Q&A: Best Fall Flowers for the Southwest

Tips for when to plant a cool-season annual.
Plating Pansies

Plating Pansies

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Q: What flowers are best to plant in the fall here? One area gets sun all day and another gets some shade from a chinaberry tree. I want lots of color.
— P.S., Phoenix, Ariz.

A: There are two distinct growing seasons in the low desert. The cool season lasts from the end of September through April. Cool-season annuals can be planted from September to February. The warm season starts with planting in mid to late February. Some warm-season plants will make it through the summer's heat; others will end their growth when the heat arrives.

Cool-season flowers include calendula, bachelor's button, pansies, violas, nasturtiums, stock, snapdragons, alyssum, dusty miller, poppies and dianthus. Wildflowers are also seeded in the fall (usually October) for spring bloom. Most of these are sun lovers.

Bulbs might be a good choice in the shady area, as they appreciate shade in the summer. Bulbs that would do well include Ranunculus, Tritonia, iris, amaryllis, spider lily and rain lily.

A good reference book that contains planting calendars for the low desert is Desert Gardening for Beginners. Good luck!

— National Gardening Association

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