Perennials to plant in fall

Plant Perennials in Fall for a Bigger Spring and Summer Garden

By Karen Weir-Jimerson
It’s true! Planting perennials in the fall is an easy way to enjoy a bigger, more beautiful garden the following year. While most gardeners are more accustomed to planting in spring, fall is also an ideal time to get perennials established in your garden. Here are several reasons why planting perennials in fall makes good sense.

1. Enjoy color in the fall — and again in the spring
Buying blooming perennials in autumn means you get a seasonal two-fer. You enjoy flowering perennials in your fall garden, and again in the spring and summer (and for years to come!).

2. Fall weather is more consistent
Spring planting can be tricky. On the cold side, hard freezes and occasional snowstorms can make spring feel not so springy. On the hot side, spring weather can escalate into searing summer temps with hot, dry winds. In contrast, autumn is less emotional. Air temperatures are generally consistently warmer and the sun is less intense. These weather conditions allow plants to grow stronger.

3. Plants welcome warmer soil
In northern climates, the soil in spring is cold. But root systems flourish best in warm soil. And while the air temperature may drop in autumn, the soil temperature holds on to heat more readily than the air — so the soil stays warm and welcoming to plant root systems.

4. There’s less weed competition
If you’ve done a good job of keeping weeds at bay all summer, your fall-planted perennials won’t have to compete with any new upstarts.
5. You can garden when you have more time
Gardening season in spring is like rush hour traffic — so much to do, so little time. Fall planting offers you a bigger window of time in the garden; planting perennials then may feel more pleasurable, less time-stressed.
6. Fall-planted perennials are like money in the bank
If you like the idea of investment, fall planting perennials is for you. Plants will be bigger and healthier in the spring — a great return on your investment.
7. Coordinate perennials with spring-blooming bulbs
When you plant perennials and spring-flowering bulbs at the same time, you get a double dose of color next spring. Up come spring bulbs, such as daffodils and crocus, followed by perennials, such as dianthus and garden phlox.
8. Get a jump on garden design
When you plant early (in autumn), your perennials flourish faster in spring and summer. That means you will quickly be able to see the blank spots in your landscape that you can fill out with spring plants.
9. Early-blooming perennials do better when planted in fall
Late summer and fall are ideal times to plant perennials that flower in spring and early summer. When you plant in the fall, early-season bloomers have a chance to built root systems and establish vigor — which will show up in the following year’s bloom.

Plant these SPRING-FLOWERING perennials in autumn:
Coreopsis
Salvia
Dianthus
Leucanthemum
Lysimachia

Plant these SUMMER-FLOWERING perennials in fall:
Garden Phlox
Sedum
Gaillardia
Heucherella

TIPS FOR FALL-PLANTED PERENNIALS
When planting perennials in autumn, follow these guidelines:

1) Plant before frost. Check your local area’s frost estimations and plant perennials at least 6 weeks before the first freeze.
2) Don’t fertilize — fall-planted perennials will be going into winter dormancy in their next stage of life and new growth (encouraged by feeding) will be killed when the first frost comes.
3) Avoid planting late-flowering perennials such as aster, mum, black-eyed Susan, and perennial ornamental grasses; these do best planted in spring.
4) Mulch around the base of fall-planted perennials to help them overwinter in cold climates.
5) Water well. Make sure newly planted perennials get enough moisture to develop new root growth.

