Fall flower gardens can be spectacular, with bold combinations of the jewel-toned colors of purple, rust, scarlet, and gold. To have an abundance of flowers in the fall, you just need to do some planning early in the gardening season. For fall flowers to be hardy in your garden, plant them in the spring or summer so that they have time to become established. Fall flowers may bloom late, but they bloom best if they've been in the garden all season.
Considerations and Tips
01 of 15
Balloon flower (Platycodon grandiflorus) is in the campanula, or bellflower, family, but its flowers are a bit more dramatic. They start off as a puff or bubble and pop open when they are ready to bloom. Balloon flower is a profuse bloomer, in lavender-blue, pale pink, or white. The plants spread slowly, filling in without becoming a nuisance. Other than cutting the plants back in the spring or fall, virtually no other maintenance is required. Plant them throughout USDA Hardiness Zones 3–9.
02 of 15
Caryopteris, the blue mist shrub, is actually a subshrub that is often grown in the perennial garden. Blue mist shrub slowly opens its blossoms throughout August, with dazzling blue flower clusters. Just try and keep the butterflies and bumblebees away. Blue mist shrub should be cut back in early spring, like a butterfly bush (Buddleia), because it blooms on new wood. The gray-green foliage is attractive all season. Plant in zones 5–9.
03 of 15
Goldenrod (Solidago) has suffered from the mistaken notion that it exacerbates hay fever. Ragweed is the real culprit, not goldenrod. This is one of the last flowers to bloom in the fall. Most varieties are tall and stately; however, there are also several dwarf varieties available, for the front of the border. Newer goldenrod cultivars do not spread by rhizomes, the way the species does, so they do not take over the whole garden. Plant in zones 4–8.
04 of 15
Japanese anemones (Anemone x hybrida) are standards in most billowing perennial borders. They start blooming in late summer and go straight through until frost. Each plant is covered in elegant, paper-like blooms. Japanese anemones will take a few years to become established, but once they settle in, they require little maintenance. They will self-sow, but not aggressively, and gardeners often welcome the volunteers. Enjoy them in zones 4–8.Continue to 5 of 15 below.
05 of 15
Joe Pye is one of those native plants we take for granted because we see it by the side of the road. The species can get a bit out of hand and aggressive, but newer cultivars make a wonderful backdrop to a garden border. Many of the newer Eupatorium hybrids have been bred to grow shorter with less of a weedy nature, but the dense mop heads of mauve flowers still blend in beautifully in the fall garden. There are also white-flowered varieties. It thrives just about everywhere, from zones 2–9.
06 of 15
Mums (Chrysanthemum) and pumpkins are the flag bearers of fall. Many mum varieties are available, but not all are particularly hardy. The plants sold in the north in the fall as "hardy mums" should have been sold to folks in the spring to be reliably hardy there. However, if you buy yours in the fall, get them in the ground ASAP. Keep them well watered and mulch them when the ground freezes to stand your best chance of having truly hardy mums. They're viable in zones 3–9.
07 of 15
In shades of pink, purple, blue, and white, these delicate daisy-like blossoms start popping open in late August and continue until frost. Pinching the stems back in the early summer turns these asters into dense mounds with dozens of flower buds.
Many varieties of the New York daisy (Aster novi-belgii) will tend to creep throughout your garden, but their airiness allows them to blend particularly well with other flowers. They thrive in zones 4–9.
08 of 15
Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) flowers sneak up on you. They start off as a barely perceptible hint of blue and finally erupt into a hazy cloud of purple-blue that lasts for weeks.
Like the blue mist shrub, Russian sage is considered a subshrub. Although its stems do get woody and it might not die back to the ground, it will still need to be pruned in the spring because the flowers form on the new growth. Plant it in zones 4–9.Continue to 9 of 15 below.
09 of 15
Snakeroot (Actaea racemosa, formerly Cimicifuga) makes a wonderful focal point in the fall garden. If you shy away from the bold colors of fall, snakeroot may be just the ticket for you. This plant grows well in partial shade, where a little drama is always welcome. The plant itself grows only to about 3 to 4 feet tall, but the flower stakes will shoot up 6 or 7 feet in height. Snakeroot takes a while to become established, but be patient; it's worth it. Plant in zones 3–7.
10 of 15
Helenium is making a resurgence in gardens. These blooms look like small, russet-toned coneflowers, displaying rich reds, yellows, and oranges. Many can grow quite tall and will need to be staked or pinched. Like clematis, they like cool feet and hot heads, so plant them in full sun but use mulch or plant yours with shorter plants that will cover their roots and keep them cool. This is also a good choice for poorly drained areas. It does well throughout zones 3–9.
11 of 15
"Autumn Joy" comes as close to perfection as any plant can. It looks good all year, requires minimal attention, and attracts few problems. The only drawback of Stonecrop (Sedum sp.) is that it is not deer resistant. The "Autumn Joy" cultivar has been joined in the garden by a growing number of fall wonders, such as "Bertram Anderson," "Brilliant," and "Matrona." No fall garden is complete without sedum. Grow it in zones 3–9.
12 of 15
Many gardeners are more familiar with annual sunflowers (Helianthus annuus), which can grow 10 feet tall and show off plate-sized flowers. But Helianthus is a large genus of flowers, and are perennial, blooming toward the end of the season. You will still get yellow, daisy-like flowers with the perennials, but the blooms are more modestly sized. However, there will be plenty of them, and they won't topple over the way annual sunflowers do. Grow them throughout zones 3–9.Continue to 13 of 15 below.
13 of 15
You are probably familiar with the spring-blooming crocus, but this little beauty doesn't put on its show until fall. Autumn crocus (Colchicum speciosum) grows best in partial shade, and a little dampness is always welcome. They grow only a few inches tall, but they make a wonderful carpet, scattered under trees and along walkways. All parts of the plant are poisonous, which means deer, rabbits, and other four-footed pests steer clear of them. Plant them in zones 4–9.
14 of 15
The Coreopsis genus is home to many popular garden plants. Most bloom periodically throughout the summer season, but if you prune yours back after flowering, they will put on a glorious fall display. The cheery yellow flowers may be the most familiar, but tickseed now comes in other colors too, such as red and pink. Most diseases and pests avoid them. Enjoy them in zones 4–9.
15 of 15
Chelone lyonii got its nickname from the blossoms, which are shaped like turtles' heads. Chelone is a carefree, fall-blooming perennial whose only real dislike is excessive dry heat. It's perfect for a damp area in your garden.
Turtlehead behaves itself, growing in a dense clump with attractive foliage and red, pink, or white flowers that bloom for weeks. You can prune it lightly to shape it in late fall or spring. It's hardy throughout much of the country, growing in zones 2–9.