by High Country Gardens

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

Fall is upon us with the Autumn Solstice less than two weeks away.

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. 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 so you and I are in sync with what we are talking about. 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 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 argue that North America is too large a region to define a “native plant” for their garden. They insist that we only use plants with a local proximity.  But many native plants are widely distributed and don’t consider political boundaries when establishing themselves in habitat. And these same folks don’t consider hybrids to be native either. But this exposes a shallow understanding of what a species is and ignorance of the fact that many native plants will hybridize with each other when their ranges overlap.  And 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 kale, garden mums and pansies. Must we Americans be so homogenous such that gardens across our huge, diverse geography all look the same?


Make your fall garden different with some of my favorite late summer/fall blooming native perennials.


  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 Santa Fe Co., NM collection)
  7. Beebalm  (Monarda species and cultivars)
  8. ‘Dark Violet’ hybrid Skullcap  (Scutellaria ‘Dark Violet’)
  9. ‘Snow Flurry’ Aster  (Aster ericoides ‘Snow Flurry’)
  10. ‘Dream of Beauty’ Aster  (Aster oblongifolius ‘Dream of Beauty’)
  11. ‘Wichita Mountains’ Goldenrod  (Solidago sp.)
  12. Orange Carpet® Hummingbird Trumpet (Zauschneria garrettii Orange Carpet)
  13. ‘Ava’ Hummingbird Mint (Agastache hybrid)

     Shrubs and Vines

  1. Honeysuckle Vine  (Lonicera sempervirens  cultivars)
  2. Yellow Twig Rabbit Brush (Chrysothamnus nauseosus ‘Yellow Twig”)
  3. New Mexico Privet (Forestiera neomexicana)

     Ornamental Grasses

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

Native Plants