Flowers for the Winter and Spring Garden

  • Hollyhocks, because they grow up to two metres tall, need a wind-sheltered spot in full sun. In most places Hollyhock Double Elegance’s puffs of multi-petalled flowers will appear next spring but, where it’s very cold, they may not bloom until the second year. Regardless of this, these striking garden flowers are well worth having.
  • Pansies and violas, are closely related to each other. Both are best sown into pots or trays of Yates Seed Raising Mix and transplanted carefully once the seedlings are big enough. While there are many varieties, one of the most unusual is Yates Pansy Black Night
  • Sweet pea is possibly the most popular flower seed for autumn sowing. Traditional favourite sweet peas are climbers that need support but there are others suited to pots. Sow direct into well-drained soil in a sunny spot. Make sure you have a Yates Rose Shield on hand to treat mildew as soon as it appears.
  • Aquilegia’s (pictured), name is a bit of a mouthful but, fortunately, this cottagey flower is also known by the friendlier ‘columbine’. The pretty blooms with backwards spurs come in a range of pastel bi-colours. These plants do best in cool climates but, where it’s warmer, will flourish in semi shade. If happy, aquilegias can last for a number of years.
  • Calendulas are useful because their cheerful orange and yellow daisies add warmth to the winter garden. They’re also helpful for deterring insect pests like white fly so it’s a good idea to plant them all around the garden – even among the vegies! Calendula ‘Pacific Beauty’ flowers in a range of colour shades from soft salmon to deep orange.
  • Cornflowers are synonymous with blue but also come in pink, rose, lavender, white and other colours. Start seeds in pots of Yates Seed Raising Mix and plant out about 40cm apart. They’re great for picking.
  • Sweet william is a form of dianthus, a close relative of the carnation. The flowers have a charming spikiness due to the small leaflets that sit below the clustered heads. All dianthus like sweet soil so, in acid areas, mix in some Yates Garden Lime before planting. The flowers are edible and make pretty garnishes.

10 Perennials To Plant This Fall To Make Your Garden Beautiful

The fall season means many things. For many, the leaves change color and the temperatures get cooler. But, as the season begins to change, plant lovers also know it’s time to plan for planting perennials.

While annual plants bloom for a single season before withering away, perennials continue to come back for another season or more. This doesn’t mean they will live forever. In fact, perennials have an average lifespan of three to five years.

However, some of these plants can live much longer. There are hardy perennials that can bring life and color to your garden for 20 years or even more. Check out 10 long-lived perennial plants that range from delicate flowers to robust greenery to gain ideas for your fall planting.

1. Astilbe

With fern-like foliage and eye-catching flowers, this perennial plant grows well in light to moderate shade. Astilbe can thrive for 15 years or longer.

Flickr | hartjeff12

2. Balloon Flower

Also known as Chinese bellflowers, these long-lived perennials begin with interesting balloon-shaped buds that burst open in summer. They may be blue, pink, purple or white.

Flickr | Numinosity (Gary J Wood)

3. Bee Balm

Although it might sound like something you apply to a bug bite, bee balm is actually a member of the mint family that often attracts hummingbirds, butterflies and, yes, bees.

Flickr | wallygrom

4. Bearberry

Sometimes called kinninnick, bearberry is a low-growing shrub that can flourish for decades. The evergreen plant produces clusters of pink or white bell-shaped flowers and red berries.

Flickr | nordique

5. Coral Bells

Named for the shape and hue of its flowers, these long lived plants—also called alumroot or heucheras—feature striking foliage, as well.

Flickr | photogramma1

6. Cranesbill Geranium

Although some geraniums are annual plants, the cranesbill variety can blossom for 10 years or longer. Colors range from pale blue and violet to light pink and bright magenta.

Flickr | jinxmcc

7. Daylilies

If you want large, vibrant flowers that don’t require much care, consider daylilies. The bright spring flowers can grow for many years without any special attention.

Flickr | moyix

8. Goldenrod

The sunshiny shade of this resilient, long lived perennial can often be seen spreading across wild meadows and prairies but can also add interest to your own garden.

Flickr | steve p2008

9. Pigsqueak

Bergenia cordifolia (aka “pigsqueak“) offers bold foliage and bright magenta flowers that thrive in shady gardens.

Flickr | Swallowtail Garden Seeds

10. Stonecrop

This low-maintenance, perennial succulent loves full sun and delivers attractive color and texture to rock gardens, containers and more.

Flickr | Ruth and Dave

10 vegetables to plant now for a bountiful spring harvest

Here we are at the end of the Northern Hemisphere harvest season, but that doesn’t mean you have to pack up your tools and stare wistfully out the window at your garden for the next few months. With a little preparation now and the right choice of plants, you can have some fresh produce on hand throughout winter and get a head start on your early spring crops.

