While summer doesn’t technically come to its end until September 22, there are some phenological signs indicating that we’re moving in that direction. Yellow poplars are already starting to show some dappled yellow in their canopies and are starting to shed some leaves, and before we know it we will start seeing sulphur butterflies.
As the summer wanes, so do most of the plants in the garden. Whether you’re looking at a foot-wide container or 100 square feet of landscape bed, your thoughts turn to the yellows, oranges and reds of a typical autumn garden. Once the seasons begin to change mums will be plentiful at the garden center at this time. Mums are terrific old standbys, and they have certainly brightened many a fall garden, including mine each year, but mums certainly aren’t the only options for fall gardens and landscapes.
Here are some other wonderful plants that can add splashes of color to your fall:
Asters (Aster spp.) are autumn-flowering, old-time favorites with blooms ranging from pale pink to deep purple. They’re in the same family as garden mums, so the blooms are similar; however, asters are dependable and easy-to-care-for perennials. Their fall flowers attract butterflies, as well as other pollinators and birds, and makes an ideal cut flower for fall arraignments.
Beebalm (Monarda spp.) Three of the most common, garden-worthy species include Monarda didyma, Monarda fistulosa, and Monarda punctata. This herb is frequently used in perennial borders, butterfly and hummingbird gardens, and fragrance and culinary gardens. Improved cultivars have expanded the variety and intensity of flower colors available, as well as the plant’s tolerance of drought and powdery mildew.
Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) are reliable and often quite spectacular perennials. They start flowering in midsummer and keep going well into fall. These hardy natives made a fetching addition to any garden.
Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is native to Georgia and the host plant for the larval stage of the monarch butterfly. Once established this plant is easy to grow but established plants do not tend to transplant well. Plant in clumps, rather than scattered across the garden. This species prefers full
sun and is tolerant of poor soils and drought once established. The familiar orange flowers are produced on plants 1 to 2 feet tall.
Echinacea (Echinacea spp.) are another tried and true native with so many different cultivars and colors from which you may choose. Aside from the sheer beauty of coneflowers, they also happen to pollinator magnets and the birds enjoy them too. You certainly can’t go wrong with these native beauties.
Goldenrod (Solidago) is a reliable, drought-tolerant perennial flower, and many species are native to the Southeast. Lemon-yellow to butter-yellow, nectar-bearing blooms appear in summer to fall on plants 2 to 5 feet tall (depending on the species and cultivar).
Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha) flowers in late summer and can keep blooming until frost. With silver-gray foliage, the plants can easily reach 3 feet or more in height. They’re topped by spectacular spikes of violet-purple and white. Pollinators love them!
Southern mountain mint (Pycnanthemum pycnanthemoides) is a hugely attractive to butterflies and other pollinators and birds enjoy eating the seeds. This plant can be somewhat aggressive in the garden, so it may need to be planted in a confined space or used as a background plant in perennial boarders and open woodlands.
Sedum (Sedum spp.) species are drought-tolerant, fleshy plants with a wide range of habits, leaf shapes and colors. Many varieties bloom from late summer through fall in rich, deep pinks and magentas.