The Tall Grandeur Of The Late Season Garden: Favorite Plants For Fall Color
By David Salman, Chief Horticulturalist and Founder of High Country Gardens
Many folks think of spring as the peak color season in their gardens. It’s often easy to “front load” the garden with spring-flowering plants because that’s the time of the year when gardeners are visiting their local garden centers in search of plants.
However, as the growing season stretches into summer, many gardens become very green with few flowers in sight -- that does not have to be the case! Late summer and early fall gardens can have just as much color - if not more - as the spring garden, and even taller.
I always advise my fellow gardeners to get out into their gardens in late July and August to have a thoughtful look around. Take a notepad and write down your observations about where you could use more color, and decide what colors would look best. Consider our pollinators - the bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds that feast in spring also need to feed through the fall months in preparation for winter. Our gardens can make a huge difference.
Many spring flowering perennials and perennial bulbs tend to be short and medium sized plants, whereas summer and early fall blooming perennials have had many months of growth before their flowers appear. Hence the tall grandeur of late season blooming perennials. Many out-of-town visitors are stunned to see my New Mexico gardens in September. They had no idea that there are so many wonderful flowering perennials that wait until the end of the growing season to bloom. As an added bonus, most of these perennials are nectar sources for hummingbirds, so my gardens are full of these tiny sparkling birds.
Top 11 Favorite Plants For Late Season Color
- Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea) – favorite nectar source for bumblebees and butterflies. Native.
- Reblooming English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) – nectar for bees and fragrance for people. These include ‘Buena Vista’, ‘Sharon Roberts’ and ‘Pastor’s Pride’
- Goldenrod (Solidago) – fantastic for butterflies and bees. These include ‘Fireworks’, ‘Golden Fleece’ and ‘Peter Pan’. Native.
- Agastache (Hummingbird Mint, Hyssop) – showy, fragrant, long-blooming perennials that are essential for a pollinator-friendly garden. ‘Blue Fortune’ (best for Midwest and East Coast), ‘Ava’, ‘Rosita’, ‘Desert Solstice’ and Agastache rupestris. Both Native and Old World varieties available.
- Salvia (Sage) – there are some many and all of them feed the hummingbirds. My favorites include ‘Furmans Red’, Salvia reptans, ‘Ultra Violet,’ and 'Blue Flame' or 'Mulberry Flambe' (Salvia pachyphylla - for western gardens only). Both Native and Old World varieties available.
- Hummingbird Trumpet (Zauschneria) – spectacular orange flowers, rich with nectar that hummingbirds feast on. Native.
- Russian Sage (Perovskia) – gorgeous smoky blue flowers. A favorite of honeybees and bumblebees.
- Maximilian’s Sunflower (Helianthus) – Towers of flowers in late summer and early fall. Native.
- Hardy Plumbago (Ceratostigma) – gorgeous blue flowers and burgundy fall foliage and a long-time favorite of High Country Garden customers! Old World.
- Ornamental Grasses (Calamogrostis, Sporobolus, Muhlenbergia, Bouteloua) – all wonderful for fall and winter interest with their ornamental seed heads. ‘Blonde Ambition’ is one of the most unusual and spectacular.
- Asters (Symphyotrichum) – available in many heights and forms, Asters can be used in rock gardens, wildflower gardens, or perennial borders, easy to grow and some of the last flowers blooming in the fall.