In order to have springtime success with fall-planted and overwintered vegetables, it’s important to know the growing zone you live in: that’s going to have a big impact on what you can and cannot grow. For example, I’m in Montreal, which is zone 5, borderline 6, and planting anything outdoors for harvesting during winter is out of the question for me. Ditto trying to overwinter broccoli, since I don’t have a heated greenhouse in my backyard. But even here, believe it or not, there are things that I can sow or plant now that will ensure I am the first kid on the block with a serving of homegrown produce come spring. For growing zone guides worldwide, you can find comprehensive maps here, and the detailed USDA map can be found here.

Related: Edible Plants That You Can Grow in Autumn and Winter

In milder zones, you’ll be able to grow most of the traditional overwintering crops such as root vegetables and brassicas. In fact, if you’re in Florida, winter is the only time you’re likely to have much success with these crops. As you head further north or into higher altitudes, cold frames and poly tents become the winter gardener’s ally, helping you to nurture plants through until the days start getting longer and the plants start to regain their vigor and reward you with your first spring vegetables. Well-composted raised garden beds are also recommended, as they improve drainage in wet winter weather thereby reducing the chance of rot. A protective layer of mulch is the plant’s equivalent of a granny’s knee rug when it comes to insulating your leafy charges too. As you get further north still, well, even here in freezing eastern Canada I manage to molly-coddle along basil, chili pepper, oregano, chives, and the like by keeping them inside next to a south-facing window over winter.

If you can’t grow vegetables outdoors during winter because it’s too cold, you can still pre-seed your garden for early spring germination. Pre-seeding your veggie patch lets nature decide for herself when the time is right for your spring seedlings to sprout. Plant the seed of spring-growing vegetables once it’s too cold for them to germinate, then mulch and wait. Continually frozen soil over winter is better for the seeds than a cycle of freezing and defrosting. The temperature dropped to -27C (-17F) here last winter and I still had self-seeded lettuces, wild arugula, and shiso plants pop up in the planter boxes in May. Pre-seeding does require a tolerance to some loss though, especially if you live in a high rainfall area where seed may rot. Spread more seed than you think you might need because you can always transplant or give away extras in spring if you are too successful. Ideal pre-seeded crops include arugula (rocket), lettuce, brassicas, radish, and basil, as well as the usual compost heap volunteers, cherry tomatoes and pumpkins. While you’re busy throwing seeds about, don’t forget your summertime pollinator friends either: be sure to add some milkweed and local wildflower seeds into the mix so bees and butterflies have something to forage on as soon as possible too.

Below you’ll find a list of some familiar – and not so familiar – cool weather crops that you can plant out as seeds or bulbs now for an early spring harvest, climate zone permitting.

Related: Re-discovering Perennial Vegetables

Leafy greens

Fall-planted leafy greens such as kale and collards are not only tough enough to survive the cold – and even snow – they usually taste all the better for it. The added beauty of growing these vegetables over winter is that they are cut-and-come-again crops. You can lightly harvest what you need for mid-winter meals, and they’ll still be ready to leap into action once the days start getting longer. This gives you a constant supply as you transition into spring, instead of making you wait all winter long for a single vegetable to mature. There are many varieties of kale and collards, so consult local resources for the best varieties for your climate zone and prepare yourself to be overwhelmed by choice. My favorite kale is the Cavolo nero, or Tuscan kale, but you can even eat the quite common ornamental kale at a pinch if you still have some hanging around by spring – though it’s not the tastiest or most tender variety. Spinach can also be overwintered for a first spring crop; however, it’s not quite as tough as kale and collards. Be sure to mulch it well and put it under glass if you are in a frost-prone area.

