What to Plant Now for Fall Color

Can it really be summer already? It seems just yesterday I was gazing out of the window at my ice-encrusted garden, wondering if I would ever see my plants stand tall and wear green again.

During those dimly lit winter days it felt as though time was moving as slow as cold molasses. With the arrival of spring the clock seemed to speed up, and now, on the summer solstice, time is racing by like a runaway horse with me in hot pursuit yelling, “Wait! Not so fast!”

The summer solstice is my cue to make sure my garden is ready for the next season with plants that are autumn showstoppers. Here are 10 of my favorites.

Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans)

Zones 8-11; 36-48 inches tall, 24-36 inches wide; flowers late summer into fall; pineapple-scented leaves are edible.

‘Prince’ Fountain Grass (Pennisetum)

Zones 8-11; 60-72 inches tall, 24-36 inches wide; excellent for fall arrangements.

Luscious® Citrus Blend™ Lantana

Annual except in zones 9-11; 24-36 inches tall, 20-30 inches wide; blooms spring through fall; attracts butterflies, bees and hummingbirds.

The Knock Out® Family of Roses

Zones 5-11; 3-4 feet tall, 3-4 feet wide; blooms spring through fall; Sunny Knock Out® produces hips too.

Blueberries (Vaccinium sp.)

Zone hardiness and size depend on type and variety; blooms in spring with berries following; outstanding fall color on a low-maintenance shrub.

Japanese Anemone (Anemone x hybrida)

Zones 4-8; 24-36 inches tall; 18-24 inches wide; blooms late summer into fall; will grow in partial shade.

ColorBlaze® Dipt in Wine Coleus

Annual except in zones 10-11; 20-36 inches tall; 12-14 inches wide; great color combination for autumn.

Autumn Crocus (Colchicum autumnale)

Zones 4-9; 4-12 inches tall, 4 inches wide; blooms in fall; leaves appear after flowers fade.

American Beautyberry (Callicarpa Americana)

Zones 6-10; 4-6 feet tall, 4-6 feet wide; blooms in summer; yellow fall foliage paired with bright purple berries.

19 Responses to What to Plant Now for Fall Color

  1. D. says:

    It would be very helpful if you sometimes included a few more ideas for the hinterlands of zone 4 planting. Sun lovers, shade lovers, cold-tolerant, perennials, plume grasses, etc. I also like to plant things native to my area (southwestern SD).

    Some of these things also need to come with instructions about when to plant. If we want them to bloom and look their best in the autumn, what’s the best time to be planting them?

    This year has been very rainy and not much sun, so my clay soil is now gumbo in some areas of my yard. What kind of plants would do well in areas like this? Would I be better off with container gardens? I really would rather plant in-ground perennials so I don’t have to worry about it year after year because I’m a busy day care provider and also I’m not getting any younger, so I’d like to plant things now which I can enjoy throughout the coming years when I may not be as able to get out there and dig in the dirt, get dirty and plant things!

    Thanks for all you do. Keep up the good work and keep those ideas and recipes coming. I usually have to revamp the recipes but that’s ok. I eat differently than most people, but I like herbs so those recipes always go over very well. Meat rubs, salad dressing with wholesome ingredients (no fake veg oils), and easy summer ideas are always good.

    • Betty Nelson says:

      I also live in SW South Dakota. I have alot of columbines for late spring and they require very little care, do well in clay soil, can be grown in sun or shade. For fall I have Autumn Joy Sedum which is a succulent that is beautiful and does well in this climate. I also have a Sweet Autumn Clematis that grows on my yard fence and blooms in fall. It is easy, no care required. Just cut back to the ground in the fall. Looks and smells wonderful!

    • Carole T. says:

      I live in central IL and I have loads of clay soil. I started a flower garden (70 X 25) in an old foundation and didn’t amend the soil teribbly much this is it’s 3rd season and every thing is doing very well–Russian Sage thrives in the clay as well as the 350 daylilliys I also managed to have some Lavender survive –I took a chance on that Virbena does well and also the Sedum. Sambucus Black Lace does really well and what beautiful color it will survive in your zone 4 I have a plant called Chocolat but can’t remember the rest of it —loves the clay. as well as my grasses and daffodils–good luck.
      Carole T.

