Long blooming annuals provide explosion of fall color

Mexican Sunflower provides brilliant color, as well as a beneficial nectar source for migrating monarchs in late summer and fall.

While many gardeners begin to clean up after the Labor Day holiday, the weeks leading up to Halloween are perfect for an explosion of color in the garden.

Annuals that have been biding their time throughout the summer months, growing larger and larger by the week, now put on a fantastic display as many perennials begin to wind down for the season.

Here are some of my favorite annuals for long lasting beauty throughout the fall season, well up to the first hard frost or freeze.


In a wide selection of colors and sizes, zinnias provide a late-season explosion of color in the garden. These vibrant, colorful blooms may be used in borders, beds and containers, blooming from late summer right through until the first hard frost. Zinnias grow best when direct sown in the garden in spring.


A fall classic, blooming in several shades of yellow, orange and red, marigolds are an old-fashioned favorite, providing fall beauty alongside colorful mums, zinnias, cosmos, salvia and other beauties.

Love lies bleeding comes in many forms, including upright blooms, many colored in shades of red.

Love lies bleeding

With draping plumes in red, purple, orange and bronze, this is an exciting and dramatic plant for the fall garden. Many varieties of this unusual annual self seed easily in the garden.


Everyone's favorite fall bloomer, mounding mums in shades of red, purple, pink, yellow, orange and white have many uses in the fall garden. Showcase these floriferous beauties in container plantings, garden beds and fall decor. Many gardeners treat mums as annuals, though hardy mums will come back season after season with proper care.


Ornamental or flowering kale is another fall classic, a colorful cabbage available in many growth forms from lacy and feathery to layered round globes. Along with mums, flowering kale is often sold during the fall season for instant impact, though it can be grown from seed when sown in spring.


In rich, deep purple, heliotrope is a monarch magnet, drawing large numbers of the butterflies as they migrate south. The sturdy, thick clusters of bloom are long-lasting in the fall garden.

Coleus and begonias are among many long-lasting annuals that bloom well into fall, most lasting until the first hard frost or freeze.


In shade or sun, colorful, beautiful coleus displays its many striking patterns and growth forms in containers, hanging baskets and ground beds. Coleus come in many shapes and sizes, as well as striking colors such as bronze, black, silver, lime green, red, pink, purple, gold and more.


Cool weather pansies, along with their smaller cousins, violas, provide a punch of color in borders and containers. Available in just about any color, the striking pattern of these plants, as well as their cold tolerance, make them a great choice for the fall landscape.

Mexican sunflower

In neon orange or vibrant gold, Mexican sunflower features bushy plants that boast dozens of bright blooms from late summer until the first hard frost. Direct sow in the spring garden after danger of frost.

Tall verbena

This unusual late summer and fall annual boasts small globes or tufts of beautiful purple blooms at the top of forked, wiry stems. Growing 2 to 5 feet in height, tall verbena is an excellent choice for migrating monarchs, one of the most popular nectar plants for these butterflies on the move.


The many different varieties of begonias last well into the fall season in the garden. Shorter varieties are often used in beds and borders, as well as mixed planters, while some of the larger, dramatic specimen plans can be showcased in special places in the garden, as well as showy containers.

Along with these, there are many other annuals that keep the color popping through the fall season. Sages and salvias, cosmos, morning glories, cleomes, as well as many herbs all make exceptional fall garden companions.

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