Design

Great Plants: Seasonal Stars of Autumn

If you think fall gardening is limited to containers of mums and asters, think again. There are plenty of other plants that don’t like to show off their colors until temperatures drop. Then you always have to consider trees, shrubs, and ornamental grasses that offer spectacular foliage display during these months.

We have a wealth of information on fall plantings across our website, but we wanted to showcase some of our favorite fall plants right here. Some of these are interesting varieties of fall classics, while others are underused stars that you might not have seen before. All will bring your fall garden from dull to dazzling.

If you’re looking for more information on any of these plants, click through to the original article or collection the plant appeared in.

Arkansas bluestar

Arkansas blue star

Name: Amsonia hubrichtii

Zones: 5–8

This plant looks great in spring and summer, but the real show starts in fall when it morphs into an electric yellow mass.

Originally appeared in Let’s Argue About Plants, Episode 13: Fall Color Favorites

 

‘Prinz Heinrich’ Japanese anemone

Prinz Heinrich Japanese Anemone
Photo: millettephotomedia.com

Name: Anemone hupehensis var. japonica ‘Prinz Heinrich’, syn. ‘Prince Henry’

Zones: 5–8

‘Prinz Heinrich’ is among the longest-blooming varieties of Japanese anemone, offering two months of blossoms from September into November.

Originally appeared in Regional Picks Collection: Unusual Autumn Stars (Southern Plains)

 

Summer gentian

summer gentian

Name: Gentiana septemfida

Zones: 4–7

Don’t let its name fool you—summer gentian starts blooming in late summer right through fall and will add a pop of blue to a sea of orange, yellow, and red.

Originally appeared in Favorite Plants of Fall

 

Witch hazel

Witch hazel
Photo: Doreen Wynja for Monrovia

Name: Hamamelis virginiana

Zones: 3–8

In fall, four narrow, spidery, straplike petals emerge a bright yellow and in fragrant clusters that cover the branches. Flowering can begin as early as September or as late as December.

Originally appeared in Autumn Flowering Trees

 

‘Scarlet Belle’ pitcher plant

Scarlet Belle Pitcher Plant
Photo: Joshua McCullough

Name: Sarracenia × ‘Scarlet Belle’

Zones: 5–10

The flowers are otherworldly, with intense summer color that becomes unbelievably red when colder weather arrives. The pitchers will remain upright until snow breaks them down.

Originally appeared in Late Season Wonders for Each Region of the U.S. (Southeast)

 

‘Bolero’ garden mum

‘Bolero’ garden mum
Photo: courtesy of Millette Photos

Name: Chrysanthemum ‘Bolero’

Zones: 5–9

An alternative to standard fall mums, these plants are bigger, better, and hardier.

Originally appeared in Let’s Argue About Plants, Episode 46: Lesser-known Fall Stars

 

‘Crossfield Ebony’ dahlia

‘Crossfield Ebony’ Dahlia
Photo: Melissa Lucas

Name: Dahlia ‘Crossfield Ebony’

Zones: 9–11

Dahlias are fantastic plants for your cutting garden and fall floral arrangements, and the deep red of ‘Crossfield Ebony’ is a classic of the cooler months.

Originally appeared in Fall Is for Flowers

 

‘Gilt Edge’ toad lily

Gilt Edge Toad Lily
Photo: Joshua McCullough

Name: Tricyrtis formosana ‘Gilt Edge’

Zones: 5–8

The clusters of tiny star-shaped flowers that emerge in early to midfall make this deciduous perennial a true standout.

Originally appeared in Regional Picks Collection: Unusual Autumn Stars (Northwest)

 

Cinnamon clethra

Cinnamon clethra
Photo: William Cullina

Name: Clethra acuminata

Zones: 5–8

In early summer, long, slender racemes composed of small ivory flowers appear, then give way to peppercorn-shaped seed capsules that swoop out from the branch tips in fall. About the same time, lance-shaped leaves become a glowing golden yellow.

Originally appeared in Showy Shrubs for Fall

 

American beautyberry

American beautyberry
Photo: Karen Beaty

Name: Callicarpa americana

Zones: 5–10

Not only are the clusters of purple berries that appear in fall beautiful, but they also feed local wildlife.

Originally appeared in Let’s Argue About Plants, Episode 72: Blooms for Fall

 

‘Northwind’ switchgrass

‘Northwind’ switchgrass
Photo: Andy Pulte

Name: Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’

Zones: 5–9

Ornamental grasses were made for autumn. They positively glow with the low setting sun of fall. Plant them where they catch the setting sunlight behind them.

Originally appeared in Caring for Ornamental Grasses in the Fall

 

Franklin tree

Franklin tree
Photo: Bill Johnson

Name: Franklinia alatamaha

Zones: 6–9

In late summer, the silky, round white buds form and soon open to flat-faced, 4-to-5-inch-wide flowers with a golden yellow center. In fall, the narrow leaves turn a brilliant fire-engine red.

Originally appeared in Autumn Flowering Trees

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