Garden & Landscape Tips

At a time when most plants are preparing for winter, these easy-to-grow perennials add glorious, long-blooming, and colorful flowers in the fall landscape. Extend the gardening season beyond Labor Day and up to Thanksgiving.


Purple Dome Aster
Purple Dome Aster

Asters are North American natives that produce pink, white, or blue daisy-like flowers, mostly with bright orange or yellow centers. They do best in full sun to light shade. Once established, asters are drought tolerant. Asters (Aster or Symphyotrichum species) start blooming in late summer and continue into fall. The leaves on some types turn gold in late fall to add a few more weeks of beauty in the garden. Cut back to the ground in early winter or when the plants look shabby. Asters are an important nectar food source for migrating butterflies, such as monarchs; good as cut flowers too.

In the garden partner asters with ornamental grasses, late-blooming sedum, goldenrod (Solidago) and hydrangeas.

Cultivars to consider:

  • ‘Purple Dome’ (S. novae-angliae), a New England aster, forms a tidy, mound of deep purple flowers. It grows about 18 inches tall and 20 inches wide. It is hardy in USDA Zones 4 – 8.
  • ‘Alma Potschke’, another New England aster, has frilly hot pink flowers on plants about 3 feet tall and 20 inches wide. It is hardy in Zones 3 – 8.
  • ‘Raydon’s Favorite’ (S. oblongifolium) is an aromatic aster with lavender-blue flowers. It grows about 3 feet tall by 2 feet wide; hardy in Zones 3 – 8.
  • ‘Monch’ (A. × frickartii, S. frikartii) is one of the more unusual asters in that it blooms most of the summer and well into early fall. It has large lavender-blue daisies. 3 feet tall × 18 inches wide. It is hardy in Zones 5 – 8.

To find out which zone your garden is in, please visit the USDA Hardiness Zone Map, where you can plug in your ZIP code and get the answer.

Toad Lilies

Miyazaki toad lily
Miyazaki Toad Lily

Toad lilies are under-used Japanese perennials for Fall. Despite the name, the speckled pink, white, or purple flowers of toad lilies (Tricyrtis) look more like orchids than toads. The leaves, though, have blotches and the stems have bumps, which remind people of an amphibian.

Each toad lily plant produces many flowers, but they are small, so grow them where you can see the flowers up close, such as along a frequently traveled pathway. They thrive in shade in organically rich, lightly moist but well-drained soil, such as a woodland environment. Toad lilies bloom from late summer to mid fall, depending on the species or cultivar.

Grow toad lilies in part to full shade. Cut back to the ground when the plants have finished blooming. In spring, be on the lookout for slugs, snails, and rabbits, which like to dine on newly sprouted leaves. Deer do not seem to bother toad lilies. Good companions include astilbes, hostas, and ferns. Most are hardy in USDA Zones 5, 6 and 7.

Cultivars to consider:

  • Miyazaki hybrids get about 20 inches tall and wide. These hybrids are considered rabbit resistant. The flowers of this hybrid series range from mauve to lavender.
  • ‘Imperial Banner’ gets about 2 feet tall and wide. The flowers are white amid variegated yellow-green leaves.
  • ‘Sinonome’ has white flowers with purple blotches. It grows about 2 feet wide and 3 feet tall. This toad lily does not tolerate dry soil.
  • ‘Smaurai’ has a graceful, arching growth habit with green and gold leaves. The flowers are purple. It may reach 16 inches tall with a 3-foot spread.

Japanese Anemone

Pretty Lady Diana Japanese anemone
Pretty Lady Diana Japanese anemone

Japanese anemones are prized for their long-blooming flowers at a time of year when there is little going on in the garden. Most Japanese anemones (Anemone) begin blooming in late summer and continue into mid to late fall. As the flowers age and mature, seed heads turn into attractive puffs of cotton that sometimes remain on the plant all winter.

They tolerate full sun in the north, but do best in light shade to full shade. Once established, Japanese anemones tolerate dry soil, but prefer a spot that is evenly moist. The pink or white, single or double flowers dangle on wiry stems, which can be cut for indoor arrangements.

Japanese anemones may become aggressive in the garden. However, they are shallow-rooted and can easily be kept in check if they get too rambunctious. Asters and chrysanthemums are good companion plants. Cut back in late winter or early spring.

Cultivars to consider:

  • ‘Honorine Jobert’ (A. × hybrida) blooms in August and September. The single flowers are white. The plant grows 4 feet tall and 2 feet wide. It is hardy in USDA Zones 4 through 8.
  • ‘September Charm’ (A. × hybrida) has pink flowers on plants 3 feet tall and wide. It is hardy in Zones 5, 6 and 7.
  • Pretty Lady series — Emily, Diana and Susan (A. hupehensis) are new introductions from Blooms of Bressingham and should be on the market in 2013. They are only 16 inches tall with a 24-inch spread and 2-inch wide flowers. Susan and Diana have single pink flowers and Emily has a double pink flower. These are winter hardy to USDA Zone 5.
  • ‘Whirlwind’, which is 3 feet tall with a 20 inch spread, has ruffled, white, 2-inch wide flowers. It is hardy in Zones 5 – 8.
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