Beyond Mums: The 10 Best and Brilliant Fall Perennials To Spice Up The Landscape
We do all we can to extend the seasonal interest in our garden; really, we don't want the flowers ever to stop blooming! There are so many visually appealing and exciting fall perennial plants, shrubs, and flowers to choose from; we miss a huge opportunity for color and variety if we don't include these autumn plants. Plus, planting fall perennials is crucial to support our local butterfly, bee, and pollinator insect populations. Fall perennials are an essential element of every landscape design, but all too often we get caught up planting the same things years after year. It's time to increase garden diversity and try some new phenomenal fall perennial plants.
Think past the classic pretty, but also rather basic, mums, which seem to be the go-to autumn flower. There is so much more out there for late-blooming plants! This list of fall perennials isn't just about blooming flowers; there are plants with much more to offer than flower blooms. The fall foliage of many perennials is equally as attractive as the flowers, and in some cases, more so.
- Four Reasons To Plant Fall-Blooming Perennials
- Tips For Creating A Successful and Attractive Fall Landscape
- Top 10 Fall Perennials
- 1. Stonecrop (Sedum sp.)
- 2. Japanese Anemone (Anemone x or Anemone hupehensis var.)
- 3. Turtle Heads (Chelone sp.)
- 4. Hardy Begonias (Begonia grandis)
- 5. Autumn Crocus (Colchicum sp.)
- 6. Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium sp.)
- 7. Tickseed (Coreopsis sp)
- 8. Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)
- 9. Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)
- 10. Sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale)
Four Reasons To Plant Fall-Blooming Perennials
- Many pollinators struggle to find sufficient food sources after the summer flowers fade. Planting late-blooming perennials ensures that these essential insects and birds have adequate food sources. Also, pollinators that know they can rely on finding flowers on your land are
more likely to stick around or return the following year.
- As the weather gets cooler and winter looms around the corner, fall-blooming perennials keep our spirits high. If the landscape is filled with dying-off summer-blooming flowers, it creates a drab, unhappy appearance. Not only is it not pretty, but also it isn't good for our mental health.
- Some of these perennials, like Sedum, will keep their attractive foliage throughout the winter, even in places where snow falls. These little pockets of lovely, happy plants stick out in the gray winter landscape, adding a much-needed layer of color.
- Perennials return yearly with little effort on your part, and their maintenance needs are generally low. Planting perennials is almost a no-brainer for creating a landscape with year-round seasonal interest.
Tips For Creating A Successful and Attractive Fall Landscape
Start early. Many late-flowering perennials need a head start to get established. This is especially important for those being grown from seed. Start in the spring for the best success.
The key to prolonging the flowers of many late-summer through fall bloomers is to deadhead the plants continuously. Deadheading is simply removing the spent (dead) flowers from the plant so it will focus on producing more blooms. Consistent deadheading extends the bloom time of most perennials, sometimes for several weeks or months.
Top 10 Fall Perennials
1. Stonecrop (Sedum sp.)
With hundreds of Sedums to choose from, it is an adventure to choose just the right one for your space. Not all Sedum are fall-blooming, and they vary widely in size and height, so be sure to do your research before selecting one (or ten!). The great thing about Sedums is that they are the ideal low-maintenance, carefree perennial for the garden and have attractive foliage and flowers. Sedum has succulent leaves that are fleshy, glossy, and change color through the seasons. In fact, as seasons change, the foliage develops deeper, richer shades, transforming any space it inhabits. Stonecrop is disease-resistant, heat-tolerant, and is rarely bothered by deer or rabbits. Hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies all appreciate Stonecrop flowers. Hardy to zones 4-9. These are some of our favorite fall-blooming Sedum varieties:
- "Autumn Joy" is appropriately named! The green and white variegated leaves don't disappoint, plus the light-pink, long-blooming, star-shaped flowers are irresistible. This variety averages 14-18" tall and grows in dense clumps.
- "Beach Party" Sedum forms dense broccoli-shaped flower heads in fall filled with lush light-pink flowers. The foliage is an attractive yellow-green color, and in spring, it develops beautiful burgundy red edges. "Beach Party" grows 10-14" tall.
