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10 Favorite Perennials for Fall Color

Fall blooming perennials are a great way to add color and interest to your garden year after year. Many fall perennials are hardy, low-maintenance growers that start to bloom when most of summer's flowers are fading. They also serve as a great source of pollen for pollinators through the fall.

1. 'Baby Joe' Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium dubium 'Baby Joe')

Joe Pye Weed is a native plant that can make a beautiful backdrop border in your garden. This variety is half the height of others and will give you more options for planting in varied spaces. Dark green leaves adorn it, joined by bright purplish-pink blooms in late summer/early fall. Be sure to enjoy the light vanilla scent of the blooms!

Pros: Attracts butterflies & hummingbirds, tolerant of moist soil, compact size, good for cut flowers, winter interest, deer & rabbit resistant

Why We Love It: Joe Pye may be one of the absolute best nectar sources of all of the natives you can plant and is especially helpful for pollinators looking for food in late summer into fall, as there are less options at that time of year. Walking through our gardens this week, the Joe Pye was consistently covered with butterflies, bees and more! We like the Baby Joe because while it is shorter than its naturally occurring parent, it is still a substantial plant with many large blooms and plenty of nectar!

  • USDA Growing Zones: 4-8

  • Sun Exposure: Full sun-part shade

  • Soil Needs: Normal, humus-y, moist, tolerant of sand/clay

  • Water: Average to wet, do not allow soil to dry out (at least not in first few months)

  • Care: Easy

  • Bloom Time: Mid summer-early fall

  • Height: 3-4 feet (yes, the shorter cultivar is still quite large!)

  • Spread: 1-3 feet

  • Native: Yes

2. White Turtlehead (Chelone glabra)

This plant is named for its weeks-long blooms, which are shaped like turtles' heads. Another great native plant that blooms into fall. Originally found in wet woodlands and along streams, Turtlehead is a great addition to a damp area in your garden or a rain garden!

Pros: Supports Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly and other pollinators including bumblebees and ruby-throated hummingbirds

Why We Love It: This is an especially fun native to find in nature - both the white and pink variations are relatively common along streams in WNC. Adding this to our water gardens and rain gardens provides really unique and lovely blooms as well as great ecological benefits, and it’s especially nice that it can handle part shade/dappled light and still bloom!

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3-8

  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

  • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-draining

  • Water: Wet, Medium-Wet

  • Care: Easy

  • Bloom Time: July-September

  • Height: 2-4 feet

  • Spread: 2 feet

  • Native: Yes

3. 'Autumn Joy' Stonecrop (Sedum spectabile)

Autumn Joy Sedum is one of our favorite ways to add fall interest and happens to be excellent support for late-season pollinators. The blooms are truly lovely - starting green and slowly maturing to pink, and then a deep burgundy as cool weather approaches. A mature plant makes quite the statement when planted in groupings.

Pros: Drought tolerant, evergreen, low maintenance

Why We Love It: This is a fabulous option for low maintenance and drought tolerant plants that are both beautiful and beneficial. We love the blooms because they are not only beneficial to pollinators, but they are long lasting and dry nicely (either on the plant or used in dried arrangements).

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3-9

  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun

  • Soil Needs: Sandy, well-draining (can also handle clay, though ammending is helpful)

  • Water: Minimal

  • Care: Easy

  • Bloom Time: Summer-fall

  • Height: 1.5-2 feet

  • Spread: 1.5-2 feet

'Mariachi Salsa' Helenium (Helenium autumnale Mariachi 'Salsa')
'Mariachi Salsa' Helenium (Helenium autumnale Mariachi 'Salsa')

4. 'Mariachi Salsa' Helenium (Helenium autumnale Mariachi 'Salsa')

A compact variety valued for their late summer display of bright daisy-like flowers that arrive when most summer flowering perennials are on the decline, these also attract and support butterflies and other pollinators. A very floriferous plant with beautiful deep red flowers accented by dark chocolate buttons in the mid to late summer.

Pros: Low maintenance, deer and rabbit resistant, attractive to butterflies and other pollinators, nice as cut flowers, mildew resistant, upright habit

Tip: The plant likes cool feet and hot heads, meaning you should use mulch to keep the roots cool but plant it in full sun to keep the top of the plant warm. Butterflies are also absolutely crazy about this dynamic, late season nectar resource. Pair them with Cardinal Flower and Swamp Milkweed in low-lying parts of your landscape to create a haven for beneficial pollinators.

