Pumpkins and squash may set the scene for fall, but there are many vivid and curiously textured flowers that help build the stage. In the absence of color following the torrid heat of summer, these vivacious blooms will add a splash of seasonal color to any garden.
Many of those hardy elegant blooms are designed to withstand harsh temperatures and do not require a lot of maintenance; some even thrive during the cooler temperatures of fall and can handle neglect. For connoisseurs of container gardening, fall is the ideal time to cultivate blooms to adorn your front porch or yard. The careful gardener will know to keep in mind frost dates and growing zones, so make sure to select accordingly for continuous bloom up until frost.
1. Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
A striking flower that derives its common name from the priestly vestments worn by cardinals, the cardinal flower is found in riparian areas throughout the United States, including swamps, marshy areas, and streambanks. Prized for its ability to attract hummingbirds, it relies solely on these rainbow-hued critters to pollinate its tubular shaped flowers. Its propensity for moist soils makes it ideal in shade gardens or to be grown along ponds.
2. Flossflower (Ageratum houstonianum)
Despite its whimsical, tassel-like appearance and pale blue petals, which contrasts with the crimson blaze of autumn, flossflower is a cool-season plant that extends from midsummer until autumn frost. Forming mounding clumps that bloom profusely, plants will “bury their dead.” Because of its tendency to develop quickly and cover old flowers, no deadheading is necessary. Often used as a filler in container plantings, flossflower acts as a calming backdrop, providing a dreamy feel much like the vague shorelines of Impressionist paintings.
Although dahlias reach their height by midsummer, some varieties will keep on trucking into fall. Available in a dazzling array of shades, from the macabre to the majestic, dahlias are best planted in lush rows, where they can serenade onlookers on the garden path. For an autumnal bouquet, choose red-tinged varieties or flowers with sunset hues. Dahlias will need regular deadheading, so make sure to plant them in a location where you can easily reach them. For ease of maneuvering, check out these extra tall garden beds, which allow gardeners to easily reach all areas of the plant without toilsome exertion.
The petchoa is a relatively new cultivar available on the market. While its name – a cross between a petunia and the calibrachoa (million bells) – is a mouthful, the petchoa is far from being a handful. Cultivated to be heat tolerant and low-maintenance, the petchoa sports bold flowers that inject new vitality into an old-fashioned staple. Unlike petunias, which contain hairy hairs that trap old blooms and debris, petchoas are self-cleaning, allowing gardeners to avoid the scraggly look of tired petunias. For a lovely combination, style regal dahlias as a centerpiece, then add mounds of petchoas at the ends of L-shaped garden beds in the special shapes collection. These uniquely shaped garden beds are perfect for defining corners and can make a grand entryway to your garden.
Globemallow is a distinctive plant that has adapted to survive the infernal heat of the Sonoran Desert and other harsh, western climates. Featuring bright apricot to orange flowers, it provides a refuge for the tiny globe mallow bee, whose petals it frequently sleeps inside. Due to its ability to tolerate drought and dry, rocky soil, it is ideal for native wildflower gardens.
6. Ornamental Peppers
While they are considered edible, ornamentals are incredibly spicy and should not be eaten. Rather, their value lies in the showy fruits these plants bear, from multicolored to a nacreous black. For gardeners seeking to add intrigue to their garden, they can consider the black pearl variety, characterized by its globular, dark fruit and foliage. Ornamental peppers require full sun and well-drained soil to thrive; otherwise, they will become leggy.
Helen’s flower, or sneezeweed, alludes to Helen of Troy, as it is said to have sprung from her tears. Its more unsavory moniker is somewhat misleading because it doesn’t refer to allergies, but rather the historic use of the plant to cause sneezing in order to drive away evil spirits. Resembling coneflowers, it does not share their drought tolerant characteristics. However, it does attract butterflies and is deer resistant. It prefers well-draining soil, but will also tolerate clay soils.
8. Oakleaf Hydrangea
Seldom mentioned, the oakleaf hydrangea is shuttled aside in favor of traditional hydrangeas, which has become synonymous with opulence. Yet, when fall comes, it will burst forth in splendid bronze-colored foliage rivaling those of maple trees. Unlike regular hydrangeas, they prefer partial shade and are able to withstand a wider variety of conditions. Considered an indicator plant, oakleaf hydrangeas will wilt under drought stress.
If you’re not fond of children, cultivate a dangerously standoff atmosphere with the alluring monkshood. Alternate names, including wolf’s bane and the queen of poisons, all allude to its poisonous nature. With its spires tipped with ultraviolent blue flowers, monkshood has cemented itself as a deadly poison in folklore. However, as long as caution is exercised, the lethal effects can be circumvented. When dealing with monkshood, always wear garden gloves, which can be easily stored in a versatile garden bag.
10. Confederate Rose
Not a true rose, the Confederate Rose, a species of hibiscus, nevertheless remains a staple in the Southern landscape. As known as the cotton rose, the ruffled petals of the Confederate Rose are more akin to roses than other hibiscus. Steeped in lore, Confederate roses were used in lieu of real roses by cash-strapped Southerners following the Civil War. It performs best in full sun in loamy soils high in organic matter.
The very name chrysanthemum represents the fall range of textures and colors of these ubiquitous flowers – from simple potted mums to stately heirlooms. Heirloom Chrysanthemum ‘Moira’ features unique mauve petals in prolific clusters; ‘River City’ is a poetically named variety in a shade of dusky orange.