Facebook LinkedIn Email Pinterest Twitter Instagram YouTube Icon Navigation Search Icon Main Search Icon Video Play Icon Audio Play Icon Headphones Icon Plus Icon Minus Icon Check Icon Print Icon Note Icon Heart Icon Filled Heart Icon Single Arrow Icon Double Arrow Icon Hamburger Icon TV Icon Close Icon Sorted Hamburger/Search Icon
Midwest Regional Reports

A Trio of Terrific Late-Season Perennials for the Midwest

These plants pack intense color and interest well into late fall

The cool blues of ‘Arendsii’ azure monkshood contrast sharply with hot-colored late-season bloomers such as black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta, Zones 3–9). Photo: Mark Dwyer

As we leave the dog days of summer behind and start to consider autumn tasks in our gardens, it’s always refreshing to see extended color in the landscape. Transitioning autumn colors in our deciduous woody plants will certainly start to steal the show, but prior to the first hard frosts there are still some other hints of color we can enjoy from our perennials. Some of the latest bloomers will fade with short days and cool nights, while these same conditions will spur other perennials to develop gorgeous late-season coloration. Below is a trio of exciting perennials that provide their primary moment of impact late in the growing season after many others have finished their contributions and are distant memories.

‘Single Korean Apricot’ blooms with such a profusion of flowers that you might miss its shiny foliage. Photo: Mark Dwyer
‘Single Korean Apricot’ blooms with such a profusion of flowers that you might miss its shiny foliage. Photo: Mark Dwyer

‘Hillside Sheffield Pink’ garden mum

Chrysanthemum ‘Hillside Sheffield Pink’

Zones: 5–9

Mature height: 2 to 3 feet tall

Conditions: Full sun; moist, well-drained soil

This mum is the latest perennial to bloom in my home garden in southern Wisconsin. It starts flowering in late September and continues through October while ignoring light frosts. A hard frost will end its season, but the arrival of later frosts will allow it to bloom well into November with multitudes of apricot-pink, single blooms with yellow centers above attractive, shiny foliage. Preferring moist but well-drained soils, this plant is humidity and drought tolerant and is also pest and disease resistant. It makes a wonderful cut flower as well. This plant combines well with shorter perennial grasses such as prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis, Zones 4–9) and autumn moor grass (Sesleria autumnalis, Zones 5–9).

‘Arendsii’ azure monkshood is a perfect candidate for meadowscaping. Photo: Mark Dwyer
‘Arendsii’ azure monkshood is a perfect candidate for meadowscaping. Photo: Mark Dwyer

‘Arendsii’ azure monkshood

Aconitum carmichaelii ‘Arendsii’, Zones 3–7

Mature height: 3 to 4 feet tall

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; moist, rich, well-drained soil

Hailing from central China, this tall, late bloomer (October in Wisconsin) offers the deepest of blues on dense panicles of hooded flowers. Moist, organically rich, and well-drained soil is ideal. It’s also deer and rabbit resistant. All parts of this plant are very poisonous, so wear gloves when working with it. This plant blooms through light frost and rarely needs staking due to thick stems, and its glossy, deep green, lobed foliage adds an ornamental touch as well. Consider using this perennial in spots where the elevated blue flowers will really be evident and effective.

This stunning grass deepens in color the further into fall it grows. Photo: Mark Dwyer
This stunning grass deepens in color the further into fall it grows. Photo: Mark Dwyer

‘Dancing Wind’ big bluestem

Andropogon gerardii ‘Dancing Wind’, Zones 4–9

Mature height: 5 to 6 feet tall

Conditions: Full sun; well-drained soil

This upright and drought-tolerant native grass was introduced by Brent Horvath of Intrinsic Perennials in Hebron, Illinois. ‘Dancing Wind’ big bluestem caught my eye from a great distance at the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, Illinois, a couple years ago in early October. The foliage was a brilliant scarlet red—beautiful from a distance and even more so upon closer inspection. The red accents start in summer, intensify in fall, and reach their peak right before the first hard frost. This is an amazing selection and looks good in groupings as well as in mixed beds, borders, and naturalistic plantings.

For more great plant picks going into fall, check out articles on late-season interest and late-season wonders for the Midwest.

—Mark Dwyer, former director of horticulture at Rotary Botanical Gardens in Janesville, Wisconsin, operates Landscape Prescriptions by MD.

View Comments

Comments

Log in or create an account to post a comment.

Related Articles

The Latest

Magazine Cover

Take your passion for plants to the next level

Subscribe today and save up to 44%

"As a recently identified gardening nut I have tried all the magazines and this one is head and shoulders above the pack."

Video

View All

We hope you’ve enjoyed your free articles. To keep reading, become a member today.

Get complete site access to decades of expert advice, regional content, and more, plus the print magazine.

Start your FREE trial