabra - Turtlehead
    Jessie Hirsch/ Flickr/ CC BY 2.0>

    Some say the flowers of turtlehead look like snapping turtles, but I say they resemble snapdragons or lupines. The turtlehead is a good choice for the bog garden, as it thrives in consistently wet soils. The fall flowers attract butterflies, and the flowers also look nice in the vase when other cutting garden specimens are fading.

  • 10 of 11

    Instant Ground Cover for Fall

    Amanda Slater/ Flickr/ CC BY-SA 2.0

    If your nasturtiums are on their last gasp by mid-August, don’t yank them just yet. When cool weather and fall rains arrive, these plants have an amazing ability to rebound in the garden, producing an abundance of spicy flowers for your salads until first frost. If you never got around to planting any nasturtiums, tuck some seeds in any bare garden spots in late summer for fall blooms.

  • 11 of 11

    The Joy of Easy Fall Perennials

    Sedum Plants Are Easy Perennials for New Gardeners. Photo © Brian Ballard

    ‘Autumn Joy’ is an apt name for this succulent-leafed perennial sedum. The flower heads look like clumps of broccoli until August, when the first blush of pink emerges. The flowers transition to deep red, and by first frost they take on a rusty hue. You can leave the flowers standing all winter for structural interest in the garden.