Spring Planting for Autumn Color

Published On: November 11th, 2023


Anemone-September-Charm-Heydens-Gardens

Most gardeners do their plant shopping in the spring or summer and tend to purchase and bring home plants that are blooming or looking great at the time of their visit. This means that a lot of very worthy fall blooming plants are consistently passed over because they are in their glory in the autumn, when the garden center is quiet. A bit of planning will get these autumn beauties into your garden so that fall in your garden can be as satisfying as spring and summer. Consider adding a few of these fall showstoppers to your garden in spring. Spring planting means that they will have the entire growing season to get established and develop a healthy root system so – come fall – they can be their spectacular best.

Օ = Full Sun

Ø = Partial Shade

Perennials

Blue Star (Amsonia) Օ

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The golden foliage makes this one look as great in October as it does in May! Our favorites are the hybrid selections ‘Halfway to Arkansas’ and ‘Midway to Montana’.

Windflower (Anemone) Օ-Ø

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Pink or white blossoms on tall wiry stems in September/October.

Aster (Aster) Օ

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Daisy-like flowers in a tremendous range of colors, on plants ranging from 12”-48” tall.  Our favorite is A. oblongifolius  ‘October Skies’. Learn More

Montrose White Catmint (Calamintha) Օ

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A mass of airy white flowers from July through hard frost (added bonus: the rabbits & deer won’t touch it!). Learn More

‘Hot Lips’ Turtlehead (Chelone) Ø

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Spikes of hooded pink flowers for many weeks in autumn held above glossy foliage that remains attractive right up until hard frost.

Hardy “Mums” (Dendranthemum) Օ

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Yes – there are truly hardy fall blooming “mums”, the best of which we believe are the ‘Mammoth’ series, which are reliably hardy and produce abundant flowers on a dense, compact plant with no need for pinching.

Fairy Candles/Bugbane (Cimicifuga) Ø

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Tall spires of fragrant, white bottlebrush-like flowers in autumn. Dark leaf forms are particularly stunning, when combined with yellow or chartreuse foliage in the shade garden.

Sweet Autumn Clematis Օ – Ø

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Masses of tiny fragrant white flowers in fall. A fast and vigorous grower that needs a large structure for support. Learn More

Joe-Pye-Weed (Eupatorium) Օ

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Mauve to raspberry colored flowers on tall stems in early autumn.  A valuable late season nectar source for butterflies and often covered with them.

Big Root Geranium (Geranium macrorrhizum) Ø

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A spring bloomer that bears mentioning here for its pristine, slug-resistant foliage, which turns bright red in fall. Bonus : the rabbits & deer won’t eat it either!  A great groundcover plant for difficult shaded sites! Learn More

Rozanne Geranium (Geranium ‘Gerwat’) Օ – Ø

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Perhaps the longest blooming perennial! Blue cup-like flowers all summer, right up to hard frost (this photo taken in November).

Ornamental Grasses Օ

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The fluffy plumes of Miscanthus are the show-stealers but all the grasses look fabulous in the autumn. Calamogrostis ‘Brachytricha’, the lesser-known cousin of the ever popular ‘Karl Foerster’ is an autumn garden favorite. Learn More

Hibiscus (Rose Mallow) Օ

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Huge dinner plate-sized flowers in a wide range of colors are a great send-off to the gardening season. It’s difficult to believe that anything this tropical looking can be hardy in Wisconsin (…but it is)! Learn More

Yellow Waxbells (Kirengeshoma) Ø

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A shrub-like perennial with large showy maple-like foliage and heavy waxy yellow buds that open to hanging yellow bells in September and October. Learn More

Montauk Daisy (Nipponanthemum) Օ

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A large, shrub-like perennial with succulent green foliage topped in late autumn by abundant daisy flowers.

Russian Sage (Perovskia) Օ

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Powder blue flowers over silver foliage. Highly scented silvery foliage is unattractive to deer & rabbits.

Fall Blooming Sedum (Sedum) Օ

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Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ and similar cultivars are classic signs of autumn in the flower border. Extremely popular for good reason. Combines beautifully with ornamental grasses.

Toad Lily (Tricyrtis) Ø

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Valued for its orchid-like flowers and late season of bloom. Plant this one close to a pathway or patio as the exotic flowers deserve close observation.

Ironweed (Vernonia) Օ

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The cultivar ‘Iron Butterfly’ produces masses of purple flowers atop compact, needle-like foliage in fall. Pollinator Magnet. Staff Favorite!

Shrubs

Serviceberry (Amelanchier) Օ – Ø

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White flowers in spring followed by fruit that the birds love. Beautiful in all seasons, including in its striking golden fall foliage.

Chokeberry (Aronia) Օ – Ø

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Knock-your-socks-off flaming red and orange fall color. Learn More

‘Early Amethyst’ Beautyberry (Callicarpa) Օ – Ø

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Glossy vibrant purple fruit clusters that are so spectacular that we’ve had customers ask if they are real! Learn More

Musclewood (Carpinus caroliniana) Օ – Ø

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An underutilized native small tree/large shrub that has much to offer in all seasons but is a real standout in the autumn gardens for its brilliant multicolored fall foliage.

Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) Ø

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A Wisconsin woodland native shrub that bears unusual thread-like yellow flowers in late fall.

Seven Son Flower (Heptacodium) Օ – Ø

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Fragrant white flowers in late summer (pollinator magnet!) followed by a second show in autumn produced by the red calyces once the petals drop. Learn More

Northern Lights series Azaleas (Rhododendron Northern Lights series) Օ – Ø

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Developed in Minnesota for cold hardiness. Showy flowers in spring. The burgundy/red fall foliage color is a bonus!

Hardy Shrub Roses (Rosa cvs.) Օ

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Many of the newer introductions of shrub roses will bloom reliably throughout the entire growing season, right up until frost. Learn More

Coralberry (Symphoricarpos) Օ – Ø

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Clusters of highly decorative coral/pink flowers in fall.

Dwarf Korean Lilac (Syringa meyeri ‘Palibin’) Օ

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Fragrant flowers in spring, disease resistant foliage, compact rounded habit, AND purple/red fall color. What more can you ask of a shrub?