Avoid a blah landscape after summer FALL COLOR

By Eric Barrett

OSU Extension educator

Some gardens suffer from a lack of flower color and interest during the fall season.

Most gardeners try to spruce up the garden with mums.

While this adds color, it does not solve the problem.

Gardeners should be thinking about perennials and shrubs to keep the colors and interest going into late fall.

The first consideration for fall gardening is fertilizing your annuals to keep them going until frost.

If your plants came with slow-release fertilizer in the pots, this is long gone. The soilless potting mix they are planted in does not hold on to nutrients. Thus, proper fertilization will spruce them up.

Mums are always a great idea when purchasing, but few tend to survive come next spring.

If you place them in pots, continue to fertilize.

If you want them to survive in the garden, get them planted as soon as possible.

Dig the hole three times as wide as the pot. Break up the root ball a bit. Mulch and water regularly to get the roots settled in for the winter.

Beyond these basics, there are many plants to add to a landscape without the extra work required by annuals and mums. Here are some options to get you started:


The plant is generally 12-18 inches tall. Its succulent leaves and green flower heads add interest during summer, but the wow is in fall when the flower heads turn shades of pink and red.

Old-fashioned types bloom bright pink, but tend to be floppy and look unkept.

Newer versions such as “Autumn Joy” sedum stay more upright and have a deeper, bright red color starting around Labor Day.

Sedum “Matrona” has a dark red stem and is a shorter plant. The number of flower heads is less, but the dark red color is beautiful.


To some, these plants appear similar to a mum. But, they are much hardier in the landscape, listed as zone 4-8 plants.

Deer do not favor asters, but butterflies do.

They start blooming after Labor Day.

“Wood’s Blue” is a dwarf cultivar that stays around 18-24 inches tall.

“Purple Dome” has a bright purple daisy-type flower. It stays under 18 inches and survives in clay soils.

Other cultivars range from light pink to reds and light purples.

Hydrangea paniculata

These plants are simply stunning well into the fall season.

They start blooming in late July and continue the show until after a few light frosts.

Many add interesting pink colors as the flowers being to fade.

From taller options like “Limelight” to shorter versions like “Bobo” and “Bombshell,” you can’t go wrong.

“Vanilla Strawberry” will delight you as the blooms turn purplish in October. This is accomplished by providing at least 70 percent shade for this plant.

Don’t forget hydrangea quercifolia (oakleaf hydrangea). This plant has bright red and deep red tones to the foliage during the fall season. For details on these plants, go to http://go.osu.edu/hydrangeas.

There are many more options for your landscape. Take some time to look at the plants behind the mums as you visit your local garden centers this fall.

For more ideas on color for the fall landscape, go to http://go.osu.edu/fallcolor.

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