September Gardening Ideas: What to Plant
For September . . . Our Garden Editor offers tips and ideas for you.
These graceful, deciduous shrubs will amaze you with their colorful, long-lasting fall berries. ‘Early Amethyst’ purple beautyberry (Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Early Amethyst’) is one of the finest selections, with lilac-colored berries. A white-berried form of purple beautyberry (C. d. albifructus) is also available. American beautyberry (C. americana) has fruit and foliage that are a bit bolder with bright purple berries and coarser leaves. ‘Lactea’ American beautyberry has white berries. These are all medium- to large-size shrubs and work well when planted en masse. They fit nicely along woodland edges. In the Upper South, plants may freeze to the ground but will come back from the roots and bloom and fruit the following year. Tip: Add a few stems to your fall arrangements for a “wow” display.
In the Upper and Middle South, dig up clumps of daylilies, irises, and daisies. When lifted, some will fall apart easily while others may need to be coaxed. A garden fork is perfect for this task. Plant new divisions at their original growing depth, water well, and mulch. Give extras to friends.
Purple Fall Flowers
There are lots of plants that put on a royal show during the crisp days of autumn. Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha) is one of the best with purple spires that butterflies love. ‘Purple Majesty’ salvia is an elegant sage for any garden. Princess flower (Tibouchina urvilleana) is one of the finest tropicals with purple flowers. You can enjoy its beautiful blooms throughout the season. Asters such as ‘Purple Dome’ and ‘Fanny’ produce multitudes of tiny daisy-like flowers. Use these to create a nice contrast to the yellows and oranges that dominate the season.
‘Neon’ pothos has chartreuse leaves that will cheer up any room. Use a blue pot as a contrast to its leaves, or try a white pot for a softer look. It prefers bright, indirect to low light. Care is simple. Let the soil dry slightly between waterings.
September 22 marks the end of summer and the beginning of fall. A new garden season lies ahead, one with cooler weather and fewer bugs. Now is the time to begin setting out fall annuals and vegetables, creating container gardens, buying bulbs, and planting shrubs and trees. This is one of the best times to garden in the South, so be sure to get outside, dig in the dirt, and enjoy the days ahead.
By William C. Welch
Make your garden come alive with plants that attract these elegant winged creatures. Start with a favorite such as butterfly bush with beautiful flowers that both you and the butterflies will enjoy. Try a firebush (Hamelia patens). Although it is native to South Florida, firebush does well in North Florida also, returning each spring after winter freezes to a height of about 5 feet with an almost equal spread. Butterflies also love pentas, peregrinas (Jatropha integerrima), zinnias, cosmos, Cape plumbagos, verbenas, and hibiscus. Add dill, parsley, fennel, citrus, and milkweed (Asclepias sp.) as host plants for butterfly larvae to feed on. Create a place for butterflies to obtain moisture and minerals by sinking a shallow pan in the soil, filling it with coarse sand, and keeping it moist with a soaker hose or drip emitter. Finally, put a flat stone in a spot where they can bask in the sunshine when not visiting your flowers.
• Lawns―If you didn’t feed your grass in August, do it now. For centipede lawns, use a low-nitrogen fertilizer such as Pennington Lawn Winterizer 5-5-25. For St. Augustine and other grasses, use a no-phosphorus fertilizer such as Lesco Professional Turf Fertilizer 15-0-15 or Scotts Lawn Pro Fall Lawn Fertilizer 24-0-10.
North and Central
- Flowerbeds―As the night temperatures begin moderating, plant petunias, dianthus, nemesias, twinspurs, snapdragons, and chrysocephalums. These annuals will provide color throughout the fall and the milder periods of winter and then explode with bursts of color to brighten your spring. Add some fall-blooming perennials such as Cape honeysuckle (Tecoma capensis), Philippine violet (Barleria cristata), Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha), and cigar flower (Cuphea micropetala).
- Salad Garden―Select a sunny area, and seed some carrots, radishes, arugula, and mesclun. Keep the soil moist so the seeds will germinate. Set out transplants of lettuce (shown at above, left) for an instant garden.
- Divide Plants―Clumps of daylilies can be separated carefully with a garden fork after they are dug. Separate amaryllis bulblets by hand or with a long, sharp knife. Replant divisions 18 inches apart.
Central and South
- Frangipani―Plant one of these easy-to-grow trees (Plumeria sp.) that flower from April through November. The large leaves are up to 18 inches long, and flower color varies with species, from rose to white to yellow (shown at right). Pick a sunny-to-slightly shaded location that will allow the tree to grow up to 25 feet tall and wide. Most types drop their leaves during the cooler winter weather, so consider this when you decide on placement in the landscape. Avoid heavy fertilization, as too much nitrogen decreases cold hardiness.
- Herbs―Mint, rosemary, and basil love the heat. These herbs can be grown easily in containers. Just be sure to use a pot with adequate drainage and quality, well-drained potting soil.
By William C. Welch
Garden mums, asters, and fleabanes can combine to make a striking fall display. Garden mums, such as ‘Ryan’s Pink’, may be selected now and will have time to develop prior to blooming in mid- to late-fall. Garden mums are hardier than florist types and often become perennials in our gardens. Their flowers range in size from small buttons to daisy-like or semidouble blooms. Blooms come in white to yellow, orange, purple, red, and pink. They mix well with autumn asters, which have blue to blue-violet flowers with bright yellow centers. The petals of yellow mums will complement the centers of the asters and fleabanes. Border these plantings with Mexican daisies, which has small, airy 1- to 2-inch diameter flowers in pinkish-white with a yellow eye.
- Wildflowers―The time is right to plant wildflowers. Either choose a wildflower seed mixture, or select individual types for your display. Select a sunny, well-drained location. Mixing wildflower seeds with cornmeal enables you to see where you sow the seeds. This trick will help you distribute them more evenly. Then till the soil lightly, and give them a gentle shower of water. To purchase seeds or seed mixes, visit www.wildseedfarms.com, or call 1-800-848-0078.
- Bulbs―Amaryllis may be ordered now and then potted for holiday displays in the house. They are available in a wide array of colors and patterns including red, orange, pink, white, striped, and speckled. Have at least an inch of media between the bulbs when planting your pots. Commercial potting media works best.
Central, West and South
- Irises and daylilies―Dig up existing clumps and separate them into individual plants. Save the youngest, most vigorous parts for replanting. Prepare the soil by incorporating organic matter into the top 8 to 10 inches and adding a controlled-release fertilizer according to label instructions. Arrange the transplants in elongated masses of five or more plants, and water well.
North and East
- Spring color―For masses of seasonal color select anemones and ranunculus to plant now. Prepare the soil properly and choose a sunny, well-drained location. Plant them 3 to 5 inches apart, and water well. Tazetta-type narcissus that are planted now will bloom in February and March. Select narcissus that will naturalize such as ‘Grand Primo’, ‘Golden Dawn,’ and campernelle jonquil.
Central, East, and South
- Vegetables―Plant cabbages, broccoli, parsley, collards, red mustard greens, green onions, and Swiss chard transplants now. Direct-seed mustard greens, turnips, radishes, spinach, and lettuces. To stagger your harvest, sow small amounts every three weeks.