27 Fall Plants For Brilliant Seasonal Color
While wilting summer buds are a sad sight, indeed, cooler temperatures offer gardeners a whole new world of color. Crisp air means it’s time for fall foliage and late-season blooms to shine. Seasoned gardeners know that a bit of pre-autumn planning can keep their landscape blazing with crimson leaves and cool-weather blooms all season long. But, where to start?
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but if you ask us, you’ve got to take color into account when it comes to autumn plants. From classic fall shades of red, orange, and yellow to vibrant purple and pink blooms you might associate with warmer temperatures, there’s an endless supply of options for colorful fall plants. And with all the entertaining the fall season has to offer, lively cut-flower blooms are sure to come in handy.
Make Your Garden Sing with Color Come Fall
Chrysanthemums say fall as much as turkey says Thanksgiving. Commonly known as mums, these blooms are an all-time fall favorite for a good reason. Available in an array of colors, including orange, red, yellow, and white, these autumn blooms are made for container gardens, pumpkin arrangements, and garden beds alike.
Dahlia blooms are beautiful and long-lasting, flowering from mid- to late-summer through autumn. A member of the Asteraceae family, it's no surprise this dramatic, cool-weather bloom is akin to the sunflower, zinnia, chrysanthemum, and daisy.
Learn more about dahlia.
For a sun-loving perennial with vertical height and tri-color impact, you can't go wrong with velvety heleniums. Also known as sneezeweed, this autumn flower has dark-centered blooms surrounded by bright yellow, orange, or red petals. It is beloved by bees and other pollinators while hated by deer and rabbits.
October Glory Red Maple
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.
This Southern favorite offers seasonal displays year-round, but it really shows off in autumn. As a chill hits the air, colorful oakleaf hydrangea leaves can rival neighboring maple trees. The crimson and gold blaze lasts quite some time, too.
When summer blooms begin to fade, asters put on a vivid display. The late-summer and autumn blooms come in a myriad of different shades, including blues, reds, pinks, and purples.
With bright yellow blooms lasting through October, this cheery plant practically ensures a smile. Sturdy and easy to grow, these flowers first bloom in early summer. Cutting encourages them to rebloom late in the season. A member of the sunflower family and also known as coneflower and Rudbeckia fulgida sullivantii 'Goldsturm', butterflies, bees, and a variety of insects enjoy this summer and fall floral. Plus, deer usually steer clear.
Hubricht’s bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii) is a fuss-free perennial that combines light blue spring flowers with dazzling yellow fall foliage.
Photo: Amsonia tabernaemontana, a bluestar variety similar to the Amsonia hubrichtii
They may be famous for spring buds, but you won't want to miss the splendor of a dogwood in fall. Among the first trees to show fall color, its leaves turn scarlet as red berries appear. Birds will flock to a dogwood's fruit, making this tree a favorite among birdwatchers.
These golden trees of fall are one of nature's oldest stunners. Seemingly overnight, elegant, fan-shaped leaves turn a vibrant, sun-bright yellow that makes even the simplest yard shine.
For standout fall color that requires very little attention, consider sedum. This drought-tolerent plant has fleshy leaves that hold moisture and clusters of colorful blooms that last late into the season. Depending on your garden, you can enjoy creeping, low-growers or tall, vertical sedums.
The angled and zigzag branches on these fragrant shrubs offer bright fall foliage and unique cool-weather blooms. Plus, they’re practically maintenance-free.
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.
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.
With stunning deciduous foliage, which turns a vibrant red and orange in fall, and sweet fruits, persimmon trees are true charmers. Plant in full sun and you're sure to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
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.
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.
Sick of pansies that turn to mush with the first fall freeze and don’t bloom again until spring? Plant Plentifall pansies instead. 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.
Think blueberry bushes are just for summer picking? Think again. These shrubs are a blaze with color come cooler months. Leaves change to red, orange, or yellow combinations that offer a welcomed bonus to the plant's summer fruit.
Expect beautiful hues from this deciduous shrub come fall. The smoke bush, or Cotinus coggygria, turns orange, yellow, or a purple-red shade when the tempterature drops, depending on the variety.
Clover-esk with colorful round buds, globe amaranth, or Gomphrena, is a reliable bud through the first hard frost. This versatile annual adds seemingly non-stop buds to garden beds and containers alike.
Known for their clusters of tiny, five-petaled tubular blooms, this ground cover or filler plant is anything but boring. Verbena is heat-loving plant that continues to bloom through fall. Butterflies love this bright bloom, so prepare for frequent, friendly visitors.
Who can resist a plant that flowers in fall with pointed, two-lipped petals reminiscent of turtle heads? Chelone are native American wildflowers commonly known as Turtlehead for their striking resemblance. These hardy, low-maintenance blooms enjoy partial shade and offer lovely late-season color.
These long-blooming, often-fragrant annuals and perennials grow about 1 foot tall and twice as wide. Also known as pinks, these fall beauties come in many colors and work well as border or potted blooms.
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.
Celosia’s flame-like blooms are a real showstopper. This easy-to-grow annual, also known as Cockscomb, shows off with either upright plumes or bright twists that bloom in summer and fall.
Don't let the rumors scare you away. The good varieties of sumac don't cause rashes like you might have been told. These drought-tolerant trees have upright bunches of showy scarlet and crimson fruits come fall.