Walk into your local garden nursery in October and you’ll see plenty of spring-flowering bulbs for sale to be planted in fall. But live plants? It would seem that the only choice for flowers in fall is potted chrysanthemums. Oh, what a limited palette! It wasn’t until a friend gifted me a native chrysanthemum that went wild in my garden that I truly learned what marvelous colors can be maintained in the flower garden throughout fall until first frost.
Spring or Fall Bloom?
Most gardeners quickly learn what blooms first in their spring garden: Crocus, Daffodils, Tulips, Hyacinths, Snowdrops, Hellebores, Phlox, Bleeding Hearts, and the like. What is more perplexing to new gardeners is finding the perfect fall-blooming flowers and other plants that will add color until snowfalls and hard freezes arrive. We always get the wakeup call at some point when those beautiful flower beds of July have turned bare and brown in October. But there are plenty of annuals and perennials which are just beginning to bloom as the days get shorter in fall.
What you may not know is that many flowers that bloom in early spring, like Pansies and Violets, can also be enjoyed in your garden or as container plants in fall – they’re known as cool weather plants and are equally at home on either side of summer. You should also consider native perennial shrubs with showy fall berries, like American Beautyberry, Holly, Northern Bayberry, American Cranberry, and certain species of Viburnum (some species of Viburnum also hold their foliage deep into winter).
The chart below shows a selection of flowers that bloom in fall, defined as August through October, which can sometimes push into November. Naturally, bloom time varies depending on where you live – fall in Minnesota is radically different than fall in Texas, as are the species that bloom in those regions. There are definitely more choices than we’ve listed here. If we missed your favorite fall-blooming annuals or perennials, please let us know in the comments below and we’ll add it to the chart!
P.S.: Fall is the best season to plant trees and shrubs, due to its cool weather and soil still warm from summer.
Fall-Blooming Annuals and Perennials
|Flower||Comments||USDA Hardiness Zones|
|Aster (multiple varieties)||Perennial with daisy-like flowers in white, pale blue, and pink. Cultivars typically grow 18 -36 inches tall and include Blue Star, Esther, New England Aster, Golden Spray, and Pink Cloud.||3-8|
|Autumn Crocus||Conqueror Crocus is a fall blooming crocus with beautiful, rich violet blue blooms with bright orange anthers. Spreads by seeds or divisions. 3-5″ tall.||4-8||More: National Gardening Association|
|Boltonia (multiple varieties)||Boltonias are members of the aster family. White or purple flowers are about 1 inch in diameter. Snowbank is a recommended cultivar that has a controlled growth habit or Boltonia asteroides, also known as False Aster.||3-10||More: Fine Gardening|
|Calico Aster Aster lateriflorus||Blooms September through October. Grows 2‐3 feet tall and flower colors are white with pink rosy centers, located on sides of stems. Calico Aster attracts butterflies and is usually deer resistant.||4-8||More: North Carolina Extension|
|California fuchsia Epilobium canum||Shrubby green or grayish plant with many branches with brilliant red, trumpet-shaped flowers blooming near ends. Related to the popular ornamental Fuchsias. The bright scarlet flowers produce nectar, supplying hummingbirds with food for the start of their southward migration.||8-10||More: USDA|
|Canadian Burnet Sanguisorba canadensis||Blooms through October. 2‐3’ tall with small, feathery white flowers in spikes 4‐6” long. Good for meadows, bogs, and wet areas.||4-8||More: Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center|
|Celosia aka cockscombs (multiple varieties)||The old-timey annual that grew prolifically in grandma’s garden. Many varieties with a large selection of colors.||Perennial in zones 9-11. Annuals all other zones.||More: All America Selections|
|Chocolate White Snakeroot Eupatorium Rugosum ‘Chocolate’||Blooms in September and October. Grows 3-5 feet tall with white flowers on purplish stems. Attracts butterflies.||3-9||More: Mt. Cuba Center|
|Chrysanthemums (not Daisy types – many varieties)||Many varieties in many colors. Choose natives Chrysanthemums that will overwinter in your garden and return year after year.||5-9||More: New York Botanical Garden|
