Fall Blooming Perennial Flowers

With so many perennial flowers to choose from, it can be a difficult task to choose the right varieties, colors and heights that will work with your garden design plans. It's also tough to know at what time of year each will be in bloom. You need to mix and match colors, shapes and sizes effectively to achieve the desired outcome. When planning your gardens, the best place to start is one season at time.

Tall plants

These plants are all over three feet tall and flower in the fall. They are ideal for the back row of the perennial border.

  • Hardy Aster.
  • Blue Sage. This three- to four-foot tall plant has slender spikes of sky-blue flowers. They make excellent cut flowers. Blue Sage grows best in full sun and well-drained soil. It can be grown from seeds to flower the next year. Clumps should remain undisturbed indefinitely.
  • False Dragonhead. This snapdragon lookalike flower has 8- to 10-inch long spikes that are made up of 4 widely spaced vertical rows of small flowers. The plant grows two to four feet and has dark-green, willowlike leaves. Some varieties are Vivid (deep pink), Summer Glow (pale pink) and Summer Snow (white). False Dragonhead can be grown in sun or shade in almost any type of soil. New plants are started from division of clumps. Divide clumps every second year to prevent overcrowding.
  • Japanese Anemone. These have handsome pink or white flowers from late summer to mid-fall. The leaves of this two- to three-foot tall plant are lobed and dark green. Varieties of Japanese Anemone are Alba (single white flowers), Kriemhilde (pink), Margarette (double rose pink) and Profusion (rose pink). They grow best in light shade and a well-drained soil liberally supplemented with peat moss. New plants, obtained from root cuttings or clump division in early spring, bloom the same year. Do not disturb the roots except for propagation.
  • Kamchatka Bugbane. Bugbanes have long spires of tiny flowers and impressive leaves. It grows to a height of about three feet. It needs light shade and soil supplemented with peat moss or leaf mold and needs to be watered deeply in dry weather. It should be mulched in fall with compost or cow manure. Do not disturb the roots except for clump division for new plants in early spring.
  • Boltonia. Boltonia has clouds of starlike flowers in pink, lavender or white on willowy stems from mid-summer to early fall. This four-foot-tall plant has narrow, gray-green leaves. It grows in any soil in full sun. Start new plants from clump division. To prevent overcrowding, divide clumps every other year.

Medium-Height Plants

These plants are all between two to three feet tall and flower in the fall. They are ideal for the middle row of the perennial border.

  • Rudbeckia. Rudbeckia has daisylike blossoms of three to four inches in diameter. In fact, they resemble the wild Black-Eyed Susan. They provide a splash of vivid color to any border. They come in shades of yellow, orange and mahogany. The two- to three-foot plant thrives in well-drained soil and full sun.
  • Narrow Leaved Plantain Lily. Plantain lilies or hostas produce attractive lilylike flowers on slender stems. They are also valued for their mounds of attractive foliage. It grows one to two feet tall and has white-edged leaves. It bears violet flowers lined with white. It thrives in compost-enriched moist soil. New plants can be started by dividing clumps. Clumps should otherwise be left undisturbed.
  • Pink Turtlehead. It grows two to three feet tall and bears short spikes of flowers and dense, shiny dark-green leaves. Turtleheads are easy to grow, pest-resistant and suitable for areas that get little sun. They require moist soil and light shade. The soil should be mulched with compost or peat moss in the summer to hold moisture. For new plants, divide the clumps in early spring every two to three years.
  • Thread-Leaved Coreopsis. It has starlike yellow flowers on slender stems that bloom abundantly. The plant grows to one to two feet in height. Coreopsis can remain untended in fields, where they will thrive and multiply. Infertile soil is fine if it is well-drained. New plants can be started by dividing clumps in early spring.

Short plants

These plants are all below two feet tall and flower in the fall. They are ideal for the front row of the perennial border.

  • Blue Cupflower.
  • Dwarf Hybrid Goldenrod. Goldenrods are more familiar as wildflowers than as garden blooms. Now some hybrids have been developed that grow very well in perennial beds. They have yellow flower heads made up of tiny blossoms. They grow in full sunlight and thrive in any soil. Clump division starts new plants. After three or four years, they become overcrowded and the clumps need to be divided.
  • Leadwort. Leadwort has cluster of tiny flowers that bloom from mid-summer to early fall. The plant grows to a height of 9 to 12 inches. The upper leaves turn reddish bronze at the end of the blooming season. It grows well in full sun in a soil supplemented with peat moss or leaf mold. As the dormant plants cannot tolerate soggy soil, good drainage is essential in winter. Propagate by dividing clumps in early spring.
  • Sedum. Also called Showy Stonecrop, sedum grows about one to two feet tall. It bears clusters of tiny pink, ivory or red flowers. The plant is tolerant of drought and is pest-free. Some varieties are Brilliant (raspberry red), Carmine (rose red), Meteor (deep carmine red) and Stardust (ivory). It grows in any type of soil in full sun. New plants can be started from stem cutting in summer or clump division.

Cupflower plants grow 6 to 12 inches tall and bear violet flowers. They grow in moist, well-drained soil and prefer light shade. To encourage new blossoms, pick off the old flowers. Blue cupflowers can be grown from seed. Divide clumps after three or four years of flowering.
New England Aster and New York Aster are both also called Hardy Aster. The flowers close at night. Some varieties are Harrington's Pink (clear pink), September Glow (ruby red), Eventide (purple) and Marie Ballard (pale blue). The plants are three to five feet tall. All grow well in full sun in a well-drained soil. Propagate asters by digging up and dividing clumps.

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