  2. Lisa L. says:

    I just planted a new climbing rose for my mom, the ‘Lunar Mist’, which is a sport of the popular ‘Colette’ rose. It’s everything a gardener could want, with disease resistance, repeat old fashion blooms and a spicy fragrance. We look foward to enjoying it well into fall.

  3. Patsy Knodel says:

    Where can I buy the above American Beautyberry Callicarpa? As
    shown. I have 2 varieties, but need the above. — Cantrell
    Gardens just didn’t order any in, and I can’t find one. Probably
    Internet, but if you know where i could buy a healthy one I will
    go get it NOW.

    Patsy K.

    • stel says:

      bluestone has them – just picked one up and it looks very good. am anxious to see how it does, but i have never had a problem with their products. bluestone.com

  4. Shannon H. says:

    I love the Callicarpa Americana. Are the berries edible? Will it withstand the heat of California interior Valeys in full sun?

  5. Mary Lou Qualler says:

    It would be great to have some native plants featured that you could recommend. Thanks!

  6. Sharron M says:

    My Japanese Anemone have been thriving and spreading for about 6 years in my Northern Indiana sandy soil (slightly amended). This fabulous, care free plant is the highlight of my fall garden.

  7. christine says:

    …just wanted to say that I think gardeners are the kindest people in the world. I read all the comments you have sent in and am sure this is true. Sharing your insights and tips with others, encouraging newcomers to this fascinating hobby, and keeping this veteran gardener’s interest going after so many years. I have a tip for those who plant bulbs and then forget, in dormant season, where they put them, sometimes slicing into them accidentally. When you first plant bulbs and then cover them up with soil, put a one-inch layer of sand, fish tank gravel or light-colored terrarium sand on top of the planting before you add a very light layer of mulch to top it all off. Let this sand layer extend at least six inches beyond the bulbs below, and next time you put that probing shovel or trowel near the bulbs, the tell-tale sand or gravel will be the warning that you’ll need to prevent damaging those precious bulbs you look forward to seeing later in the season. Use the sand or gravel from old projects or defunct aquariums or get some color-coded gravels and keep a little list of what color goes with particular bulbs or flower colors: blue sand/gravel for crocuses, white for lilies, yellow for daffodils, etc., This is so easy to do and works best if your garden is small and you like detail, or if you have most of your bulbs in an island bed that’s very full. This is a good “kid project” too, and they learn something useful. Best wishes to all gardeners out there.

  8. Mike Mecke says:

    Allen, really like your Sat. Farm & Garden Show. Problem is that it is too short, you need an hour. I am also a chicken lover and would like to see you put a 10-15 min segment on your critters.
    But, you need more time…….

    I can tell you love cooking, etc., but it sure takes valuable time from your garden, horticulture, landscaping segments. Why don’t you get a cooking show and take it all over there? You would be good on that type of show.

    Keep up the good work and work on your sponsors and PBS to get an hour show…….. Mike

  9. Lynn P. says:

    Our coleus already thinks it’s autumn, but we’re enjoying our garden now. I uploaded a video of our 16 foot by 16 foot urban container garden. I hope you like it, since you’re the one that taught me most of what I know now. :)


    • KAY says:

      Really appreciate what you have accomplished there in your urban setting. I bet you have lots of bees who are hungry for some nectar visit your back patio! Alot can be accomplished with the resources we have and the use of second hand and unwanted items and repurposing them. Just got to think outside the box! Keep up the good work! Kay from Ohio

  10. dotty says:

    Hi Allen,
    I also think the summer is flying by. I planted a new dawn rose a few years ago and it is beautiful. I have planted alot of the plants you suggested for fall. I am in zone 5 and love lantana. i buy it every year for the humming birds. also a big fan of your shows and have all your books. The garden home retreat is beautiful. I just love moose. Hope to see it someday. Well if the rain ever stops long enough that i can get out and garden i have alot of daylilys to get in. love them

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