Alliums

If you have the space, winter onion varieties can be a set-and-forget crop. Give them plenty of food, weed-suppressing mulch and good drainage, keep a eye out for pests such as slugs, and you should be right. The big catch is they won’t be ready to harvest until summer. For an earlier crop, try some of the smaller alliums. Shallots will grow wherever onions thrive and add a delicate taste to dishes that is especially prized in French cuisine. Shallots are a clumping allium, and it’s recommended to retain the biggest shallot from each clump for replanting the following year. Scallions (or green onions or spring onions) for spring harvest can be slipped in just about anywhere in the garden, as long as it’s a sunny spot. Another excellent overwintering allium is the Egyptian onion, or tree onion. Instead of a flower head, these plants produce a cluster of baby onions at the top of their leaf spike, which eventually becomes so heavy it droops over, hits the ground and takes root. As a perennial, these are an excellent choice for home gardens, giving you tasty little onions for pickling, salads and cooking. While the “topsets” are mature in late summer, you can eat the green shoots, immature young onions and older, overwintered onions before then. Unfortunately, Egyptian onions don’t produce in their first year of growth, so you have to demonstrate a little gardeners’ patience. (Sigh!) Egyptian onions have been known to survive -24F, can tolerate being buried by snow and will grow well in zones 3 to 9.

Garlic

Garlic is an allium too, but it deserves its own special mention. Fall is the time to plant garlic, though it won’t be ready to harvest as a mature vegetable until next summer. In spring, however, you can treat yourself to green garlic shoots, and if you plant “hardneck” garlic varieties, you can harvest garlic scapes in May to early summer. When planting garlic, bury each clove about three inches deep, cover with soil and mulch well. This is one crop that’s definitely worth the effort for the difference in taste between the homegrown organic version and its well-traveled imported cousin. It can also be squeezed in just about anywhere, and will happily grow in a tub.

Peas and broad beans

In milder climate zones you can plant peas and broad beans in fall for an early spring harvest. A fall planting can produce pods up to a month earlier than a spring planting, and you can also pick the shoots and leaf tips for inclusion in salads, sautés and stir fries. Provided your soil doesn’t get too wet and waterlogged, you can also try pre-seeding them if you live in a zone that’s too cold for outdoor winter growing – there’s only really one way to find out if that’s going to work for you, right? To increase your harvest length, plant both early and late harvest varieties of peas and broad beans, and if you have the space, include snow peas (mangetout) and edamame. I had great cool-climate growing success with edamame last spring and early summer, so I’m going to try pre-seeding them this fall.

Broccoli and cauliflower

These hardy favorites always pop up on mid- to warmer-zone winter growing lists, but I’ll make a confession: I’ve never once had success with homegrown cauliflower in over 20 years of gardening across a multitude of climates. If you’ve got a hot tip for homegrown cauliflower success, please feel free to share in the comments. However, if you are just starting out with a veggie patch, it might be best to give the single-harvest caulis a skip for now and try some sprouting broccoli. Like the leafy greens, this crop is cut-and-come-again, making it ideal for home gardens as you’ll get a light to regular supply all winter long, depending on your location. Overwintered sprouting broccoli will then really start to flourish come spring. If you find your brassicas seem to stall as the weather cools down, just give them some more mulch and when the weather warms up they’ll take off again to give you an early spring crop.

Cabbage

If kept protected from the extremes of winter, fall-planted cabbages will chug along slowly over the colder months and give you a head start on a spring crop. Because cabbages are a single-harvest vegetable, ensure you don’t wind up with 20 of them maturing all at once in spring by planting a mixture of red, green and Savoy cabbages. Look out for shorter and longer growing season varieties too and you will be able to stagger your spring harvest. Cabbages are heavy feeders, so prepare their beds well, and be sure to practice crop rotation to lower the risk of disease being passed on from one year’s crop to the next.

