When the cool breeze starts nipping at your nose and the leaves start their gradual shift to warmer hues, you know that fall is just around the corner. While spring and summer are typically the busiest seasons for your flower garden, you have many great options for flowers to plant in fall that can keep your garden vibrant and lively until the first frost hits.
For the best chance at a successful fall floral harvest, preparation is key. After the previous two growing seasons, it’s a good time to take a survey of your garden. Here are some steps you absolutely need to remember before filling your garden with fall flowers:
- Trim back your perennials — Clear away any damaged stalks and dead leaves and tops. Afterward, do some deadheading (removing dead flower heads) to encourage new bud and flower growth after winter. An optional step to preparing your perennials is to develop a labeling system or make a diagram of your garden. This can help you easily identify the plants even when they’re dormant.
- Divide and relocate plants as needed — If any of your plants have outgrown their space, fall is a good time to divide them, as the cool and moist soil can help them get reestablished quickly. If there are any non-hardy bulbs that need winter storage, fall is also the time to bring them in.
- Remove any dead plants and weeds — Check over all your flower, herb, and vegetable gardens for any dead plants, which you can use for compost. However, if the plant was diseased, it’s better to remove it from your property entirely.
- Rake away loose vegetation (e.g. fallen leaves, grass clippings) — Plant debris allows various pests and diseases to lurk amongst your plants, so it’s best to get it off before planting new fall garden flowers.
- Black-eyed Susans — Bright yellow flowers with dark centers that start blooming in mid-summer. Comes in perennial and annual varieties.
- Sunflowers — The iconic vibrant yellow bloom. Also comes in perennial and annual varieties, but the perennials tend to be smaller.
- Sedums — Small, reddish-pink clusters of flowers with succulent leaves. They can do great in areas with dry soil and are reasonably drought-tolerant. Perennial.
- Anise hyssop — A fragrant herb with spikes of pale purple flowers that are great for attracting bees, beetles, and butterflies. Perennial.
- Zinnias — A fast-growing annual flower that can reach blooming age within six to eight weeks. Comes in a range of colors and petal shapes.
- Chrysanthemums — A popular pick among the bulbs to plant in fall. The flowers come in a wide range of colors and shapes. Typically grown as an annual flower.
- Violas — Purple-and-white flowers that are very cold-tolerant. A great choice if you want to see color in your garden even after a dusting of snow.
- Ornamental cabbages and kale — Large, leafy, rose-shaped heads that come in cream, white, purple, and red. Technically edible, although they’re more bitter than their non-ornamental cousins.
The first step to starting seeds for your fall flower garden is preparing the soil like you would for any other season. Remove grass and weeds, either by using herbicide or doing soil solarization in the summer. Clear the area of any debris, then loosen the soil slightly with a tiller or a hand tool. Cover it with a layer of compost and you’re ready for planting. Consult the seed packet for instructions on your particular seeds.
Research is the name of the game when it comes to figuring out what fall flowers to plant. This will depend heavily on what region you live in. Fall is in close proximity to winter, so you should always be cautious of when the first frost for your USDA Hardiness Zone is.
You typically want to plant well in advance of the first frost. Working with flowers from a nursery that are already blooming will give you a bit more leeway. However, if you want to ensure maximum blooming time before winter, your fall flowers should be seeded by late spring or transplanted by mid-summer.
If you want to harvest your flowers, you should familiarize yourself with their optimal bloom stage, which varies from flower to flower. Harvesting cut flowers is best done during cooler temperatures, which can be any time of the day during fall weather. You’ll need a bucket of cool water and clean, sharp shears. Simply cut the flower stem at a 45-degree angle and place it in the water bucket. Afterward, remove any leaves below water level.
If you’re interested in harvesting seeds to use for the next growing season, wait until the flowers are done blooming. Cut the flower heads off and collect the seeds. You can place them on wax paper and leave them to dry for a week. Then, remove any husks or pods. Store them in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.
- Plan out your fall garden early, as the biggest selection of seeds is available during spring and summer.
- The weather may not be as hot as summer, but that doesn’t mean you can skip out entirely on watering. If your area doesn’t get enough rain, ensure that you water your existing plants regularly until the ground freezes. New plants will also need plenty of water until they establish their roots.
- Don’t use fertilizer on your perennials, as it can cause them to devote their energy to new growth instead of buckling down for winter. This can leave them more vulnerable to damage. Instead, use mulch and compost to insulate their roots and provide a slow and steady supply of nutrients.
Don’t restrict yourself to a garden that blooms only in the spring and summer. Flowers that bloom in fall can be a bright spot in your garden even with winter looming on the horizon. Now that you’ve made it through this guide, you have all you need to know for starting a vibrant fall garden of your own!