If you’re dreading the end of summer because it spells doom for all your beautiful flowers, dread no more. Here are five plants you can put in the ground now that will provide beauty throughout the fall, and some into winter.
1) Mums – Mums have got to be everyone’s “go-to” for keeping the garden alive and vibrant in the fall. What I like about them is their variety. They come in dozens of shapes, sizes and colors, so you can put them pretty much anywhere without worrying about how they’ll impact the rest of your visual landscape. I usually get some for the pots on my porch, and others to plant where I need to distract the eye from flowers that have finished their summer blooming and are just waiting to be cut back. One thing I love about mums is how hardy they are. I live in the mid-Atlantic region, and they’ll probably keep flowering until mid-November or so. Buy plants that are full of tightly-clustered flower heads that haven’t started to open yet. Put them in a sunny spot and keep them moist as they flower.
2) Ornamental cabbage and kale – Though people think of these plants as flowering, it’s actually their leaves that provide the color and beauty. Some species sport big leafy green crescents that cup a bright pink or purple interior. Others show leaves that are lacy or fringed and a beautiful creamy color. Group them together in large plantings to show off their color, which develops best after frost or prolonged cold weather. Buy plants that have short stems to prolong their growing season. Let them dry out a bit between watering, but don’t skip the H2O for too long or they’ll get stressed.
3) Asters - This perennial is native in many parts of the U.S. I have it in my own garden and love how easy it has been to care for. I almost never water it, and still it grows abundantly, even in the open shade (not sun) where I have it planted. If you can’t find a native variety at the garden store, try starting it from seed. It takes root pretty easily and will reward you with reliable fall foliage year after year.
4) Pansies – Who doesn’t loves these cheerful ornamentals? While they don’t offer the variety in terms of size or shape that mums do, they’re equally colorful and last much longer. Plant them now and enjoy them until the heat hits next summer. They’ll get a little peaked when temperatures drop below freezing, but will perk right back up as soon as the sun works its magic. Put them in pots or place them in groups of 5 or more in your yard or garden.
5) Toad lillies – You might not like the name, but you’ll love the abundant blooms on the long fronds of this native plant. Look for it at your garden center or online. Keep in mind that this plant prefers moist ground and open shade rather than direct sun.