|Colchicums Colchicum spp. aka Autumn Crocus||Leaves emerge in early spring and die back by early summer. White to pink to purple crocus-like flowers appear without foliage in late summer or fall. Look best under large trees and shrubs, in rock gardens, or among low-growing groundcovers such as sedum.||5-9||More: American Horticultural Society (page 18)|
|Fall Blooming Camellias||Autumn Camellias flower from mid-October to as late as January, depending upon weather patterns, with heaviest bloom period from mid-October until Thanksgiving. Colors range from white through shades of pink with a few red varieties, and single to double flower forms. Lightly scented.||6-9||More: American Camellia Society|
|Flowering / Ornamental Cabbage and Kale||The coloration in ornamental kale and cabbage is not from a flower but from the red, purple and white color foliage. The colors intensify as the weather gets colder and usually lasts through the end of December.||2-11 (best performance in cool zones)||More: University of Wisconsin Extension|
|Frikart’s aster Aster x frikartii||Lavender blue, daisy-like blooms with yellow centers on 3-foot stems.||5-9|
|Goldenrod (Solidago hybrids)||Many species in this genus and most are native to North America. Goldenrod is available in various shades of clear to golden-yellow blooms and does not cause allergic reactions, contrary to popular belief. Blooms open in summer and persist through the fall. Cultivars range from 1 to 6 feet tall.||3-8||More: Edible Wild Food|
|Hummingbird Mint (Anise Hyssop)||Various cultivars of Hummingbird Mint are available with flowers ranging from white to almost red. Most cultivars grow between 18-30 inches high and bloom through October. Foliage and flowers are fragrant and attract many beneficial insects. Drought hardy.||5-10||More: University Of Wisconsin Master Gardener|
|Japanese Anemone Anemone hupehensis||Japanese Anemones feature 2-3 inch blooms in various shades of pink or white which loft above a 2-4 foot mound of foliage. Grows best in shade.||4-7|
|Joe Pye Weed Eutrochium purpureum||Perennial with 8″ dusky pink and purplish flower heads and leathery green leaves. Attracts butterflies. Reaches heights of 6 feet. Blooms July through September, just edging into the criteria for fall blooming.||4-9||More: Grow Native|
|New York Aster, Michaelmas Daisy||New York Asters feature violet-purple blooms, but there are also white, red, and pink cultivars available. Grows to 3 feet tall and wide.||4-8||More: USDA|
|Pineapple Sage Salvia elegans||Noted for the pineapple aroma and flavor of its foliage when crushed. Shrubby, tender perennial features two-lipped bright scarlet red flowers (to 1” long), in loose whorls, which bloom on terminal spikes to 8” long into fall. Attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.||8-10|
|Pink Chaparral Currant Ribes malvaceum||Five-foot deciduous shrub with pink flower clusters blooms October through March (winter-blooming). Pink Chaparral Currant has fragrant flowers with a red, edible currant.||7b-10||More: Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center|
|Sedum / Stonecrop||A perennial succulent. Hundreds of varieties with flowers in a wide range of colors. “Autumn Joy” blooms well into fall.||4-9||More: Gardenia Growing Gardens|
|Showy crocus, Autumn crocus Crocus speciosus||Flowers bloom in late September or October. Plant height is approximately 5 to 6 inches. Best varieties include ‘Albus,’ which produces white flowers, ‘Cassiope’ with aster-blue flowers with yellow bases, ‘Conqueror’ with deep blue flowers, and ‘Oxonian’ with large, dark blue flowers.||3-10||More: Daves Garden|
|Sneezeweed Helenium autumnale||Erect, clump-forming, perennial typically grows 3-5′ tall. Clusters of daisy-like flowers (2″ diameter) with wedge-shaped, bright yellow rays and prominent, dome-like, yellow center disks. Flowers appear over a lengthy late summer to autumn (sometimes to first frost).||3-9|
|Toad lily Tricyrtis||Perennial for partial shade and moist soil. Clusters of pale, orchid-like flowers bloom from mid to late September until frost. Flowers are covered with pink, red, or purple dots. Grows up to 3 feet.||4-9||More: University Of Wisconsin Master Gardener Program|
- University of Vermont Extension
- University of Maryland Extension
- University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture
- Iowa State University
- University of California Master Gardeners
- Purdue University