- "Cherry Truffle" starts out with bicolor green and dark-purple leaves, which in fall turn to a deep purple-black. The bright pink flowers grow on multi-branched stems above the foliage. Grows 16-18" tall.
- "Desert Red" produces deep-rose colored flowers in late summer, which contrast stunningly against the small bluish-green leaves. After blooming, bright cherry-red seed heads form, which are just as attractive, if not more so, than the actual flowers. This variety is a vivid pop of color in an otherwise bland landscape. The foliage changes to a deep purplish-green in the fall, as well. Averages 6-8" tall.
- "Matrona" is an award-winning Stonecrop variety with star-shaped pale pink and white flowers with bright pink centers. A real knockout! The leaves are reddish-green with dark-ruby edges, and the stems are deep burgundy-red.
Get seeds and plants from: Amazon, Etsy.
2. Japanese Anemone (Anemone x or Anemone hupehensis var.)
A delightful pink fall-blooming perennial, Japanese Anemone is a must in the landscape when most folks are starting to decorate with pumpkins and gourds. There are many Anemone species, and the Japanese ones are the only fall-blooming type; most are spring-bloomers. Japanese Anemones have been cultivated for hundreds of years, and there is a lot to choose from. Most cultivars feature pink, white, or purple 4-6 petaled flowers, but there are also semi-double and double blooms to choose from, some with over 30 petals and brilliant showiness. A large golden-yellow center stamen offsets each flower. Japanese Anemone flowers bloom from late summer into fall and often remain in bloom for upwards of 8 weeks. The flowers grow on tall, slender stems above the dark-green foliage, swaying in the breeze like sweet, colorful dancers. Hardy to zones 5-8. A few particularly outstanding Anemone cultivars:
- "Pocahontas" produces bubblegum pink double blooms in prolific numbers. Plants grow 12-18" tall and look stunning as a border, garden accent, or container flower.
- "September Charm" is an absolute charmer with its abundant silvery-pink flowers and brilliant yellow centers. This cultivar grows 3-4 feet tall.
- “Honorine Jobert” features showy pure-white flowers with contrasting bright golden-yellow centers. This French cultivar from 1858 grows 3-4 feet tall.
- “Konigin (Queen) Charlotte” has light-pink semi-double flowers that add a sweet delicacy to the flower garden. Plants grow 2-3 feet tall.
- "Bressingham Glow" flowers are deep-pink semi-double blooms that are larger than most others. A cultivar from 1968, this remains a top favorite due to the distinctive color. Grows 2-3 feet tall.
3. Turtle Heads (Chelone sp.)
The two-lipped hooded flowers of this native eastern species oddly resemble turtle heads poking out from the shell. Turtle Heads are a late-blooming fall perennial, super low-maintenance, unlikely to suffer from insects and disease and provide an important food source to butterflies and hummingbirds. Turtlehead foliage averages 24-36" tall and is dark-green, upright, and clumping. The three cultivated Turtlehead species are: Pink Turtlehead (C.lyonii), which has pink flowers and is hardy to zones 3-8, Twisted Shell Flower (C.obliqua), which has pinkish-purple flowers and is hardy to zones 5-9, and White Turtlehead (C.glabra), which has white flowers and is hardy to zones 3-8. We love them all as a unique and largely unknown native perennial plant that adds allure to the garden.
Fun fact: Turtlehead flowers got their scientific name, Chelone, from a Greek myth. The tale goes that a nymph named Chelone insulted the gods by refusing to attend Zeus' wedding and was turned into a turtle as punishment.
4. Hardy Begonias (Begonia grandis)
There are thousands of Begonia species, but sadly most are annuals for us in the United States. However, this one small species, the Hardy Begonia, is cold-tolerant, and it's an absolute wonder in the perennial fall garden. The leaves are olive-green and shaped like enormous wings (some say angel wings), with red veins on the undersides. Hardy Begonia flowers are dainty, pink four-petaled gems with bright yellow pom-pom stamens that stick out from the center. When in bloom, the flowers dangle from arching red stems just above the foliage. From the middle of summer well into fall, the flowers bloom continuously, adding a sweet delicacy to the garden. Hardy Begonias prefer partially shaded locations, and even when not in bloom, the large, winged foliage is quite attractive. Hardy to zones 6-9.
