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Northeast Regional Reports

Four Favorite Plants for Fall Color

These perennials ring in the season with vivid autumn displays

A patch of beardtongue seed heads, ‘Grey Owl’ juniper (Juniperus virginiana ‘Grey Owl’, Zones 2–9) and fennel (Foeniculum vulgare, Zones 4–9). Photo: Kristin Green

The Northeast’s reputation for extraordinary fall color is well established. We locals are so lucky! We don’t have to travel far to view calico-patterned landscapes of deciduous trees, shrubs, and vines turning leaf by leaf. And when we choose plants based (at least in part) on their fall display, our own gardens will be worthy of a stop on the tour too.

Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis, Zones 3–8) is a full-sun-loving and drought-tolerant native wildflower whose plain green leaves, stems, and seed heads start turning blood red at the end of summer. Did you already deadhead them this year? Next year, after early summer’s 2- to 3-foot spires of pink flowers fade, leave stems standing to allow knobby seed heads to form. Beardtongue self-sows, but spring’s crop of seedlings will be easy to identify and edit.

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