Why We Love It: Simply beautiful blooms in a range of bright colors and highly floriferous! Butterflies are always visiting and it’s one of the best late summer-early fall pops of color for your perennial gardens! We also offer the native straight species in our spring season.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3-9

  • Sun Exposure: Full sun

  • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-draining (can tolerate clay)

  • Water: Average-moist

  • Care: Easy

  • Bloom Time: Summer, fall

  • Height: 18-20 inches

  • Spread: 20-23 inches

Other Varieties Available for Fall 2022: Mariachi 'Fuego'

5. 'Samurai' Toad lily (Tricyrtis formosana 'Samurai')

People are often amazed to learn that this plant with exotic orchid-like flowers is an easy-to-grow perennial that blooms in the heat of August through the fall and is a great addition to any shade garden. They're also a great source of late summer nectar for hummingbirds and butterflies. They feature purple flowers with darker purple spotting and a yellow throat held above green leaves edged in golden yellow. Be sure to plant them in a place where you can admire their blooms up close!

Pros: Relatively low maintenance, heavily shade tolerant, deer resistant.

Why We Love It: This may be the most unique and most admired bloom in our gardens, and each plant will simply be covered with the flowers (especially the cultivar Sinonome!). A patch of Toad Lily will not only brighten your shade gardens with stunning blooms, but they also attract and feed lovely day-flying moths by the dozens (while not native plants, they are quite beneficial in this regard - we rely on moths for 45% of the pollination that occurs!).

  • USDA Growing Zones: 6 to 8

  • Sun Exposure: Shade/partial shade

  • Soil Needs: Moist, rich soil

  • Water: Consistent watering

  • Care: Low Maintenance

  • Bloom Time: August to September

  • Height: 1-1.5 feet

  • Spread: 6-9 inches

Other Varieties Available for Fall 2022: Sinonome

6. 'Little Miss Sunshine' Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis 'Little Miss Sunshine')

Goldenrod is one of the last flowers to bloom in the fall, with its bloom period generally stretching from August to October. There are more than 100 species in the goldenrod family and we’ve chosen to feature a shorter native selection that makes a great addition to pollinator gardens of any size. Goldenrod serves as a crucial nectar source when most pollinator plants are no longer in bloom.

Pros: Attracts bees & butterflies

Why We Love It: Goldenrod is a close tie with Joe Pye as our favorite late summer and early fall native plant for pollinators. You may have grown up thinking of them as weeds, but there are so many varied bloom shapes and shades of yellow, and they’re all truly lovely - we recommend planting a variety of goldenrod species so that you and the pollinators can enjoy a range of textures, heights and bloom times!

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3-9

  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun

  • Soil Needs: Average, medium moisture, well-draining

  • Water: Medium moisture

  • Care: Easy

  • Bloom Time: August-September

  • Blooms: Yellow

  • Height: 12-18 inches

  • Spread: 15-18 inches

  • Native: Yes

Other Varieties Available for Fall 2022: 'Little Lemon'

7. 'Iron Butterfly' Narrowleaf Ironweed (Vernonia lettermannii 'Iron Butterfly')

An Ironweed cultivar created to accentuate a compact habit, rapid growth rate, and showy long-lasting bright purple-violet flowers. This low-maintenance plant is an excellent source of late-season nectar making it a must for every butterfly garden!

Pros: Good butterfly nectar source, deer resistant

Why We Love It: You simply must plant Ironweed with your Goldenrod - while Joe Pye is also a great plant pairing, the brilliant purple of Ironweed is the perfect accent to make your Goldenrod pop! Another must for the pollinator garden and for late summer to fall color!

  • USDA Growing Zones: 4-9

  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

  • Soil Needs: well draining, silty/sandy

  • Water: Low-average

  • Care: Easy

  • Bloom Time: August-September

  • Height: 2-3 feet

  • Spread: 2 feet

  • Native: Yes

Other Varieties Available for Fall 2022: 'New York' Ironweed

'Winston Churchill' New York Aster (Symphyotrichum novi-belgii 'Winston Churchill')
'Winston Churchill' New York Aster (Symphyotrichum novi-belgii 'Winston Churchill')

8. 'Winston Churchill' New York Aster (Symphyotrichum novi-belgii 'Winston Churchill')

This plant - great for borders, containers, and along walkways, produces beautiful daisy like flowers that are raspberry red with bright golden centers. These quick growing perennials are loved by people and pollinators alike - this plant will impress for years to come!

Pros: Deer Resistant, Attracts Birds, Butterflies & Bees, Easy To Grow, Native, Great Cut Flowers

Tip: Pinching back the stems in the early summer can turn these plants into dense mounds with dozens of flower buds.

