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Now that the temperature has dropped, it’s the time to replace those fading summer blooms with plants that thrive in cooler weather. Kristin Schleiter, Director of Outdoor Gardens at the New York Botanical Garden shares her top five fall plants. Get them into your garden now!
“I love the fall colors of pansies,” says Kristin, “they are lovely in a window box, in the garden, or in pots.” Try any of the Delta series of pansies; the smaller flowers don’t look quite so unattractive once they fade and begin to decay. While the hybrid plants can be left to go to seed, they won’t come up matching their parents. For the most part, it’s best to pull them out once the hard frost starts.
Even the ubiquitous button varieties from the hardware store can brighten up a border or a container. But as Kristin notes, there are plenty of amazing choices that go past the basic. ‘Venus’ has a yellow-center with light pink or purple edges that look striking during the season.
Remove mums from your plot when the frost starts having its affect, and they begin to look shaggy. Gardeners in warmer climates (zone 5 – 6) can overwinter their mums, cutting them back in the spring and pinch the blooms throughout the summer to delay flowering until next fall.
Ornamental Kales and Cabbages
“Remember that whatever variety you pick up will only get richer and more vibrant as the air turns cooler,” says Kristin. Ornamental kale and cabbage turn from their initial greens and whites to deep reds and crimsons as nighttime temperatures drop. ‘Redbor’ is an unusual choice for its height and its frilly crimson leaves. Take out kale and cabbage when they start getting leggy; they are best treated as an annual.
There’s nothing more dramatic to incorporate into a garden or a container than ornamental grass, which adds both height and movement. Kristin says, “I love purple fountain grass for its rich crimson color.” Most grasses will keep blooming until they get a hard frost and in some locations, they will make it through the winter.
Finally, Euphorbias are an unusual addition to the fall garden. “Efanthia, or wood spur, has dark forest green that plays well with tiger’s eye pansies,” says Kristin. The foot-tall plants work well in masses or in pots. But as Kristin warns, “Enjoy them while you have them. They can be a little finicky about overwintering.”
For more on fall gardening, consider: