Plan now for fall garden color

Rob Zimmer Special Contributor
Now Media Group

One of the biggest challenges for many gardeners is assembling a collection of plants to extend garden color well into fall. There are many great choices, and now is the time to begin planning for a spectacular color display in the garden this fall.

Visit your local garden center or nursery and choose plans with late bloomer season time frames in a variety of colors, textures and sizes to create an unforgettable display come September and October.

Here are a few of my fall favorites for autumn color.

Hardy Hibiscus

With massive, dinnerplate sized blooms in shades of pink, red and white, hardy hibiscus, or Rose Mallow, is one of the most dramatic plants for late summer and fall. A large, shrublike plant with often decorative foliage, the blooms take center stage during late August and September.

Highbush Cranberry

A spectacular native shrub featuring dramatic, scarlet foliage in fall, along with plentiful, beneficial berries for birds, highbush cranberry is native in much of our area. Not a true cranberry, but a viburnum, this plant, like many of its relatives, features spectacular fall foliage throughout the season.

Russian Sage

With finely textured lavender blue blooms, the airy plumes of Russian sage decorate the garden well into November in most years. With silvery stems laced with airy bluish purple blossoms throughout summer and fall, Russian sage attracts butterflies, honeybees and other pollinators, along with its graceful, feathery beauty.


Classic roses in all different colors provide a rainbow of beauty well into fall. In some years, depending upon temperatures, roses may bloom well into December. Fragrant, colorful, graceful in the garden, enjoy a few roses this year.


Many annual flowers are at their best during the fall season. Colorful zinnias in shocking colors last until the first hard frost. There are zinnias in all shapes, sizes and colors. Some may be only 6 inches tall, while others may tower 4 feet in the garden. All feature the classic, bright colors that zinnias are known for.


Another late blooming annual, cosmos rises on thin, wiry stems, blooming in many shades of pink, red and white. These plants may grow quite large, with beautiful, feathery foliage. They will bloom until the first heavy frost takes them down.


Dahlias are summer and fall blooming bulbs that come in many shapes and sizes. There are compact varieties, perfect for containers and borders, as well as giant, dinnerplate blooming dahlias that may reach 5 to 6 feet in height. There are many spectacular flower forms including single blooms, pompom blooms, water lily blooms, cactus blooming dahlias and more. After the first hard frost, dahlias should be dug, dried and stored for the winter season.


The classic fall perennial, asters provide explosive bloom throughout late summer and fall. The wild asters, including the spectacular, deep purple New England aster, begin to bloom in mid-September, lasting often a month or more. There are asters in blue, pink, white, purple and lavender.

Joe-pye Weed

The tall, feathery plumes of Joe-pye weed feature masses of pink to purple blossoms throughout the fall season. There is also a plant called chocolate joe-pye weed, featuring rich, chocolatey colored foliage and white blooms.


Fall is turtlehead time and these unusual, one of a kind perennials create quite an impact in the garden.

The blooms are shaped like the head and neck of a turtle, funnel shaped with an open beak that attracts large numbers of hummingbirds migrating through during September and October. Native turtlehead is white, while there are many garden varieties available in rose pink that are stunning in shady garden spots.

Black-eyed Susan

The many varieties of rudbeckia, or black-eyed Susan, paint fall landscapes with their stunning colors in gold, orange, crimson, sepia and other fall hues. There are black-eyed Susan's available as annuals and perennials, making them a great choice for containers, beds, borders and prairie gardens.

Ornamental Kale

Start your own ornamental kale now from seed or starter plants and save money this fall. Kale comes in a variety of spectacular colors, including pinks, purple, orange, rich blue and more. Instead of paying high prices for kale plants in September and October, buy them inexpensively now and grow them to maturity.


Another prolific, fall blooming annual, marigolds provide a fiery burst of color until the first freeze in October or November. The stunning color combinations in shades of red, orange and yellow, even white, make this a versatile and useful plant in fall color displays.


Towering in stunning, cobalt blue or purple in September and October, monkshood is a massive and elegant fall beauty. The unusual, put it blooms which give the plant its name, grow in clusters at the tip of the flowering spike.

Toad lily

A great choice for shade, toad lily features incredible, orchid-like blooms that grow along the flowering stock that may reach 2 to 3 feet high. These blooms may be speckled in gold, purple and blue, jewel-like beauties in the fall garden.

Find Rob Zimmer online at www.robzimmeroutdoors.com.