If you’re lucky enough to live in a part of the country that experiences a long, pleasant autumn, it’s the perfect time to turn your attention to fall flowers.
Begin by maintaining those blooms that are currently residing in your beds. Remove spent flowers and foliage as well as diseased plants (just be sure to discard those diseased leaves carefully so you don’t spread the problem).
Then it’s time to start planting some fall varieties so you can give the roots plenty of time to establish before the weather gets too cold.
It’s a particularly good time to plant:
Mums. Mums are less expensive than other perennials and are available in a variety of colors and bloom shapes. Some folks say it’s actually best to plant mums in the spring so their roots have time to develop and they’re set to bloom in the fall. But many people bring mums home from the greenhouse to plant in autumn. If you opt for fall planting, be sure you select hardy mums with full buds that have just begun to open. (Florist mums are better-suited for indoor planting.) Plant your hardy mums in a location that receives as much as 6 hours of sun a day and soak the newly planted flowers regularly (but don’t get the foliage wet if you can help it or you may promote disease. If you’re willing to do the work, your mums may survive the winter and bloom again next year. The secret: After the first hard frost, mulch with as much as 4 inches of straw or shredded hardwood and pinch off spent blooms.
This lovely slideshow showcases photos and descriptions of a variety of mums.
Pansies. Plant these flowers in the fall and you’ll likely see blooms again in the spring. But pansies will stop developing new roots if the soil temperature drops below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, so get them in the ground soon. Look for varieties with medium-size blooms, promote blooming by removing spent seeds before they’re formed, and fertilize your pansies biweekly. Once winter rolls around, mulch these babies with 2 inches of loosely packed pine needles or straw to help them survive.
Learn more about pansies and mums.
Ornamental kale. For a burst of fall color, purchase ornamental kale from your garden center to plant between other items in you garden. Ornamental kale is biennial, so it will produce leaves one year and flowers the next. And, just like kale you grow in your garden, the leaves of ornamental kale are edible—you can cook ’em, eat ’em raw, or use ’em as a garnish. Here’s some more info about kale.
Or for fun, why not add a new cultivar to your garden: Ornamental Pepper ‘Black Pearl.' Why bother? It’s the first black-leaved ornamental pepper—and when the black peppers mature to a red hue, they’re hot.
Autumn also provides a great opportunity for container gardening.
And remember: It’s almost time to start planting those spring bulbs. Stayed tuned—in two weeks I’ll tell you how!
The Home Know-It-All