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Fall Planting with Native Plants

Bouteloua 'Blonde Ambition' with Cotoneaster, Agave and Oputia.

Bouteloua 'Blonde Ambition' Ornamental Grass contrasts firey fall foliage.

By establishing your native plants in the fall, they will be larger and bloom more robustly during next year’s growing season than the same plant planted next spring.

By David Salman, Chief Horticulturalist and Founder of High Country Gardens

For gardeners in USDA zones 7 through 11 where the summers are hot and the winters mild, fall planting is the best time to plant.  In these areas, the number of days between spring and the searing heat of summer is far too short for plants to establish deep roots before the heat settles in.

Before we discuss native plants, I think it is important that we understand the term. I define a native plant as:

  1. A species native to North America (from Panama north to Alaska and Canada)
  2. A native plant hybrid (when pollen travels from one native species to another and seed is set, the seedlings are hybrids between two different species. This is a native hybrid.)
Helianthus maximiliana 'Santa Fe'
Helianthus maximilian'Santa Fe'

There are some pretty passionate native plant purists that will say that North America is too large a region to define a “native plant” for their garden. However, many native plants are widely distributed and don’t consider political boundaries when establishing themselves in habitat. While some don’t consider hybrids to be native, we feel confident idenifying native hybrids as "native," since many native plants will hybridize with each other in nature when their ranges overlap (This happens often and with no input from a human. It’s part of the evolutionary process, after all!) 

Many gardens don’t have enough fall flowers, and that’s a big shame. There are many perennials that color the late season garden beyond the boring Big Box standards such as flowering cabbage and garden mums. Must we Americans be so homogenous such that gardens across our huge, diverse geography all look the same?

Make your fall garden different with favorite late summer and fall blooming native perennials!

Featuring bright colors, beautiful flowers, and plenty of nectar for pollinators.


  1. Santa Fe Maximilian’s Sunflower (Helianthus maximiliana ‘Santa Fe’)
  2. ‘Perfect Pink’ Phlox  (Phlox nana ‘Perfect Pink’)
  3. ‘Shimmer’ Evening Primrose  (Oenothera fremontii ‘Shimmer’)
  4. Maraschino Bush Sage (Salvia hybrid)- best for fall planting in zones 6 and warmer
  5. Furman’s Red’ Texas Bush Sage (Salvia greggii)- best to plant  in zones 6 and warmer
  6. Prairie Sage  (Salvia azurea)
  7. Beebalm  (Monarda species and cultivars)
  8. ‘Dark Violet’ hybrid Skullcap  (Scutellaria ‘Dark Violet’)
  9. ‘First Snow’ Aster  (Aster ericoides ‘First Snow’)
  10. ‘Golden Torch’ Goldenrod (Solidago sp. Wichita Mountains)
  11. Orange Carpet® Hummingbird Trumpet (Zauschneria garrettii Orange Carpet)
  12. ‘Ava’ Hummingbird Mint (Agastache hybrid)

     Shrubs and Vines

  1. Honeysuckle Vine  (Lonicera sempervirens  cultivars)
  2. Silver Leaf Rabbit Brush (Chrysothamnus nauseosus)
  3. New Mexico Privet (Forestiera neomexicana)

     Ornamental Grasses

  1. ‘Blonde Ambition’ Blue Grama Grass  (Bouteloua gracillis ‘Blonde Ambition’)

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