Add color, texture, and pizzazz to your fall garden with a combination of bulbs and perennials that will keep the wow factor high as the seasons change.
You’ll want to make a schedule for plantings, as fall bulbs go into the ground in the spring, and smaller starts might need time to get up and running, so they should be in the ground in early summer.
However, if you’re buying larger plants, there’s plenty of time to get them established before the cooler fall weather settles in.
Just be sure to check the USDA growing zone guide so you can match your plot location with plants that will thrive.
1. Chrysanthemum (Mums)
Mums are perhaps the most ubiquitous fall plant sold in nurseries and through organizational fundraisers. They come in a variety of colors, from white to rust, shades of orange, yellow, and pink in between.
Mums are an easy-to-care-for plant in zones 3-9 and offer a maximum size of about three feet high by three feet wide. They appreciate partial sun and do well in raised beds, borders, or planters.
Although they look dainty, pansies are a hardy plant for zones 4-11. In cooler regions, they’ll bloom from spring until it gets too hot in the summer. In hot regions, however, pansies bloom from fall well into winter.
They come in a range of colors and can be planted directly into the ground or in pots and hanging baskets.
If you have less than ideal soil and full sun, tickseed will thrive in zones 4-9 throughout the summer. Prune it back after the summer blooms to get a second serving in the fall. Its daisy-like flowers are pest resistant, and the plants are low maintenance, only requiring water during very dry periods.
This bushy plant brings on a late display of colorful yellow flowers that last into October in zones 3-9. Plant them in full sun. If you need to control the spread, trim back the heads before they go to seed.
This is a striking flower that creates a conversation piece in any garden. They come in all sizes, from tiny to larger than your hand. Dahlias grow from a bulb, which you’ll want to plant between spring and the middle of summer, depending on where you live.
In colder areas, you’ll want to dig up the bulbs and store them over winter to keep the blooms coming next season.
Pollinators such as bees and butterflies love dahlias too!
Also popular with pollinators, sunflowers put on an impressive show well into fall. This is another plant that comes in a range of sizes and heights, so select the varietal that’s right for your space.
Place taller plants in the back row of the garden. Add shorter varietals to the front of the garden for additional color without worrying about plants toppling over.
This is a group of flowering plants with a variety to match every garden. Like sunflowers, you can plant those that tower above the garden (you’ll want to stake these) or go with a type that grows less than a foot off the ground.
Compatible with growing zones 4-8, asters come in a variety of color options such as white, blue, pink, and purple. They prefer moist soil and full sun to partial shade.
8. Blue Mist Shrub
To round out a garden full of single-stemmed flowers, the blue mist shrub adds depth through its fullness, and the bluish purple flower clusters offer a unique appearance. Blue mist shrub is a perennial that brings an aesthetic even when not in bloom.
These bold blooms are full of nectar for pollinators to enjoy. They can be started from seed or purchased as a small plant. Blooms begin in mid-summer and last into fall in zones 3-10.
10. Bee Balm
Bee balm is a central component in any pollinator garden and can equally be enjoyed simply for its magenta and purple flowers. Bee balm will spread to fill the garden as a perennial plant that will return as a pollination buffet for birds, bees, and butterflies.
11. Balloon Flower
The name comes from the shape of the bulb before the flower shows itself in a shade of blue, white, or pink. This is another popular pollinator that does well in partial shade in zones 3-8. To make blooms last into the fall, deadhead spent flowers throughout the summer season.
Balloon flowers require little maintenance other than trimming them back in the spring or after the blooms cease in the fall. It will slowly spread across the garden, providing an expanse of striking flowers in subsequent seasons.
These flowers display all the colors of autumn, featuring shades of orange, yellow, copper, red, and gold, among others. It’s hardy in zones 3-9, beginning blooms in summer and lasting into early fall. Plant in full sun, but use mulch to keep the roots cool in hot weather.
13. Autumn Crocus
Most people associate crocus with early spring, and rightfully so. In many areas, it’s the first color to pop out as winter comes to a close. But there is also a variety for the fall, which can be enjoyed just as much as its early-season relatives in zones 4-8.
This plant works throughout the seasons to provide blooms in the fall, beginning with early-summer leaves that appear and then die off. Then, in the fall, blooms appear without leaves. Plant in full sun, surrounded by other seasonal plants, but place it near the front since the maximum height is only around a foot.
This plant does well in zones 5-9, even in drought-prone areas. It’s a nice mix with native plants since it’s deer resistant. More of a shrub at full size, allow about three feet for the plant to spread. Throughout late summer and fall, purple flowers adorn the shrub and act as a treat for hungry pollinators.
It doesn’t make much of a statement throughout the year, but makes up for that in the fall with bold and unique purple berries birds can’t resist. The larger versions reach three to eight feet, and there are smaller options too.
This is another ubiquitous flower many people are introduced to in science class when learning how to plant seeds and watch them grow. That’s because they are easy for the DIY gardener to manage from seed.
