Say the words 'fall color’ and people automatically think of leaves and foliage. But when it comes to fall flowers, they are one of the best and easiest ways to add splashes of brilliant color to your plot that’ll last right through to winter.
Whether you were organized getting your yard ready for fall and want a few final additions to complement your floral display, or if you didn't do much to your outdoor space but have suddenly realized that it needs perking up with cooler weather setting in, there are both fall-flowering bulbs to plant in advance, and ready-grown specimens you can add into an existing scheme.
Fall flowers for color
Dot these fall flower varieties in borders alongside other autumn plants or plant them up in pots on the patio, they’re available in a rainbow of shades from hot pinks to sunny yellows, perfect for brightening up even the most overcast fall day.
For a pop of beautiful, exotic-looking autumn color, Nerines, also known as Guernsey Lilies, originally hail from South Africa, and do particularly well in pots. ‘Available in lots of lovely colors, including some spectacular pinks, their tall height and delicate frilly petals make them a great flower to grow in amongst other plants,’ explains Jo Connelly, garden designer with Decorbuddi.com (opens in new tab). ‘They like a sunny yet sheltered spot, and the less hardy varieties may need bringing indoors over winter.’ A job to add to your fall gardening list!
With small yet striking flowers and pretty heart-shaped deep green leaves, Cyclamens work just as well in the ground as they do in pots. ‘They’re a great way of adding instant color to the front of a border or next to a patio,’ suggests Emily Rae, Co-Founder and MD of Plants4Presents. ‘Available in elegant white, or bold pinks and reds, they can be planted under taller shrubs where they will thrive in dappled shade or part sun and are often available very cheaply in packs of plug plants from nurseries and garden centres.’
3. Fall-flowering Crocus
Grown from corms, crocuses provide an easy and beautiful bloom that can be dotted around your flower beds and even your lawn, says Sam Marlow, gardening expert at GardenBuildingsDirect.co.uk (opens in new tab). ‘These little purple and white flowers will rebloom every year to give a pretty addition to your fall garden. They need little care and don’t require any pruning, just watering during the autumn months.’
For something a little different, celosias, also known as woolflowers or cockscomb, sport fabulously bright flame-like edible flowers, and are annuals in cooler zones or a perennial in warmer hardiness zones 10-12. ‘Celosias are the perfect flower for those starting out in their love for gardening, as they are easy plants to care for and last all throughout autumn,’ explains Sam. ‘They provide a wonderful color show adding warm oranges, reds, yellows and purples to beds and borders, providing interesting and unusual texture to gardens amongst the other more usual flowers that thrive this time of year.’
A proud, bushy annual with pom-pom like flowers, not only do Gomphrena blooms look great in your backyard, but they work well as long-lasting cut flowers indoors too. ‘Gomphrena is the ideal autumnal flower for those with dry and clay soil in their gardens as it provides a drought-resistant bloom in purples, pinks and whites,’ says Sam. ‘Gomphrena will usually last until the first frost comes in, so is a great addition to autumnal outdoor spaces.’
A type of daisy, Asters bloom from late summer well into fall, bridging the seasons. ‘They’re great for a hit of color as they produce dozens of flowers, come in a myriad of colors and are both tough and weatherproof,’ says Jo. Plant them in dappled or partial shade, or in a sunny border with grasses and other prairie-style perennials.
7. Pansies & Violas
Traditional bedding flowers such as pansies and violas are a great plant for colder months, as they can be planted early, ready for a full bloom right until the hard frosts come, says Sam. ‘Pansies are found in lots of different colors. They can be used to create spectacular displays in gardens and should grow back up again next spring. Pansies are also edible flowers and can be used to decorate cakes and drinks or as a garnish with salads or warming autumn soups.’
An old favorite, Marigolds will add a touch of sunshine to your backyard. ‘Marigolds are hardy plants which will survive a light frost and flower beautifully throughout autumn adding gold, yellow, and orange shades into your scheme,’ says Sam. ‘These flowers come in a range of heights depending on the variety, and best of all, grow well in various soil types and weather conditions.’
Adding a splash of fabulous color in autumn when many other blooms have faded, Chrysanthemums or ‘mums’ are easy to grow and come in a huge variety of hues, shapes and sizes. ‘Mums are often considered the autumn flower in the US and are now back in fashion for gardeners, thanks to their beautiful display of oranges, reds and yellows,’ says Sam. ‘To keep these long-lasting flowers looking perfect throughout autumn and well into winter, cut off the buds as soon as they wilt, water regularly and keep them in a patch of indirect sunlight.’ There are lots of lovely ways to decorate with mums for fall also.