Why We Love It: We are a bit obsessed with fall blooming asters - growing a wide variety of species and cultivars… but the incredibly vivid color of the Winston Churchill is definitely a favorite! We love planting a range of native asters in groupings together to create large pollinator habitats and vivid swaths of early fall color!

  • USDA Growing Zones: 4-8

  • Sun Exposure: Full sun

  • Soil Needs: Well draining

  • Water: Average

  • Care: Easy

  • Bloom Time: Late summer - first frost

  • Height: 2-2.5 feet

  • Spread: 2-2.5 feet

  • Native: Yes

Other Varieties Available for Fall 2022: 'Purple Dome', 'Woods Blue', 'Lady in Black', 'Hazy Dark Pink', 'Henry Blue'

Assorted Huechera
Assorted Huechera

9. Coral Bells (Heuchera)

This includes all varieties of heuchera as there are simply too many to choose from. Coming in a variety of reds, purple, silvers, and greens, you are certain to find the perfect option for accentuating your border, combo pot, or walkway. This plant is evergreen in our region and will provide year-round interest in your garden.

Pros: Deer Resistant, Easy To Grow, Great For Containers, Evergreen, Attracts Hummingbirds, Great Cut Flowers

Why We Love It: There are SO many colors and leaf shapes!! You truly can’t beat the versatility of this plant - we love them in containers, we love them in shade gardens needing bright foliage to make up for lack of blooming plants, and we love them as border/edging due to their lower stature and tidy mounding habits. They also have dainty summer blooms.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 4a-9a

  • Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun

  • Soil Needs: Rich but well-drained

  • Water: Medium - keep soil consistently moist

  • Care: Easy

  • Bloom Time: spring-summer

  • Height: 8-18 inches

  • Spread: 12-24 inches

Other varieties available for Fall 2022: 6+ varieties, many colors!

'Hillside Sheffield Pink' Hardy Mum (Crysanthemum 'Hillside Sheffield Pink')
'Hillside Sheffield Pink' Hardy Mum (Crysanthemum 'Hillside Sheffield Pink')

10. 'Hillside Sheffield Pink' Hardy Mum (Crysanthemum 'Hillside Sheffield Pink')

With a beautiful mounding habit and providing blooms from late summer through fall, this is a tried and true favorite. The flowers are apricot pink with golden centers and are sure to attract butterflies. This variety is said to have been rescued from an old garden in Sheffield, MA, and re-named after the town as the original name was lost.

Pros: Heat & drought tolerant, great for pollinators, good for cut flowers

Tip: Cut plants back to 6” after flowering and mulch (e.g., straw or evergreen boughs) for winter. Divide every 2-3 years in spring.

Why We Love It: This plant has been known to make people pull over and knock on stranger’s doors - it simply is breathtaking and incredibly impressive. A single plant can form a massive mound and be covered so thickly in blooms that you can barely see the foliage. We are excited to carry the close cultivar Cambodian Queen as well - that way you can combine both a peachy pink and a purply-pink cultivar. Pollinators love it as well as people!

  • USDA Growing Zones: 5-9

  • Sun Exposure: Full sun

  • Soil Needs: humusy, fertile, consistently moist, well-drained

  • Water: Medium

  • Care: Easy

  • Bloom Time: September-first frost

  • Height: 2-3 feet

  • Spread: 2-3 feet

Other Varieties Available for Fall 2022: 'Yellow Quill', 'Cambodian Queen', 'Brandywine Sunset'

'Enchanted Eve' Tickseed (Coreopsis x verticillata 'Enchanted Eve')
'Enchanted Eve' Tickseed (Coreopsis x verticillata 'Enchanted Eve')

Honorable Mention:

'Enchanted Eve' Tickseed (Coreopsis x verticillata 'Enchanted Eve')

The Coreopsis genus is home to many popular perennial plants. Most bloom periodically throughout the summer season. But if you prune back your plant after it flowers, it will put on a glorious fall floral display. Bees and butterflies tend to love the daisy-like blooms.

Pros: Beneficial for pollinators and attracts butterflies, good for cut flowers, deer resistant, heat & humidity tolerant, long blooming, disease resistant

Why We Love It: There are so many gorgeous Coreopsis cultivars out there now, and we love many of them but often struggle with the newer varieties being as resilient and long-lived as older varieties. This cultivar has proven itself in our gardens with prolific blooms, holding up to excessive rain as well as drought, and offering truly lovely bicolored blossoms that attract pollinators.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 5-8

  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun

  • Soil Needs: Sandy or rocky, dry to medium moisture, well-draining

  • Water: Dry to medium moisture- occasional water once established

  • Care: Easy

  • Bloom Time: Early Summer through early fall

  • Height: 8-12 inches

  • Spread: 8-12 inches

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