Senior Writer Steve Bender (aka The Grumpy Gardener) reveals ten brilliant plants to bring joy to your garden this fall.
What’s the most dependable tree in the South for spectacular red fall foliage? ‘October Glory’ red maple (Acer rubrum ‘October Glory’). It grows 50 to 60 feet tall, and you can get it at most garden centers. September is a great time to plant.
Sick of pansies that turn to mush with the first fall freeze and don’t bloom again until spring? I am. That’s why I’m planting the new Plentifall pansies available now in garden centers. These are among the first trailing pansies, each spreading 18 inches. Plant them in the ground to form solid sweeps, or let them cascade from containers. Plentifall pansies survive below-zero temps with little damage, so they should bloom for you from fall through spring.
You can’t get more Southern than Confederate rose (Hibiscus mutabilis ‘Plena’), a shrub with late-summer and autumn flowers that change from white to pink to deep rose as they age. You often get all three colors at once. Cuttings root easily in water, but if you don’t have a shrub nearby to cut on, order from woodlanders.net.
There are three good reasons to plant Iceland poppies now. They’ll be beautiful next spring; they come in many bright colors;
and unlike some other poppies, they’re legal. Start them this fall by either sprinkling seeds over bare ground or setting
out transplants. You can get both at garden centers now.
Don’t feel bad about killing plants. It gives you the chance to try something new, like Hubricht’s bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii). This fuss-free perennial combines light blue spring flowers with dazzling yellow fall foliage. Order from nichegardens.com.
Photo: Amsonia tabernaemontana, a bluestar variety similar to the Amsonia hubrichtii
Admit it: You hate bugs. So grow plants that eat bugs—pitcher plants (Sarracenia sp.). Native to the South, pitcher plants combine colorful flowers with striking, tube-like pitchers that trap and digest insects. They need sun and acid, moist soil. Order from plantdelights.com.
Plant the best spring bulb no one seems to know about—Spanish bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica). It stands 15 to 20 inches tall, loves our climate, and spreads steadily into glorious sweeps. It comes in white and pink, but blue ‘Excelsior’ is my favorite. Order from oldhousegardens.com.
If grass won’t grow in a damp, shady area in your yard, grow moss instead. Moss stays green all year and doesn’t need mowing,
watering, fertilizing, or spraying. Mosses native to your area work best since they’ll tolerate your climate best. So if someone
you know loathes moss, generously take it off their hands.
Spider lily (Lycoris radiata, pictured) and surprise lily, also known as naked lady (Lycoris squamigera), send up foliage in the fall, which remains through spring, and then disappears. In August and September, spikes of flowers standing anywhere from 18-30 inches tall appear seemingly overnight without leaves. Spider lily has bright red glowers with long stamens that resemble spider legs. Surprise lily has pink, trumpet-shaped flowers. Both are easy to grow, spread into drifts, and last for generations. Bulbs are usually available by late spring. Order from oldhousegardens.com.
Try planting one of these winter greens.
Lettuce: ‘Bibb’ (green butterhead type), ‘Oak Leaf’ (green loose-leaf), ‘Red Sails’ (red loose-leaf)
Mustard: ‘Red Giant’ (reddish-purple leaves), ‘Savannah’ (large, deep green leaves)
Kale: ‘Lacinato’ (dark green, curly leaves, very cold-hardy), ‘Redbor’ (pictured; crinkly, deep red leaves), ‘Red Russian’ (smooth, gray-green leaves with purple veins, delicious!), ‘Winterbor’ (crinkly, blue-green leaves)
Collards: ‘Champion’ (dark blue-green leaves, very cold-hardy), ‘Georgia Southern’ (deep green leaves, very cold-hardy and productive)