Also known as Stonecrop plants, these hardy evergreens are popular in xeriscaping as they have an almost succulent feel to the leaves, and will last right through fall until spring, says Jo. ‘Leave the flowerheads on all through winter, only cutting them off in spring. Autumn Joy is a particularly lovely variety.’ Sam agrees, adding that Stonecrops also do their bit for wildlife. ‘As well as producing a purple-pink display, they will help bees and butterflies with necessary late-season nectar in the colder months,’ he says. ‘Plant them in a border in a sunny area for an easy-to-care-for bloom. Younger plants will need protection from slugs and snails so, if you can, buy a slightly older Stonecrop plant.’
Some of the easiest and most rewarding flowers to grow, Hydrangeas produce long-lasting, blowsy blooms that look stunning even when the petals have dried out. ‘Hydrangea Paniculata in particular can flower late into the season and the faded flower heads will provide interest even after the first frosts,’ says Emily. Fairly pest and disease-resistant, they like a good soil and dappled shade, and do just as well in pots as a border. Learn how to prune hydrangeas to keep them healthy throughout their growing season.
12. Camelia Sasanqua
For a beautiful statement plant, Camelia Sasanqua is a great choice, says Jo. ‘In its natural habitat, it’s an understory plant, growing under trees, so it loves dappled shade, and the fabulous flowers are long-lasting,’ she reveals. Sam is also a fan: ‘In cooler areas of the US and in the UK, Camellia sasanqua is a lovely choice for late autumn flowers,’ he says. ‘Available in pink, white or red varieties, the glossy evergreen leaves look good all year round even when it’s not in bloom.’
13. California poppies
The state flower of California, these flame-tinted flowers love sunshine but can still grow happily in US hardiness zones 6 to 10. ‘They bloom into vibrant reds, yellows and oranges, so buy and sow them before the season, ready for a pop of color in Autumn,’ suggests Sam. ‘California Poppies can be planted in dry and poor soils, so are ideal for those gardeners struggling to create a beautiful bloom in their gardens due to less-than-ideal soil conditions.’
14. Japanese Anemones
Easy to grow, these saucer-shaped pink or white flowers have tall, slim stems and are perfect for adding height to fall borders. ‘Available in white or pink, with double or single flowers, they’ll cope in partial shade and come up in spring as crop of leaves, before bursting into tons of pretty flowers in late summer and well into autumn,’ says Jo.
These dainty sprays of perennial flowers will bloom into late autumn, cheering up your yard even when other plants fade. ‘Salvias come in many different sizes and a variety of colors, such as whites, pinks, reds and purple,’ says Jo. ‘They need free-draining soil, so if yours is clay, plant them in pots with compost rather than in the ground.’
Should I plant fall flowers in pots or borders?
Fall is a good time of year to plant things in the ground thanks to the cooler weather, explains Jo. ‘A lot of the summer heat and dry conditions which can cause stress to plants have passed, yet the soil is still reasonably warm, so it’s a great time of year to get planting, before the cold, wet, frosty winter sets in.’ However, she explains pots are more versatile. ‘Pots are very useful for autumn flowers, particularly those that don’t like to get too wet and soggy round the roots, as they keep your plants drier than in borders. You can also move them around into a better spot when needed, or into the greenhouse if and when the weather turns.’
Sam agrees, adding, ‘Containers are a great option for those with smaller gardens, and autumn flowers will do better in clay or wooden pots rather than plastic ones, as these thicker materials keep out the chilly weather. If you live in an area susceptible to heavy rain, stand the pot on feet to help drainage.’
Sam suggests planting your pots with a variety of different flowering plants will add interest to your back yard or out front as part of a fall decorated porch. ‘Lots of autumn flowers can do well in containers rather than in the ground, such as pansies along with marigolds and chrysanthemums. You can also try winter-flowering Heather - this white and pink flower grows upright so is ideal to grow in containers, and will add a brighter look to gardens.’
If you’re stuck for inspiration or want a quick and easy burst of color, ‘You can’t go wrong with a mass of violas or cyclamen planted together in a pretty pot on the patio,’ adds Emily. And when autumn draws to an end, you can swap out your fall flowers for winter plant varieties.