Shop Our Favorite Plants For Late Season Color
Perovskia atriplicifolia ‚Blue Spires‚ (Russian Sage) is the best large growing Russian Sage selection blooming with dark blue flower spikes appearing in mid-summer. Thou...Learn MoreBlue Spires Russian Sage Blue Spires Russian Sage Perovskia atriplicifolia Blue Spires$12.99 Sale $11.69Sale Price I Save 10%Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
Exclusive. Helianthus maximiliana ‚Santa Fe‚ is a selected form of Maximilian‚s Sunflower chosen for its huge, bright yellow daisies that tightly pack the 6 foot ta...Learn MoreSanta Fe Maximilian's Sunflower (Helianthus) Santa Fe Maximilian's Sunflower Helianthus maximiliana Santa Fe$14.99Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
‚Magnus‚ is a distinctive, vigorous and large growing cone flower cultivar. The bright reddish-pink petals of its huge flowers are held flat as they radiate out from the ...Learn MoreMagnus Echinacea Magnus Purple Coneflower Echinacea purpurea Magnus$12.99 Sale $11.69Sale Price I Save 10%Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
Zauschneria garrettii ‚Orange Carpet®‚ (Fire Chalice) is a vigorous perennial groundcover that blooms in mid- to late summer with a profusion of bright orange trumpet...Learn More
Aster novae-angliae ‚Purple Dome‚ (New England Aster) blooms in early fall with hundreds of deep lavender-purple flowers. This dwarf plant has a neat mounding habit and i...Learn MorePurple Dome New England Aster Purple Dome New England Aster Aster novae-angliae Purple Dome$13.99 Sale $12.59Sale Price I Save 10%Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
Aster novi-belgii ‚Professor Kippenberg‚ (New York Aster) is a reliably blooming variety with late summer/early fall display of blue flowers on tall self-supporting stems...Learn MoreProfessor Kippenberg New York Aster Professor Kippenberg New York Aster Aster novi-belgii Professor Kippenberg$11.99 Sale $10.79Sale Price I Save 10%Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
Golden Fleece is a small growing goldenrod with sprays of arching golden-yellow flower spikes in late summer. A strong but compact plant, it is a great companion planted in front of ...Learn MoreGolden Fleece Goldenrod (Solidago) Golden Fleece Dwarf Goldenrod Solidago sphacelata Golden Fleece$12.99Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
Lavandula angustifolia ‚Sharon Roberts‚ is an outstanding twice blooming English Lavender with spikes of bicolored lavender-blue and gray-green foliage....Learn MoreSharon Roberts English Lavender Sharon Roberts English Lavender Lavandula angustifolia Sharon RobertsAs low as $11.89Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
Lavandula angustifolia ‚Pastor‚s Pride‚ (English Lavender) is a twice blooming variety that has thrived in the Mid-West with excellent cold hardiness and moisture t...Learn MorePastor's Pride English Lavender Pastor's Pride English Lavender Lavandula angustifolia Pastor's PrideAs low as $13.99 Sale $11.89Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
Agastache rupestris (Licorice Mint Hyssop) is one of the best, most durable species in the Agastache family. With smoky orange flowers held by lavender calyxes, the entire plant is s...Learn MoreAgastache rupestris Licorice Hummingbird Mint (Sunset Hyssop) Agastache rupestrisAs low as $13.99Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
Muhlenbergia ‚Pink Flamingo‚ is one of the most spectacular native grasses for its big size, thin evergreen leaves and bright pink flower plumes that cover the grass in ...Learn MorePink Flamingo Muhly Grass Pink Flamingo Muhly Grass Muhlenbergia Pink FlamingoAs low as $15.99Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
Ceratostigma plumbaginoides (Hardy Plumbago) a remarkable groundcover. It is an exceptional choice for shady areas, especially under trees and shrubs. It also grows in part and full ...Learn MoreHardy Plumbago (Ceratostigma) Hardy Plumbago, Leadwort Ceratostigma plumbaginoidesAs low as $8.99Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
Bouteloua gracilis ‚Blonde Ambition‚ PP#22,048 (Blue Grama Grass) is a native ornamental grass with a completely new look. The horizontal eyelash-like chartreuse flowers ...Learn MoreBlonde Ambition Blue Grama Grass Blonde Ambition Blue Grama Grass Bouteloua gracilis Blonde Ambition PP#22,048As low as $15.99 Sale $13.59Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
Text and photos by David Salman
© All articles are copyrighted by High Country Gardens. Republishing an entire High Country Gardens blog post or article is prohibited without written permission. Please feel free to share a short excerpt with a link back to the article on social media websites, such as Facebook and Pinterest.