Fall brings on cooler temperatures, changing of the leaves, and the start of the landscape putting itself to bed for the winter. This doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice curbside interest at your commercial property. As summer annuals start to fade, there are ways to extend the season. By incorporating fall flowering annuals you can add color and extend interest into the cooler months. There are four commonly used plants that provide fall interest and each one has a unique characteristic that can help keep properties looking colorful and bright – even when the rest of the landscape isn’t.
Chrysanthemums, or mums for short, come in all shades of fall and start flowering in very late summer into early autumn. Mums come in a variety of sizes but most of us are most familiar with the plants that are roughly the size of a basketball and covered with dozens of blooms at once. You don’t need many of these plants to make an impact in the landscape, and when planted in mass, they can really catch your eye.
The downside to mums is that the flowers only last about 4-6 weeks. For properties that are looking for options for four rotations of seasonal color, these can be a great option. Mums are also a good choice if your summer flowers peter out before other fall options, like pansies, are available. They can improve an area that needs some visual interest until other, longer blooming options are available.
Sometimes referred to as “flowering cabbage” or “flowering kale”, these two groups of plants are in the same family as the edible versions we find in the produce section of the supermarket. These plants tend to be on the bitter side, so they aren’t considered a food source, but their colorful foliage and tolerance of cool temperatures make them ideal ornamental plants for fall and winter color.
Cabbage and Kale will start out green with a slight hint of color and won’t really show off in the landscape until the temperatures drop or a light frost has occurred. At that point, the foliage will change colors to either a bright white, pink, or purple. The way to get the biggest impact out of these ornamental wonders is to mass plant and try to angle the centers of the plants (where most of the color develops) towards the viewers passing by.
Probably the most recognizable fall annuals are pansies. The rainbow of colors ranges from reds and yellows to blues and purples – even black and orange. They are hardy, long blooming annuals and many varieties reliably return in spring and flower again. Pansies will typically flower up until the first hard frost and then they will go dormant. In early spring, they will pop up again and offer some early seasonal color when no other plants are in flower.
Pansies sit above compact, dark green plants and the flowers can be as much as 3” in diameter. There are only a few flowers per plant, but due to the larger size, they make a great display of color in fall landscapes. They tend to not do well when temperatures climb which is why they are removed and replaced with more heat tolerant selections in late spring.
If you need color in landscaping beds or containers, Pansies are a good option. They pair well with other cool-season annuals like cabbage or kale, and each year varieties are released with greater color combinations and longer windows of bloom time.
Violas are a large genus of flowering herbaceous plants and are commonly used in fall landscapes to provide cool-season color in the fall and winter months as well as the early spring months. These compact plants are both heat and cold tolerant so that can extend their overall bloom time. They also will return in early spring for a second burst of color early in the season.
These little plants pack a punch when it comes to color. The flowers themselves are roughly the size of a nickel, but there can be a dozen flowers or more on each plant so the visual effect is like a mass planting. The range of colors is not as vast as Pansies, but most of the traditional solid colors are available along with premixed combinations like Citrus Mix, Duet Mix, and Swirl Mix.
Violas like sun to partial shade exposure and moderate soil moisture. Soil that is too wet or holds water can result in the plants rotting at the base or developing a fungus that can result in reduced flower displays and stunted plants. These plants work great in large planting areas or smaller containers and provide long-lasting color during months when not much else is in flower.
Keeping your landscape colorful and vibrant in fall doesn’t have to be a challenge. Any of the four plants used alone, or in combination, can really help your property stand out in the crowd. If you need some suggestions on how to improve your fall color displays, call us today.