The list of fall perennials continues . . .
Farfugium japonicum 'Giganteum,' giant leopard plant, Zones 7-9. I first saw this at the Atlanta Botanical Garden where they have used it extensively in the new Southern Seasons Garden, and said "What is that!" A type of ligularia, this species has huge, thick, rounded heart-shaped, glossy green leaves forming a huge clump. Tall stalks of yellow daisy-like flowers top it in late October into November.
Gentiana andrewsii, bottle gentian, Zones 3-7. This fall-blooming perennial is a native of northeastern and midwestern North America. The curious dark blue flowers are clustered at the top of the stem and swell like bottles, but never open. If you can provide the moist soil, good drainage and cool temperatures it prefers, the blue of the flowers is beautiful. Not a good plant for the south.
Helenium autumnale, sneezeweed, Zones 3-8. Poor sneezeweed, like goldenrod, has the rep for causing hayfever, but the culprit is really ragweed which blooms at the same time. A native of eastern North America, sneezeweed blooms in late summer into autumn. The large domed centers resemble coneflowers, but the yellow array of petals with lobed, toothy tips are distinctive. This plant gets large (3-5') and can be invasive, so dig and divide every couple of years to keep in check.
Helianthus angustifolius, swamp or narrow leaf sunflower, Zones 6-9. At 5-7' tall, with cheery bright golden yellow blooms, this sunflower really creates an impact in the fall garden. This one at Tryon Palace in New Bern, N.C.
Helianthus giganteus, giant sunflower, Zones 5-9. I've not seen this sunflower in person, but I understand that it can get 7-10'! Unlike the giant annual sunflower (Helianthus annuus) that produces huge flowerheads, this fall-blooming perennial produces a profusion of 2" flowers.
Helianthus salicifolius, willowleaf sunflower, Zones 5-9. Willowleaf sunflower is similar to swamp sunflower, but has narrower leaves and is a bit hardier. 'Lemon Queen,' here at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, is a good selection. Butterflies love it!
Hibiscus mutabilis, Confederate rose, 7-10. Not a rose at all, but a mallow, Confederate rose is fascinating for its large, showy rose-like blooms that change color from white to pale pink to deep rose as the day progresses. There are single and double forms, and some, such as "Plenus' (shown below), or 'Rubrum' that do not change color. This late-summer-to-fall-blooming perennial can grow into a large, shrubby plant of up to 15.'
Hylotelephium, sedum or stonecrop Zones 3-8. The taxonomists have been at it again! Recent DNA testing has led to reclassifications and renaming of genuses, so now these larger sedums are called hylotelephiums, which is a mouthful. Whatever you call them, they are the same plants and are wonderful in the fall garden with their rounded flowerheads and fleshy succulent leaves—bees and butterflies love them. There are several outstanding cultivars. 'Autumn Joy' (‘Herbstfreude’) is a cornerstone of the fall border. The flowers change color from palest pink to rose and finally copper-red as they mature--they sort of look like pink broccoli. 'Autumn Fire' is a newer cultivar with deeper colored rosy flowers than 'Autumn Joy' that last longer into the fall. ‘Frosty Morn’ is a new look in sedums with very pale pink flowers and variegated foliage. 'Matrona' has dark wine-red stems and blue-green leaves with a hint of purple. The pink flowerheads, which are darker and looser than ‘Autumn Joy,’ are borne above the foliage on tall stems. An outstanding color combination.
Irises are so beautiful that it is worth trying a few of the reblooming ones to enjoy them again in late summer or fall. Some varieties are more reliable than others, but the reblooming trait seems to depend on a lot of factors including zone, climate, temperature and culture. Most of the reblooming types are among the tall bearded hybrids, but there are also some remontant types in other bearded irises and Siberian irises. Here are a few tall bearded iris hybrids said to be reliable rebloomers. Consult the Reblooming Iris Society, www.rebloomingiris.com, for more information.
Autumn Circus--blue-violet and white plicata, early season
Autumn Tryst--lavender/white plicata, mid season
Best Bet--light blue standards with dark blue falls, early season
Breakers--blue self, mid to late season
Champagne Elegance--white standards with apricot falls, mid season
Clarence--light blue and white bitone, early season
Harvest of Memories--yellow self, mid season
Immortality--white self, mid season
Jennifer Rebecca--pink, mid season
Mother Earth--light pink standards with darker lilac falls, mid to late season
Pagan Dance--dark violet w/black center on falls, early to mid season
Rosalie Figge--dark violet, late season
Sugar Blues--blue, mid to late season
Total Recall--soft yellow standards, white falls w/yellow edge
Lespedeza thunbergii, Thunberg bush clover, Zones 4-7. The shrubby perennial produces long arching stems laden with pea-like rose-pink flowers.
Muhlenbergia capillaris, pink muhly grass, Zones 7-9. This lovely grass, neat and quiet all summer, creates quite a show when it blooms in the fall. The airy sprays of pink flowers on wiry stems are stunning and long lasting. Great used en masse.
Nipponanthemum nipponicum, Nippon or Montauk daisy, Zones 5-9. This mum has attractive foliage that is topped with large, white daisy-like flowers with greenish-yellow centers in late fall, blooming until frost.I saw them everywhere on a recent trip to Cape Cod and Nantucket. Full sun and good drainage are essential.
Plant of the Month
Updated new USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map 2023.