Leah Randt, Master Gardener
Creating season-long interest in your flowerbed is a rewarding part of our hobby. Watching as plants come alive and change throughout the season creates renewed interest and excitement. When the temperatures start to cool off with the approach of fall, you may find a lack of flowering plants in your bed. There are several choices of striking ornamental grasses to choose from, but what about flowers?
Creating season-long interest in your flowerbed is a rewarding part of our hobby. Watching as plants come alive and change throughout the season creates renewed interest and excitement. When the temperatures start to cool off with the approach of fall, you may find a lack of flowering plants in your bed. There are several choices of striking ornamental grasses to choose from, but what about flowers? I have picked my top four fall flowering perennials that you can plant for keeping color in your flowerbed until frost hits.
Anemone x hybrida, commonly called Windflower or Japanese Anemone, is in the buttercup family and can bring color to your flowerbed just as summer is fading. The dainty blooms can come in snow white, pink, or even dark purple, and they are a favorite of bees. This perennial is a vigorous, low-maintenance plant that forms neat, dense, compact mounds of foliage.
Japanese Anemone can grow to be 3-4 feet tall when blooming and will bloom for 5-8 weeks from late summer into early fall. The plant grows best in full sun to part shade, in evenly moist but well-drained soil. However, it has been known to do well even in clay soil. Deer and rabbits will leave Japanese Anemone plants alone, and they do not have any serious insect or disease problems. This perennial makes an excellent choice all around, especially for cottage-styled flower beds.
Helenium autumnale, commonly called Helenium or Sneezeweed. Allergy sufferers need not fear the name - Helenium blooms around the same time as wild ragweed. Ragweed is a major source of hay-fever-inducing pollen, and Helenium is falsely blamed for this because it blooms at the same time.
A member of the Asteraceae family, these daisy-like flowers resemble coneflowers and come in many different varieties from yellow to coppery brown and red. Preferring full sun and moist conditions, Helenium will quickly mature to three to five feet tall and have a spread of 24 inches wide. This fall blooming perennial is a great choice for pollinator beds or cut flower gardens.
Balloon Flowers, Platycodon grandifloras, are a clump-forming perennial flower. They are well named for their puffy, balloon-like buds that swell up to produce 2-3-inch star-shaped flowers. Just before the blooms burst, kids love to pop them open. It can be a great way to get children enthusiastic about gardening.
These flowers are an excellent choice for any gardener because they are resilient and demand no special treatment. You will get the most flowers if you plant in full sun (but part shade is also acceptable) and if you deadhead spent blooms.
Providing cheerful lavender/blue flowers P. grandifloras will grow to a height of 24 to 36 inches. They make a great middle to back of the border plant because they rarely flop over and their soft color compliments many other plants. Balloon Flowers also make lovely additions to containers.
Asters make a wonderful addition to any flower bed looking to continue color into fall. Asters flower in response to the shortening days of fall. They bloom from August through October, sometimes into November.
There are dozens of cultivars of Asters, and their daisy-like flowers range in color from purple, blue, or pink. Pollinators will flock to this plant as it provides a rare source of late-season nectar. Asters prefer to be planted in an area with full sun and well-draining soils. They need plenty of room to grow in your flowerbed, reaching mature heights of 1-6 feet tall and 1-4 feet wide, this size can vary by type. I prefer to prune mine back mid-season to keep them bushier. Asters also make a lovely choice if you wish to feed wild birds. If left standing through winter, finches and chickadees are fond of Aster seeds.
Creating color interest in your flowerbed through fall can be made possible with the additions of Japanese Anemone, Helenium, Balloon Flowers, and Asters. All these flowering perennials are unique and easy to care for. They come in a variety of colors, so you will be sure to find one that compliments your garden design. With added benefits, such as attracting pollinators or feeding wild birds, this group of perennials are excellent for anyone looking to support wildlife going into our cold Minnesota winters.
If you are looking for more information on what to plant in your flower bed, be sure to check out the U of M extension website or contact your local Master Gardeners.
Japanese Anemone Sources: https://hort.extension.wisc.edu/articles/anemone-honorine-jobert/
Helenium Sources: https://hort.extension.wisc.edu/articles/helenium-helenium-autumnale/
Photo credits: University of Wisconsin Extension (1, 2), gardenia.net (3,4)