5. Autumn Crocus (Colchicum sp.)
We usually associate Crocus blooms with spring, but here is a flower that brings some lovely crocus-like spirit to the fall garden! Autumn Crocuses aren't a real Crocus; they belong to the Colchicum/Lily family, while true Crocus flowers belong to the Iris family. However, these not-really-Crocus Autumn Crocus flowers are just as cheerful and wonderful as their spring-blooming look-a-likes. Autumn Crocus plants feature dark-green leaves that resemble tulip foliage. The flowers are wide, goblet-shaped, and light pink or purple, or white. Autumn Crocus plants grow 8-14 inches tall and burst into bloom in early fall. Each flower bulb produces 1-10 stalks, and each stalk holds a single flower. The clumping growth makes it look like a flower bouquet emerging from the ground. The flower stalks appear after the leaves have died off, which can be confusing since it seems like the whole plant died. Be patient! Hardy to zones 4-9.
Note: Common names can get really confusing, and this is a prime example. There is a true Autumn Crocus (Crocus sativa) that is also commonly referred to as Saffron Crocus. This is the flower that produces the esteemed culinary saffron. It also grows light purple flowers and blooms in fall. Saffron Crocus is hardy to zones 6-9 and is a wonderful fall garden perennial as well. You may even want to try your hand at harvesting some of that special saffron! Do not harvest the stamens of Colchicum species, though; they are very poisonous.
6. Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium sp.)
A stunningly tall native flower, Joe Pye Weed is superb in the fall perennial garden. It blooms from late summer through fall and produces massive, broad, slightly rounded clusters of dark purple or pink flowers (depending on the species). The bees, butterflies, and pollinating insects go crazy for Joe Pye Weed, and it is an important food source for many of them as they prepare to hibernate or migrate. Joe Pye plants grow up to 6-8 feet tall, making them an impressive garden addition that is sure to be appreciated by all who see them. Joe Pye Weed is excellent as a background plant, centerpiece, or planted along pathways as a dramatic statement. It is rarely bothered by insects, pests, or disease, and deer generally avoid it. As if that isn't enough, this perennial smells like sweet vanilla. Hardy to zones 3-8.
7. Tickseed (Coreopsis sp)
The only thing that could make this fall-bloomer more spectacular is if it also got rid of ticks! We're thrilled enough with brilliantly colored blooms of Tickseed, though, even if it doesn't have any tick-fighting superpowers. The common name actually comes from the appearance of the seeds, which look like little ticks. Tickseed is available as annuals or perennials, and there are hundreds of species, as well as countless cultivated hybrids. At least 80 types are native to North America, while the remaining are native to Central or South America. All of them are easy-going, low-maintenance, drought-tolerant, beloved by butterflies and bees, and grow profusely in the late summer through fall. The range of Tickseed colors is outstanding; most varieties are in shades of yellow, orange, or red, but there are some positively stunning bicolor options and some with pink and purple flowers. All Tickseed plants benefit from deadheading to extend the blooming season. Hardy to zones 4-9. When choosing a Tickseed variety, be sure to check that it is a late-blooming perennial, and double-check the hardiness zone as that varies widely by species, too. Some of our favorite fall Tickseed perennials include:
- “Mercury Rising” blooms right up until the first frost and features luxurious red-velvet flowers with golden yellow centers. Grows 15-18” tall and blooms prolifically. Zones 5-9.
- "Red Chiffon" is a brilliant bi-color variety featuring butter-yellow petals splashed with burgundy in the center. As the temperatures cool, the red center spreads larger, sometimes taking over most of the flower. Averages 15-18 inches tall and grows in zones 4-9.
- Dyer's Tickseed (C. tinctoria) is a native type from the western United States. The flowers are bright golden-yellow with a reddish-brown center eye. The petals are notched at the ends, creating a frilly, delicate accent to the overall look.
- Threadleaf Coreopsis (C.verticillata) is native to eastern North America and produces masses of beaming yellow blooms. It is named for its attractive fine-toothed threadlike foliage. Grows 2-3 feet tall and is hardy to zones 3-9.