Marigolds come in a range of colors, with blooms lasting until hard frost in most regions. They are low maintenance too, only requiring water if there is no rain for a few weeks. They do need to be watered more frequently when planted in pots.
17. Ornamental Kale
Whether you like the edible version or not, this is not that. Ornamental kale is a striking plant, but it is not edible. This isn’t technically a flower but more of a brightly-colored cabbage-like plant with ruffled leaves for textural interest. They can be planted in containers or garden beds.
For fall color, get them started by mid-July. They are a forgiving plant in planting regions 2-11. However, the plant color is affected by extreme heat, so they’ll perform best in the spring and fall.
Yes, most hydrangea blooms in the spring, and those flowers can last until late summer and even into the fall. But if you carefully select your hydrangea variety, you’ll find it can provide outstanding fall color. For example, look to Hydrangea paniculata varieties like 'Limelight' and 'Candy Apple’ for fall-lasting blooms.
Even better suited to the colors of fall is the oakleaf hydrangea, which displays its red and burnt orange colors throughout the season.
19. Russian Sage
Russian sage is a year-round stunner with its silvery green leaves and bushy appearance. The scent deters wildlife nibbles, yet the striking purple flowers offer an immediate appeal to humans. Allow plenty of space for your Russian Sage to spread out at least four feet in each direction.
20. 'Apache Rose' Switchgrass
Don’t forget the grasses when planning out your fall garden. Although you may struggle to keep the fescue out of the flower beds, this switchgrass is one you’ll want to see there. It’s tall, making a statement of texture and color.
Plus, the tightly-packed bunch is wildlife tolerant and durable against most wind, rain, and other weather conditions, with the exception of heavy snow, which can lay it down.
21. Arkansas Blue Star
Also known as blue star Amsonia, this dazzling plant emulates the natural gold hues of the autumn season. This is one to watch throughout the seasons as it produces blooms in spring or early summer and develops its bushy appeal as summer progresses.
In the fall, the leaves turn gold, making a bold statement in the landscape. They thrive in full sun and tolerate partial shade in zones 4-9.
22. Joe-Pye Weed
While we often try to stay away from anything labeled as a weed, this plant is a welcome addition to the fall garden with its vibrant flowers and pleasing vanilla aroma. They’ve traditionally been used as medicine to treat typhus fever, and the flowers are used as a textile dye.
Plant Joe-Pye Weed in full sun or partial shade with relatively moist soil. Allow at least 24 inches between the Joe-Pye Weed and any other plants. You can grow it from seed or buy plants at the nursery. When it dies back in the late fall, leave it for spring or cut it back before winter arrives.
23. Montauk Daisies
One of the later blooming daisies in zones 5-9, the Montauk can hold onto blooms until the first frost arrives. The white leaves stand in contrast to the dark stems. They are forgiving in drought regions and act as a deterrent for deer, yet attract pollinators.
Several varieties of sedum offer color throughout the fall. These adaptable plants can tolerate drought as well as soggy but well-draining soil. Grow them in regions 3-10. The pink summer flowers will dry up in the fall, but the tan head adds a rustic appeal.
25. Blue Fescue
This is another grass that has a lot to offer the fall garden. The spiny, silvery blades shimmer in the sunlight. They adapt well to rocky terrain or can thrive in a flowerbed. The color and texture blend well with other fall plants mentioned here, contrasting the height and colorful display of others.
The overall maximum height is around a foot, so you can use it to line the driveway or be a central element in a pot.
26. Fountain Grass
This taller grass reaches up to four feet and puts on a brilliantly soft display with the feathery heads floating in the breeze. Hardy for zones 5-9, fountain grass does well in hot regions and often survives winter with the heads intact.
In some of the warmest regions of the US (zone 11), the textured blooms of begonias add an eye-catching array of colors to the fall garden.
This plant does well in tropical to subtropical regions yet is still commonly grown in the shade in hanging baskets due to its finicky relationship with precise soil moisture.
It can grow up to eight feet high in zones 7-11, where it features lush green stalks and noteworthy flowers.
29. Sweet Alyssum
This sweet little plant is hardy in hot, drought-prone areas but thrives in many types of landscapes in zones 9-11. The flowers range in color from pink, salmon, purple, white, and yellow and bloom from June through October.
Although an annual, sweet alyssum often returns year after year through self-propagation. Plant it in rock gardens, raised beds, baskets, and planters, or along borders for some colorful definition.
As a cool weather plant, violas are well adapted to autumn. They grow with little maintenance in zones 3-8 and prefer partial sun. Violas are commonly planted in the spring, but in areas without a winter frost, they can be planted in the fall.
Space them about six to eight inches apart and expect them to reach up to 10 inches in height. Be sure to deadhead spent flowers for the most prolific and long-lasting blooms. Keep them on a regular watering schedule, allowing the soil to dry out between waterings.