Planting for Fall Interest

Posted by Megan Nichols on Jul 13th 2018

Summer is by far the easiest season to plan and plant color. Spring and fall can be slightly more challenging. Now is the time to plan (and plant) for fall color in the garden, and here are a few of the best options.


Hydrangeas They’re beginning to bloom now, and they’ll be spectacular for the rest of the season, including fall. Panicle varieties (think Lime Light, Quickfire, Baby Lace) begin blooming white, green, or cream, but come fall they will turn shades of pink and red. The blue and pink types (Bloomstruck, Original Endless Summer, Twist and Shout) will turn deeper shades, as well, maroon and purple. Hydrangeas require careful watering their first season. Check them every day and just don’t let them dry out.


Echinacea (coneflower) These pollinator friendly plants thrive in the heat of summer, and they put on a show to prove it. Many will carry on through early fall and keep the garden looking great.

Black Eyed Susan’s

Rudbeckia (Black-eyed susan) flowers Plant in full sun and enjoy the show! Little Goldstar stays small at about 14-24 inches tall, Goldsturm (the standard) grows to about 26 inches, and Herbstonne is a stunner at 5 feet.


Perennial mums They’ll be here soon! Whether annual or perennial, mums are the quintessential fall flower. There is no shortage of color varieties and, as temps cool, they’ll hold their blooms longer. Place next to pumpkins and corn stalks and you’re all set! Too soon?


Panicum virgatum (Switch grass) By SEWilco [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.5 ], from Wikimedia CommonsGrasses thrive in the heat and are in their absolute prime in fall. They’ll be in full bloom and can be mass planted or paired with any perennial for a beautiful fall-like look. There is a place in every part to full sun garden for Karl Forester Feather Reed Grass, with it’s upright, clump-forming habit, it’s a perfect companion for many perennials.


Aster flower with bumble bee They’re not much to look at through summer, but come fall they are spectacular. They’re also great late-season pollinator plants.


Sedum flowers with honey bees Fall is the prime time for upright sedum. Try it in groups or as part of foundation plating for spectacular fall color. Bonus, this water-wise plant can withstand hot, dry condition once established, so no need to fuss with hose too often. Other water-wise plants include Hens and Chicks, Yucca, Nepeta, Russian Sage, and (of course) Karl Forester grass.

Joe Pye Weed

Butterfly on Joe Pye Weed flower Great for garden height and late-season pollinator food, this stunner is a perfect addition for the back of the garden.


Chelone with bumble bee Bright pink blooms and a bush-like habit make this stunning plant a must-have for the part sun to shade garden, and bumble bees love it, too!

Gardening in the Heat

It’s hot out there! Just like humans, plants can suffer heat stress. Here are a few self-care reminders, and some tips to help new and established plantings make it through the heat of summer.

For you

Sunscreen! There are many reasons to avoid a sunburn, one of which is that it increases the temperature of your skin, making it harder for your body to cool down. Keep yourself cool and hydrated, too. Take breaks, drink water, and stay in the shade as much as possible.

For your garden

If you’re gardening in a hot, dry area, consider xeriscape plants (such as those listed above with sedum). They can take the heat and don’t require much water. Newly planted plants, trees, and shrubs will require more frequent watering than those that are established. When watering perennials, trees, and shrubs be sure to water deeply. This encourages deep root growth, which in the future will give plants a better chance of taking up water. If your plants are “flagging” (they have drooping leaves and soft stems), they may need a drink. But if the soil is damp and they’ve had time to take up water, then try sprinkling them briefly with cool water just to cool the foliage and flowers. Plants show the same flagging symptoms when they are over-watered, so take care when watering and test the soil with your finger first. Given proper care in the morning and evening, plants can make it through the mid-day heat, even if they act grumpy about it, so don’t worry and keep enjoying your garden!