Root vegetables

Like the leafy greens, root vegetables are often all the sweeter for being overwintered, and parsnips especially benefit from taking a hit of frost. Options here include carrots, parsnips, beetroot, swedes (rutabagas), turnips and salsify. If you are lucky enough to not get frosts, the larger daikon radish is a possibility as well. While daikon loves a cool climate, it is not so fond of frost, but cold frames can give you a bit of grace here too. In spring, be sure to start harvesting if your beets or carrots show hints that they are sending up flower heads. The vegetables will become bitter if left to flower. If the ground gets just too cold to leave root crops in the soil where you are, pull up as late a harvest as you dare, don’t wash the vegetables but do trim off their leaves, and store them in clean sand in a frost-free space such as a mud room or basement. This effectively puts the vegetables into suspended animation. They’ll stay nice and plump instead of drying out or going all wrinkly and limp like they would in the fridge.

Herbs

Unless you are in a warm hardiness zone, bring your potted herbs inside and pop them in a sunny spot over winter. With enough light, woody perennials such as thyme, sage and oregano should soldier on through, though rosemary can be temperamental about water and humidity, so maybe don’t get too attached to outcomes there. That said, some herbs we normally consider annuals can actually be grown perennially, or at least biennially. Parsley is a useful and long-lasting cooking and salad herb that will overwinter well indoors with adequate light and watering. As I type, I have a chili plant to my left and a basil plant to my right: both are 15 months old and are showing no sign of quitting any time soon. Friends here in Montreal have basil plants that are heading into their fourth winter, and while you won’t be making huge batches of pesto in March, keeping potted basil indoors over winter will ensure you have enough to toss through pasta or salads in early spring.

Salad leaves

Arugula (or rocket) is hands down my favorite homegrown vegetable: it lives up to the rocket moniker with super fast germination, and you will be picking baby leaves within 30 days of planting seeds. A fall planting under cold frames or in a pot indoors should get you through to spring, but be sure to pre-seed some in a sunny spot so your spring crop starts as soon as the weather allows. Even if you’re not overly fond of arugula’s peppery taste, its vigor will keep you motivated to tend to your other plants as the mercury drops. If you do like strongly flavored salad leaves, plant some frost-tolerant radicchio and endive as well. Both of these come in several varieties and will add color, texture and a pleasant hint of bitterness to your winter and early spring salads. Young radicchio can be picked as a cut-and-come-again crop and endives can be “blanched” while still in the ground to reduce their bitterness. Radicchio can also be grilled once it has formed a head, and both endive and radicchio can be baked, which sweetens them a little. Some of the hardier lettuces, such as cos, can be nurtured in cold frames over winter, though if you have room indoors you could also grow a potful of mixed mesclun leaves in a sunny spot to have baby salad greens all winter long that can then be moved out of doors as it gets warmer.

Asparagus and artichokes

If you have the space, the right climate zoning and you are confident you are going to have access to your current garden for a few years to come, please consider planting some of these perennials. You will be rewarded with vegetable luxury every year come early spring. The catches? Colder than zone 8 and artichokes should really be grown as an annual, which means they won’t be ready for a spring harvest. However, asparagus can be grown in zones 4 to 9, which makes it quite versatile as a first-of-the-season crop. Florida is generally too warm for either of these beauties to grow with much success. Asparagus can take up to three years to get going, especially if started from seed, but it will reward you with up to 25 years of crops. That’s quite a payoff, and the al dente give of a lightly cooked, new season’s spear of homegrown asparagus will rapidly make the trials of winter seem like they happened months ago.

Photos: Lead image by Robert S. Donovan, kale by Noelle, sprouting broccoli by Korye Logan, Egyptian onions by Eunice, garlic by Oisin Hurley, carrot by Brett Forsyth, broad beans by Glenn, cabbage by Kurt Bauschardt, radicchio by Eunice, herb pot by nociveglia, artichokes by Jewel o’ the desert via Flickr.

Planting in the Fall for a Spring Bounty

Best Plants for Fall Planting

Garlic: Garlic is one of the few vegetables that is usually planted in fall. Garlic grows best planted in October or November in most areas. In northern climates, mulch the beds around December 1 with a 4- to 6-inch-thick layer of straw. Although not ready for harvest in spring in some areas (usually garlic is harvested in June or July in the North), garlic is still an excellent crop to put in the ground this fall.

