Garden & Landscape Tips

Asters in fall
In fall, daisy-like aster flowers come in sophisticated shades of lavender-blue, purple and orchid-pink.

The landscape can be just as colorful in fall as it is in summer… if you pick the right plants.

Some species wait until late in the season to show off their flowers, and others produce colorful fruits or/or fall foliage that add another dimension to the garden, that is not available in spring or summer. Those options set the stage for a broad selection of so-called “fall peakers” to beef up your season-ending displays.

Here are 10 of the best, that can be planted in fall:

Viburnum ‘Winterthur’
Viburnum ‘Winterthur’ ripens its fruits blue at the same time its leaves turn blood red in fall.
© George Weigel

Mums. These showy, 12- to 18-inch pincushion or daisy-like perennial flowers are by far the most popular fall plants for good reason. They come in a wide range of colors (white,  pinks, reds, mauve, maroon, bronze, yellow, and even glowing gold). They’re readily available in supermarkets, box stores, and garden centers. Drop them, pots and all, into fall containers orremove them from their pots and plant in the ground. (Best in full sun, USDA Zones 4-9.)

Asters. Pollinators including butterflies and bumble bees love this family of mostly native perennials with small, daisy-like flowers of purple, lavender, or pink. The plants range in size from 18” to 3’ and reliably return year after year. (Full sun,  USDA Zone 4, to Zone 10. A few tolerate Zone 3 winters)

Oakleaf hydrangea ‘Snow Queen’
Oakleaf hydrangea ‘Snow Queen’ has large leaves that turn burgundy in fall.
© George Weigel

Shrub roses. Many roses put on an encore bloom performance in September.  However, shrub types including the top-selling Knock Out® varieties, David Austin roses, and the Oso Easy® series often continue to bloom beyond the season’s first killing frost. Pruning off (or deadheading) the spent blooms in summer keeps the bushes neat and encourages late bloom in fall. (Full sun to light shade, USDA Zones 5-11.)

Witch alder (Fothergilla gardenii). This tough deciduous, U.S. native flowering shrub produces some of the most brilliantly colored fall foliage, that ranges from neon-gold to a blend of red, orange, and gold. Plants grow to about 5’ tall and wide, and produce licorice-scented, white bottlebrush flowers in early spring. (Best in part shade, USDA Zones 5-8.)

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Spirea Mellow Yellow® foliage changes from golden to a copper-russet shade in late fall.
© George Weigel

Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica).Another deciduous U.S. native shrub, Virginia sweetspire also offers double rewards. In late summer, they display white, bottlebrush flowers on arching stems followed by glossy, scarlet foliage as temperatures drop. Plants grow 3’- 4’ tall. They  colonize to form a mass, or excel as an informal hedge. Dig out shoots if you don’t want a colony. (Best in part shade, USDA Zones 5-9.)

Winterberry
Winterberry hollies produce bright red berries in fall that usually stick around through much of winter.
© George Weigel

Smooth withered, Possum-haw (Viburnum nudum). Also deciduous, another under-used native shrub, this viburnum is especially showy in fall. Its pea-sized, dark blue fruits mature at the same time as its glossy leaves turn blood red. In spring, multi-stemmed smooth witherod produces flattish clusters of small white flowers. It grows about 6’ tall and wide. Brandywine™ and ‘Winterthur’ are two readily available varieties. (Sun to part shade, USDA Zones 5-9.)

Beautyberry (Callicarpa)
Beautyberry (Callicarpa) is a five-foot shrub that is best known for BB-sized fruits that mature to a metallic lavender color in fall.

Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia).This U.S. native hydrangea is a triple treat, producing large, cone-shaped trusses of white flowers in early summer, hand-sized burgundy, oak-like leaves in fall, and peeling, cinnamon-colored bark, that’s most showy in winter after leaf drop. Grows 5’ - 8’ tall and wide, depending on variety. (Sun or part shade, USDA Zones 5-9.)

Spirea Mellow Yellow®. (Spiraea thunbergii ‘Ogon’). This showy Asian flowering shrub has slender, willow-like leaves of gold all season. In late fall, it goes out with a bang as the foliage turns russetty-copper color. Mellow Yellow® produces clusters of snow-white, flowers before the foliage leafs out in early Spring. Loose 3’-5’ mounds. (Sun to part shade, USDA Zones 4-9.)

Winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata).Familiar hollies are evergreens with spiny leaves, but winterberry hollies have smooth-edged leaves, that turn gold before dropping in fall. Then the showy bright red (sometimes yellow), pea-sized berries are visible on female plants. A suitable male plant nearby is necessary to pollinate the tiny white female flowers that produce the berries. Plants grow 6’-10’ tall x 6’-8’ wide. (Sun or part shade, USDA Zones 3-9.)

Beautyberry (Callicarpa spp.).Most fall fruits are red, but this arching, 5-foot shrub produces BB-sized fruits that mature to a metallic lavender in fall. They are spectacular contrasted with the bright yellow fall foliage. Some species are native, but others are from Asia. Varieties with white fruits and white-edged leaves are also available. (Sun or part shade, USDA Zones 5-8.)

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