The Best Flowers to Plant in Fall

Fall isn’t just for football and leaf peeping—it’s also one of the best seasons for planting. Spruce up your yard with colorful flowers that grow best when planted in autumn.

August 27, 2019

Photo By: Ball Horticultural Company

Photo By: Julie Martens Forney

Photo By: Bailey Nurseries, Inc.

Photo By: PerennialResource.com

Photo By: Image courtesy of Longfield Gardens

Photo By: Wouter Koppen for iBulb.org

Photo By: National Garden Bureau/Longfield Gardens

Photo By: Julie Martens Forney

Photo By: PerennialResource.com

Photo By: Julie Martens Forney

Pansy

Count on pansies to provide reliable fall color for containers or planting beds. This annual flower grows best in cool weather—it’s a perfect match for fall forecasts. Look for pansies with large or small flowers, varieties that stay petite, or fast growing, trailing types like this Cool Wave White Spreading pansy. In regions with mild winters, pinch pansies at planting time to promote bushiness and more flowers.

Garden Mum

Fall garden mums add sparkle and color to autumn plantings in pots or landscape beds. Pair garden mums with ornamental cabbage or kale for long-lasting color that can stand up to light frosts. Consider fall-planted mums to be annuals. They don’t reliably survive winters in cold regions.

Peony

Fall is the right time of year for planting peonies. Choose peony varieties that flower at different times in the season (early, mid and late) for the longest color show. ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ peony (shown) opens 8-inch, fully double pink blooms in late spring. Peonies need shallow planting. Bury roots with the eyes or buds only 2 inches deep. Plant them too deep, and they won’t flower.

Bearded Iris

Autumn is the time of year you'll find bare roots (rhizomes) of bearded iris for sale in abundance. This perennial favorite opens blooms in a rainbow of flower hues, from purple-black, to sunny yellow, to old-fashioned lavender. Look for dwarf, knee-high or tall varieties. Plant iris so the top of the rhizome is exposed, except in hottest regions, where a light soil covering (no more than an inch) helps protect roots from heat.

Giant Alllium

Plant spring flowering bulbs in autumn, including baseball-size bulbs of giant allium. These showstopper bulbs open flowers that measure up to 10 inches across, perched atop stems 3 to 4 feet tall. To get the biggest, top quality bulbs of giant allium, order from a reputable bulb nursery. Bury these bulbs 8 inches deep and 6 to 8 inches apart.

Tulips

Spring’s beloved bulb, the tulip, needs a winter chill to ensure a strong flower show. Bulb experts suggest waiting until November to tuck tulip bulbs into soil. This late timing brings two benefits. Soil fungus that could attack bulbs is dormant, and squirrels have finished their peak hoarding season, which means they might ignore your tasty tulip bulbs.

Daffodils

Daffodils are spring’s living sunshine, and the right time to tuck them into soil is fall. Bury daffodils so the top of the bulb is at least two times as deep as the bulb height (the top of a 2-inch bulb should be 4 inches deep). Daffodils come in a range of yellow shades, from pale butter yellow, to bright lemon, to rich gold. You can also find daffodils with pink tints, bicolor blooms and white flowers.

Bleeding Heart

It’s always a good idea to plant early spring blooming perennials in fall, including ones like bleeding heart. Bleeding heart is typically sold bareroot in fall, unless you find a potted one at a garden center, which will be dormant (you’ll be buying a pot of soil—likely on deep discount—filled with roots and possibly dead stems). Give bleeding heart a spot in part to full shade with compost-enriched soil.

Blue False Indigo

Choose false indigo (Baptisia australis) for its eye-catching flowers that appear in late spring to early summer. This is a native perennial prairie plant that forms a shrub with blue-tinted leaves. Look for varieties with blossoms in shades of purple, white, rose, yellow, brown or bicolor blends. Low-maintenance false indigo is slow to establish and slow to wake in spring.

Japanese Toad Lily

Look for Japanese toad lily (Tricyrtis hirta) plants in bloom at garden centers in fall. This trouble-free perennial opens orchid-like blooms in late summer through early fall. It grows best in a part to full shade spot with slightly moist soil. Place toad lily where you’ll see it, so you can enjoy the intricately painted blossoms.

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