Planting for Fall Beauty

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Learn how to give your landscape life and color long after the warm days of summer.

When most of us think of annuals, we think of the large flats of impatiens and petunias, marigolds and zinnias that add life and color to our flowerbeds and containers for the summer. But as the days begin to cool and the temperatures drop at night, our summer stars turn leggy and faded and are ready to be retired.

That’s when it’s time for our next round of annuals, which we call “seasonal color”, says landscape designer Eric Ball, enhancements manager at Lifescape Colorado. Fall annuals are an important part of any year-round landscape design and are an easy and beautiful way to maintain color and interest in your yard. “The reason our summer flowers fade is because they are, in essence, tropical plants—for example, impatiens are from New Guinea,” Ball says. “And they simply can’t withstand the colder temps.” But there are a host of plantings that will, and this is where Ball pulls from for his fall annual selections.

Here are his and Lifescape’s strategies for creating beautiful beds and planters when fall nips the air.

Planting Beds for Fall 

Once you’ve cleared summer’s old annuals, it’s time to reboot beds for the last few months of the growing season. One of Lifescape Colorado’s favorite strategies is to plant pansies in September. “They’re hardy enough to shrug off the frost, giving happy color through the fall,” Ball says. The fall growing season gives them enough time to establish roots so they can carry through the winter and then flower again in the early spring, before summer annual planting time. They’ll need to be pulled out at the end of the spring so summer annuals can be established.

Pansies are a great two-for-one, but they’re not the only option for fall beds. Hardy chrysanthemums have deep roots and can withstand the cold; they like sun and well-drained soil. Although mums are perennials, they tend to get unwieldy very quickly and are best planted and replaced each year for a more compact look and bloom. Be sure to deadhead them to encourage blooms.

Other options for fall beds include ornamental cabbage and kale, marigolds, and asters. Be sure to have plenty of mulch, which acts as an insulating blanket around your plants’ root systems.

Planting Containers for Fall

Many of the same rules apply for containers, with a few exceptions: pansies won’t survive the winter in a container as their roots will freeze above the ground. So simply remove them when they finish blooming.

Mums are ideal for fall containers and window boxes. Pro tip: when purchasing mums, buy plants that aren’t yet in full open flower, but with lots of tight buds just barely opening so you have a longer length of bloom.

While mumms can hold their own in a container, don’t overlook adding elements such as ornamental grasses or cabbages for interest.

Planning Ahead: Landscape Design for Fall Interest

You don’t need to rely only on annuals for fall beauty—you can incorporate perennial plantings, shrubs and trees in your overall landscaping that create interest year round, but shine in fall.

  • Ornamental grasses are beautiful in Fall, when they go to seed and produce feathery pods.
  • Burning bush is a classic, adding a fiery bright red.
  • Japanese maple add a deep red hue and elegant silhouette.
  • Low-grow sumac turns a fiery mix of orange and red and adds color lower to the ground.
  • Service berries add a pop of red to a fall yard, and the fruit attracts cedar waxwings, robins, catbirds, thrushes, and mockingbirds.
  • Honey locust blends a vibrant yellow into the mix.
  • Vines like Virginia creeper will draw the eye up with a blazing red color.
  • Maples of all types are a go-to for color.
  • Asters make for amazing perennial blooms that come online just when summer blossoms are fading.
  • Use pruned dogwood or willow branches in your container displays to add texture.
  • Mix in gords or pumpkins as well to get festive for fall.

Don’t Forget to Plan for Spring

When planning your fall garden, take a moment to plant your bulbs for spring. The ideal time is October or November; this is when you’ll want to plant daffodils, tulips, hyacinth and narcissus. Pro tip: This fall, supply chain issues are impacting garden supplies as well, so be sure to order your bulbs as soon as possible.

Even though fall is a season when a lot of gardens (and gardeners) are winding down, it’s an ideal time to extend the beauty and enjoyment of our landscapes. With a few pro moves and multi-tasking plantings, your yard can be a haven of color, texture and inspiration well into autumn. The professionals at Lifescape Colorado are


Contact us to plan your professionally designed fall landscape today.