Color Your September Garden

Between the dog days of summer and crisp, colorful autumn, there can be an awkward period of drab in the garden. Here's how to brighten your late summer and early fall landscape.

  • Cool Season Flower Garden

    Mid-September in RMSer lark's northern garden brings jewel tones of late-blooming annuals, perennials and shrubs. A colorful \"flower\" in the canopy adds to the show.

  • Mexican Bush Sage

    Many perennial salvias are treasured for their ebullient sprays of colorful early fall flowers. Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha), a perennial as far north as USDA Zone 7b, is treated as an annual in colder climates.

  • Cigar plant or firecracker plant (Cuphea sp.) holds its flowers from late summer to the first frost. The tubular red flowers attract hummingbirds.

  • Light Pink Cinquefoil

    Shrub cinquefoil (Potentilla fruiticosa) is a drought-tolerant, deciduous shrub that blooms in fall.

  • Cluster of Black-Eyed Susans

    Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia) come in both annual and perennial forms; all are prolific bloomers that flower from midsummer till frost.

  • Swamp Sunflower

    Golden-yellow, daisy-like flowers cover the perennial swamp sunflower in late summer and fall.

  • For gardeners lucky enough to be able to offer them the right conditions in USDA Zones 4 to 6(7), Scottish heathers like Calluna vulgaris can transform a garden into a sweeping carpet of color in late summer and fall. This low-growing evergreen plant demands moist but very well-drained soil that's acidic but not fertile. For USDA Zones 7 and warmer, Mexican heather is an easy-to-grow alternative.

  • In late summer or early fall, muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) turns its corner of the garden into pink froth.

  • Add some easy drama to next year's garden with anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum). A butterfly, hummingbird and bee magnet, anise hyssop blooms all summer and into September. Easily self-sows. Here, giant hyssop 'Blue Spike'.

  • The summer and fall flowering of Japanese kerria japonica 'Picta' is just a faint echo of this deciduous shrub's floriferous spring bloom, but set against the still-bright variegated foliage, it creates a highlight for the shade garden.

  • Next year consider adding annual pentas to your garden. 'Graffiti Lipstick', shown here, keeps going strong in September with good flower production and ultra-clean foliage. 'Northern Lights Lavender' is tolerant of nighttime temperatures in the 50s.

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