- Tall Tickseed (C.tripteris), as the name suggests, is a remarkably large species, growing between 4-8 feet tall. The flowers look like miniature sunflowers, with vivid yellow petals and a dark brown cone-shaped center. It is native to eastern North America and is hardy to zones 3-8.
- Pink Tickseed (C.rosea) is a vibrant pink-petaled species with a bright yellow center cone. It is native to coastal plains in eastern North America and grows 18-24” tall. Hardy to zones 3-9.
- Lobed Tickseed (C.auriculata) is a southeast North American native with golden-yellow lobed petals and a yellow center. This variety looks like sunshine itself. Grows 12-18 inches tall and is hardy to zones 4-9.
8. Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)
A native shrub that makes us wonder why all fireworks aren't yellow, Witch Hazel is an incredibly brilliant fall-bloomer. The flowers emerge after all the leaves drop from the branches, so there is nothing to suppress their radiance. Witch Hazel flowers are blazing golden-yellow, each with four spindly ribbon-like petals that crinkle and twist as if they've just exploded off the branch. The flowers grow in prolific clusters along the naked branches and often remain in full glorious color into December. Witch Hazel grows 15-20 feet tall, so you need to make sure you've got space for this one. Hardy to zones 3-8.
Note – In addition to Common Witchhazel (H.virginiana), there are other native species to North America. Ozark Witch Hazel (H.vernalis) features smaller orange flowers, blooms in the middle of winter (Jan-April), and is hardy to zones 4-8. There are two other Witch Hazel species, one from China and one from Japan, as well as countless cultivars and hybrids developed from the different types. Please choose a native species.
9. Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)
Anise Hyssop looks spectacular in the perennial fall garden with its tall spikes of appealing lavender flowers and an aromatic anise-like scent. Hummingbirds, bees, butterflies, and pollinating insects all find this native flower irresistible and swarm the plant when it is in bloom. Anise Hyssop plants grow 24-36 inches tall, and they have toothed muted green leaves. The flower spikes, covered with hundreds of densely packed little tubular purple blooms, rise up above the foliage, announcing themselves to the world. Anise Hyssop is part of the mint family, but it doesn't have the same invasive tendencies as most mints. The flowers bloom for months, from late summer through fall. This Hyssop is exceptionally low-maintenance and deer resistant. There are several noteworthy cultivars, too. "Alabaster" has white flowers and light green foliage, "Blue Blazes" is a taller version with purple flowers, and "Black Adder" has reddish-violet blooms. Hardy to zones 4-8.
10. Sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale)
When you're looking for rays of sunshine as the days start to shorten, you'll want mass planting of the always bright and cheery Sneezeweed. Don't worry; it shouldn't make you sneeze. The common name refers to how the dried leaves were used to make snuff. Sneezeweed flowers are brilliantly colored, almost glowing, with a daisy-like shape and a prominent cone-shaped center disk. The classic Sneezeweed is golden yellow like the sun, but there are seemingly infinite cultivars with absolutely stunning color variations and variegation. The bicolor options with mahogany red, gold, copper, and burnt orange markings are particularly attractive. Besides the spectacular color displays, Sneezeweed is also highly valued in the perennial garden because it blooms from late summer all the way to the first frost. Sneezeweed is hardy to zones 3-8, and here are a few of our favorite cultivars, although it is tough to pick just a few!
- "Helena Red Shades" flowers are the color of Cabernet Sauvignon offset by a yellow fringe around the petal tips.
- "Mardi Gras" blooms start out classic bright yellow, but they change to deep orange, red, and bronze as they mature. At one time, you may have all the colors on your plant.
- "Short and Sassy" features bright orange and yellow bicolor flowers.
- "Moerheim Beauty" flowers are deep reddish-orange with a chocolate brown center and a ring of yellow at the base of the petals.
- "Butterpat," as the name suggests, is a bright sunny golden color and an old-time garden classic Sneezeweed.
The variety of fall perennials is outstanding, from color to size, to landscape interest. There is no need to plant the same basic flowers year after year. It's time to spice up the landscape, create a colorful fall playground in the garden, and embrace the changing seasons. Plus, you'll be helping the struggling pollinators immensely by planting some native fall bloomers. Include a few of these fall perennials in your yard, and watch how they improve the whole landscape with their color and pollinator-attracting abilities.