Perennials Span the Seasons
Choose outstanding and unusual perennials for late summer and early fall gardening.
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Leadwort or Plumbago
Not many groundcovers flower in fall, but this is one that never ceases to delight gardeners. This late-summer and early fall-blooming perennial is only a foot tall. The showy little flowers are bright blue, a rare color in the early fall. And as if that weren't enough, the leaves turn a bronzy red in early fall. This is when this plant really shines, as it echoes the trees and shrubs that are also turning the same colors. Remember, this is not an evergreen ground cover; it dies back in the fall, but don't let that stop you. It will grow in full sun to light shade; think of shade if your climate is really hot. USDA and grows in Zones 5 to 8.
For those of you with just a little blank space, the Japanese onion is a very short, neat plant. The only cultivar being sold is 'Ozawa.' Ornamental onions have slender straplike leaves with lovely, chivelike and mauvy blossoms. It flowers in September and is a foot tall. For good garden performance in Zones 5 to 8, plant in full-sun, average garden soil with good drainage. The foliage stays fresh from spring to fall. Sometimes the Japanese onion can flower until the frost.
There are never enough shade-flowering plants late in the season, and toad-lilies can be showstoppers, often resembling exquisite miniature orchids. 'Sinonome' bears handsome white flowers with purple flecks for as long as four to six weeks on a 2- to 3-foot plant. The upright foliage is dramatic and handsome. The plants are stoloniferous but are not particularly invasive. Give them light to partial shade and moisture-loving soil. Plant them along a walkway where you can easily enjoy these unusual flowers. Hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 8.
Master gardener Maureen Gilmer takes a look back at the roots of this popular flowering vine.
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