Fall has arrived and this means it's time for late-blooming flowers that will fill your yard with color and joy. The best idea is to plan so the flowering season doesn't come to a stop but instead summer color gradually segues into a fall display. This way once temperatures start to cool down you won't be left with gaps to fill.
Think about the color palette too and choose flowers that fit with the season to complement the backstory of fall foliage. With so many red leaves prevalent you may find that deep pink and red blooms work best, or alternatively yellow and orange to tie in with more burnished golden foliage tints. Or maybe even mix up the two.
As well as reliable choices there are some surprises too. Who knew that there are varieties of garden classics like roses and camellias that flower right until the end of the fall season and in some cases into winter. Here's our selection of the best 5 things to plant in October to make sure your modern garden blooms now.
1. Gaura lindheimeri
USDA growing zone: 5-9
Height: 2-3 feet
These pretty perennials with their tall wands of star-shaped flowers add non-stop color to brighten your flower beds from spring right into late fall. They are easy to care for, drought tolerant, and butterflies love their eye-catching blooms in shades of pink, red and white. The dark green foliage looks good too and is useful for filling gaps in flowerbeds.
Late-blooming gaura suits naturalistic planting schemes in cottage gardens or informal flowerbeds, and can also be used as a tall 'thriller' in containers and patio planters. They don't need fancy soil but they do like full sun to reach their full potential. If you live in a cooler climate you can grow gaura as an annual.
They like good air circulation too and not being crowded out by surrounding plants. It's also a good idea to snip off any spent blooms to encourage more flowers right through the fall season. You can find gaura seeds on Amazon.
2. Gomphrena globasa (Globe amaranth)
USDA growing zones: 9-11
Height: 1-2 feet
This pretty flower blooms from early summer through first frost, so it's a great choice for the fall garden. Its easy-care and non-fussy nature makes it a go-to addition for either flowerbeds or containers planted for late-season interest.
'Lots of tiny flowers cluster together to make rounded inflorescences that rise above the lower foliage,' explains horticulturalist Jenny Rose Carey. 'Flowers are available in bright magenta, soft pink, lilac, strawberry-red or cream.' Jenny suggests planting them massed together, or intermingled with celosia or zinnia flowers.
The bright blooms of these sun lovers make it one of the best plants to attract butterflies and should be planted in full sun for the best results.
3. Shrub rose
USDA growing zones: 3-10
Height: 2-9 feet
Roses are much hardier plants than you think. Hardy shrub roses (also called landscape roses) bloom all season from summer well into fall and the first frosts, providing plenty of color and fragrance in the cooler days of autumn.
Many types of repeat blooming roses get an especially beautiful flush of blooms in October and November, particularly if you live, for example, in a warmer climate like California. They are ideal in a naturalistic planting scheme, used as informal hedging, or planted up in large pots for supersize container gardening.
'The repeat flowering nature of roses will see them provide color, blooms and contrast in your garden right through to November,' say the experts at David Austen Roses. 'For an extra autumnal twist pick shades of orange and apricot.'
In order to initiate a flush of bigger and better blooms in the fall, the end of summer is a great time to do some fall pruning of repeat blooming shrub roses. The idea is to cut long, whippy stems shorter, and remove any twiggy growth. The only reason not to do this would be if you live in a hot climate as it could stress the plant, or if it's a newly planted bush.
4. Fuchsia 'Autumnale'
USDA growing zones: 8-11
Height: 12 inches
This beautiful, trailing fuchsia variety has slender deep rose-red pendant flowers with purple petals. It blooms reliably into late fall and first frosts. The gracefully arching foliage turns coppery red with tinges of gold late in the season too, adding another dimension to the many attributes of this pretty plant.
It's ideal for growing in flower beds, or in containers that can be overwintered in a cool garage. Try growing this trailing variety in hanging baskets to show it off best. Grow in moist but well-drained potting compost, in full sun to partial shade. It's also a good idea to keep it away from hot, dry locations that receive direct afternoon sun.
Bees and butterflies love this fuchsia variety too, while it's also one of the best flowers for hummingbirds, bringing wildlife interest to your backyard in fall.
5. Camellia sasanqua
US growing zone: 7-9
Height: up to 14 feet
As summer fades and fall gets underway the blooms of these autumn flowering beauties are a real highlight, flowering right into midwinter, depending on your local climate. They are a go-to for things to plant in October to make sure your backyard is filled with blooms and color.
If you are a small space gardener choose a cultivar like 'October Magic Ruby' as a pretty specimen shrub. This compact little plant can be kept easily in outdoor containers as a hardy option that thrives year after year. Growing just 3-4 feet tall and spreading 4-5 feet in width, it fits easily into any small-sized yard or container garden. Place them on your porch or keep them on a balcony as a lush accent.
'You'll be entranced by the contrast between the vivid pom-pom flowers and the super glossy evergreen foliage,' say the team at Nature Hills online plant nursery. 'Snip both regularly during the late fall to winter bloom time for cut flowers indoors. This special low-growing cultivar delivers a delightful show of fully double, ruby red blooms through the late season when your landscape needs it most.'
What is the best thing to plant in a container in October?
The best thing to plant in a container in October is traditional autumn plants like cyclamen, chrysanthemums, pansies, violas, and heathers. Combine these with ornamental grasses such as Panicum, Miscanthus and Pennisetum, or trailing evergreen ivy. All these varieties are cold hardy and perfect for adding an instant pop of color, texture and foliage.
October is also the time for planting spring-flowering bulbs like narcissus, crocus and hyacinths in flower beds and window boxes. You can layer bulbs up in the same pots as your autumn plants to keep seasonal interest going over several months, or alternatively plant them separately.
Another good choice is beautiful winter flowering shrubs like Skimmia and Viburnum tinus, either as specimen plants or together with your autumn plants and spring-flowering bulbs. Choose small-sized plants that can be transferred to the yard later if they become too big for the pot.
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Lifestyle journalist Sarah Wilson has been writing about flowers, plants, and garden design and trends since 2015. Having already studied introductory garden and landscape design as well as a course in floristry she is currently adding to her list of qualifications with an RHS Level 2 course in the Principles of Plant Growth and Development. In addition to livingetc.com, she's also written for homesandgardens.com, gardeningetc.com, Modern Gardens and Country Homes & Interiors magazines.
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