Mum's the Word: Achieve a stunning garden with rich colors this fall

2013-09-19T08:30:00Z Mum's the Word: Achieve a stunning garden with rich colors this fallChristine Bryant Times Correspondent
September 19, 2013 8:30 am  • 

Just because temperatures are cooling and leaves are beginning to fall doesn't mean landscaping must suffer.

Fall is a great time of year to showcase many of summer's colors, in addition to touches of rich golds, bronzes and oranges.

Here are some colorful plants that thrive in the fall that will help any gardener achieve a stunning fall outdoor display.


They're a staple of fall, not only because of their hardy nature, but their variety of colors.

"The plants that do best usually in the fall are the mums that most people buy," said Nikky Witkowski, an extension educator with Purdue Extension-Lake County. "It may be their various colors, it may be the hope they will come back the next year, but they are always very popular."

To take care of chrysanthemums, or more commonly known as mums, plant them ideally in the spring in an area that receives full sun. Potted mums can be placed in a shady area if they have already bloomed.


Aconitum carmichaelii, more commonly known as Monkshood, bloom a beautiful blue color, and are perfect plants for gardeners who like height, said Donna Pouzar, a master gardener and owner of The Garden Tender, a landscaping business.

"Height depends on variety - I have some that are 5 feet tall and are now just starting to get their flower buds," she said.

Plant Monkshood in part shade, and gardeners with pets or young children should beware, however - this plant is poisonous if ingested, she said.

Oak leaf hydrangea

Though hydrangeas are popular in the summer, the oak leaf hydrangea turns brilliant shades of red, orange, yellow and burgundy in the fall if planted in the sun.

"I love my oak leaf hydrangea in the fall," said Valerie Steil, president of Marc t. Nielsen Interiors in Valparaiso. "It morphs to really rich burgundy reds mixed with green in the leaves. Then the white flower heads turn brown, which I cut and use in my outdoor Christmas garlands. They end up looking like big pinecones in the green garland."

Toad lilies

Tricyrtis, or toad lilies, are great fall bloomers, Pouzar said.

"Flower color is usually white with purple spots, but there are new varieties that are yellow or all white," she said.

Pouzar suggests planting them behind low growing hosts in part shade, as toad lilies will grow about 18 inches tall and arch over the hosts.

"Another variety grows about 36 inches tall with purple and white flowers on the tips of the stems," she said.


Pansies comes in a wide range of colors, offering splashes of pinks, purples, yellows, oranges and white in landscapes.

"They do great in the cool weather as well," Witkowski said. "However, they are only annuals, and are flowers that are usually smaller."

Pansies like sun, and require regular watering.

Highbush blueberry

Highbush blueberry plants are best known for their fruit, which is often eaten by animals like birds and fox. White-tailed deer also enjoy eating the leaves and twigs of this shrub.

Plant in the sun, because in the fall, its leaves turn a beautiful red, Pouzar said.

Little bluestem grasses

Little bluestem grasses vary in color throughout the year and provide another great option for fall color, Witkowski said.

"They can be blue, reddish-brown and some other spectrums during the year," she said.

Little bluestem prefers full sun, and will thrive in various soils as long as they aren't too rich or wet, according to the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Begonia Grandis

The begonia grandis is a great fall-blooming plant, but Pouzar warns it is deer candy. Still, it features pale pink flowers that bloom in clusters through early fall - making it the perfect addition for any gardener missing summer's colors.

"Its leaves are reddish underneath and a beautiful soft green on top," Pouzar said. "It's great in backlit sunlight, and it may be a tender perennial, but if it likes where it is, it reseeds readily and forms large colonies."

Pouzar recommends giving it shade, with only early morning sun or dappled sun during the day - no direct afternoon sun.

"It will tolerate drier soil conditions, but not drought tolerate - it will need watering," she said.

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