University of Illinois Extension

Fall Garden Color

“Autumn’s first frost does not necessarily mean the end of garden color. Fall gardening can take on a look of its own, one which many gardeners look forward to,” said Susan Grupp, U of I horticulture educator. “Since the entire landscape can’t be maintained at its peak of summer color, consider adding or planting pockets of color to complement nature’s paint brush that has been applied to trees and shrubs in the garden.”

Grupp said traditional fall blooming plants such as mums and asters are good choices but others--pansies, calendulas (pot marigolds), and flowering kales--are available in garden centers in late summer.

“Flowering kale is grown for its colorful foliage and as temperatures cool down, the color intensifies,” she said. “New introductions include ruffled and finely cut--dissected--leaves. All of these plants can be a nice colorful addition to gardens, especially where other plants have withered away.”

If you want mums and asters to over-winter successfully, it’s best to plant them in the spring. This allows enough time to establish root systems. If planted in the fall, the plants may or may not survive the winter months.

“Many other plants that are part of the summer garden can add to the fall look,” she said. “Some sedums develop their flower heads in late summer and last well into fall and even offer fall foliage color. Ornamental grasses take on that fantastic fall dried look with their aging seed heads.”

Transplanting specimen annuals into pots for the patio, deck, and porch is another great way to have fall color.

“Many annuals transplant very well from the ground to pots, including geraniums, celosia, dianthus and many more,” Grupp noted. “Why let frost get the best of your year-long efforts? These potted ‘best of garden’ plants can be protected from frost conditions and extend color into late fall.”