Onions: If you live in the South or West, fall is the time to plant sweet onions such as ‘Vidalia’ and ‘Texas Grano’. Like garlic, onions are harvested in late spring and early summer. Scallions make a nice alternative to onions for northern gardeners. Plant scallions in fall and protect them with cold frames or row covers in winter to enjoy scallions in early spring.

Spinach: Spinach gets its own category apart from other greens because it’s simply that important as a fall-seeded and spring-harvested crop. Plant spinach now, then cover the beds in November with a row cover to protect the young seedlings. Check them at first signs of a thaw in March or April and savor the tender, sweet taste. ‘Winter Bloomsdale’ is a variety definitely worth trying.

Greens: Mesclun mix, mâché, lettuce and other specialty greens grow well when seeded in fall. There are two ways to grow these: Sow seeds early enough so the greens emerge, then protect the young plants over winter as recommended for spinach; I’ve also had some success preparing a raised bed, sowing seeds late in October or November and letting the ungerminated seeds sit in the soil until spring. This is precisely what nature does when it self-sows crops such as cilantro, lettuce and ground cherries. These always seem to have seedlings popping up in spring all over the garden. In a mild, wet climate the seed may rot, but in cold winter climates the seed lies dormant until spring when conditions are right for growing. I’ve noticed seeds planted this way germinate at the exact right time, and you get plants ready to harvest weeks before your spring-sown crops.

Brassicas: While most forms of broccoli and cauliflower are traditionally harvested in fall (in warm climates) or summer (in cooler climates), some varieties are suitable for overwintering. Plant these varieties in fall and they will grow slowly through the winter and mature in spring in mild, but not warm, winter climates such as some mid-Atlantic states and the Pacific Northwest. ‘Purple Sprouting’ broccoli and ‘Purple Cape’ cauliflower are two overwintering varieties to try.

Root crops: Beets, carrots and radishes all can be planted in fall. It’s important to get them in the ground and growing a month or so before the cold weather hits. For radishes, with a little protection in fall you can eat these over the holidays. For beets and carrots, the young plants will survive the cold in northern climates and grow slowly in mild winter climates for a harvest in early spring. The key difference between fall-harvested and spring-harvested beets and carrots is their sweetness. You’ll be amazed at how sweet spring carrots taste. ‘Napoli’ is a good overwintering carrot variety, and any of the baby beet varieties work well. Be sure to harvest early in spring before these biennials send up a flower stalk and start to taste bitter.

Winter Squash and Peas: While they’re not among the most common plants seeded in fall for a spring harvest, some gardeners have had success with peas and winter squash sown late and allowed to germinate at the first hint of spring. Think of the pumpkin plant growing out of the compost pile in spring, and you’ll know how tough these seeds can be.

—Adapted from the National Gardening Association

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Poole recommends planting hardy bulbs in the fall for the best blossoms come spring. Tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths should all go into the ground no later than October, he says. New trees and shrubs should also be planted in September, to allow time for the root systems to develop. Lush peonies should be planted in early fall as well, and lilies should be planted no later than mid-October. More delicate flower bulbs, like gladioli and dahlias, should wait for spring, Poole says.

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Rather than using mulch on your fall-planted flower beds, Poole recommends putting the season’s endless supply of fallen leaves to good use instead. Save yourself some raking-and-bagging and crush up those leaves to use in place of regular mulch, he says: “Composted leaves add humic acid to your plants, which is basically a power booster for your garden come springtime.”

Of course, if you just can’t wait for spring to get your flower fix, chrysanthemums (you’ve probably heard them called “mums” for short) come in a rainbow of autumnal colors and are tough enough to withstand the colder temperatures of the season. That should tide you over—at least until it snows.

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Michele Petry Deputy Managing Editor Michele Petry is the Deputy Managing Editor of House Beautiful; she has edited home, lifestyle, food, and fashion content for magazines including Elle Decor, Food & Wine, and Marie Claire.

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