meadow of pink and purple flowers in sunshine

The Best Autumn Plants

Autumn brings a lot of things. It marks the transition from summer to winter, a change in the weather, the leaves falling from the trees, Halloween, and, unfortunately, the beginning of the end for the garden. Or does it? 65% of British people don’t know that autumn is the best season for planting[i], but there’s never a better time of the year to be working on your garden. Just because the sun’s gone away doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice your favourite hobby and all the fun it brings – the soil in autumn is so moist and warm that you can plant for a beautifully vibrant garden even as the days grow darker. Plants for autumn and winter have the best chance of survival because of their robustness, and almost anything planted in autumn is likely to thrive given the proper care and maintenance. Not to mention it’s the best time to start getting ahead for next spring too!

With that in mind, here are the best autumn flowering plants to give your garden a pop of colour this autumn, plus the best things to plant for each month of this fantastic season.

Autumn Blaze Maple Tree

A beautiful ornamental tree, an autumn blaze, provides that gorgeous rusty colour you see all around in autumn. Although it can take 15-20 years to fully mature, these trees have a pretty fast growth rate and are likely to begin shooting up not too long after planting. They don’t succumb to the usual pests and diseases, can tolerate poor soil, and even survive droughts when well established, making for quite a low-maintenance addition to any autumnal garden. An autumn blaze maple tree is the perfect choice for a stand-out statement throughout the colder months or a focal point to lighten up those tiring plants.

Cyclamen

Found in differing shades of pink, cyclamen is a species of perennial flowering plants that are hardy enough to survive even the severest of temperatures. Cyclamens are great mixers and will do amazingly well planted with other plants. To create a charming display, sow the seeds beneath roses and trees or alongside spring-flowering bulbs like snowdrops. If they are planted in good company and get enough winter light, these flowers should stay fresh all year long. It can take nine months to a year for the cyclamen to bloom, though, so patience is a virtue with these seeds.

Dahlia

Available in a rainbow of pretty colours, dahlias will add brightness to even the dullest of days. These perennial plants, native to Mexico and Central America, flower in summer and often survive until the first frosts, but, as tubers, they are particularly fragile. To grow dahlia tubers, the process must start in a greenhouse or a similar frost-free area until they are strong enough to survive outdoors. Water well to avoid mildew, and dahlias will provide you with a burst of colour for an extended blooming period.

Crocus

A genus of plants that belong to the lily family, autumn crocuses bloom in a rainbow of bright colours and can typically last until early spring. They make perfect, colourful additions to borders and look great beneath trees or left to grow among grass because they will thrive in the shade these areas provide. Autumn crocus is often found in meadows around the U.K. and is a popular distribution among churchyards, parks and roadsides. Meadow saffron is often referred to as the autumn crocus but is no relation to the actual species. Autumn crocuses are highly poisonous to animals and humans, so make sure you keep away children or pets that like to wander.

Galanthus Reginae-Olgae

Queen Olga’s snowdrop is the best known of the Galanthus species that will flower through autumn and usually bloom fully in October. A native of Sicily and best planted in clumps, their outer petals open to reveal a small green heart shape on the inner petals when these beautiful white flowers bloom. Queen Olga’s snowdrops require little maintenance and are perfect for planting alongside trees, shrubs, hardy plants or foliage, but are unlikely to last through severe weather temperatures. Despite this, they will provide a blanket of snow-like colour across your flowerbed throughout autumn.

Liriope

Also known as lilyturf, these vibrant purple flowers are evergreen perennials originally from East Asia. Lilyturf is perfect for borders and makes a unique lawn alternative, though it can take 2-5 years for the plants to reach their full height. Requiring little maintenance, liriope is a tough plant and will grow in almost any conditions, including heat, drought and salt spray, but too-wet soil is their main downfall. In autumn, lilyturf plants will produce single-seeded berries and, although they aren’t officially deemed poisonous, it’s best to keep wandering pets or children away just in case.

Aster

Providing pretty purples, blues or whites to a garden, the aster is a genus of perennial flowering plants that require a full sun planting location. A part of the daisy family, these flowers will bloom in late summer and remain through most of autumn, which provides them with the common nickname of ‘Michaelmas Daisy.’ Asters are perfect for that awkward transition between summer and autumn, continuing to provide colour through the less busy months, and are ideal for a pop of colour in mixed borders. You must avoid getting water or fertilizer on the leaves, though, because this will lead to mildew and other fungal diseases that may kill your plant.  

Castlewellan Gold

A conifer tree with evergreen foliage, the Castlewellan gold looks steadfastly beautiful through winter and autumn when other plants are beginning to tire. Castlewellan golds are durable trees able to grow in most conditions apart from waterlogged ground and are perfect for hedging because of their height and strength. These potted trees are often seen in a swirling shape, but this isn’t necessarily how you need to present a Castlewellan gold. Spiral or not, these trees will require a twice-yearly trimming to maintain their shape (during which you should avoid cutting into old wood), but little else is necessary for maintenance once the plants are properly established.

Helianthus 

A genus of flowering plants, including sunflowers, helianthus are beautifully bright flowers that can grow as tall as thirteen feet. Despite the name, sunflowers will continue to bloom when the sun isn’t around so much and can generally last until mid-autumn. Perfect for wildlife or informal gardens, many species within this genus will attract bees through the summer, produce seeds that will feed finches, and brighten up any autumnal garden. Encourage them to grow amazingly tall with weekly feeding and ensure that you provide support should the stem begin to sag as it grows. 

Ilex Aquifolium

Probably better known to you as holly, Ilex aquifolium is the species we commonly associate with Christmas. Sporting beautifully festive red berries and bright green leaves, a holly bush makes a colourful addition to any garden and will begin to sprout towards the end of autumn. For red berries to grow, you will need to plant both a male and female species close together, but they look just as good without. Make sure you take precautions to keep your pets away, though, because holly leaves and berries can be toxic.

What To Plant Now

As we said before, autumn is the best time of the year for planting. Not only can you start preparing for spring and summer, but you can also sneak in some beautiful blooms that will provide a bit of colour through the darkening days. Here are the best things to plant through autumn and the optimum months for planting them:

What To Plant In October

  • Daffodil bulbs
  • Tulip bulbs
  • Allium bulbs
  • Any perennials or biennials you have grown from seed
  • Spring bedding plants – e.g. wallflowers, Bellis, primulas
  • Sow wildflower seeds
  • Clematis
  • Bareroot ornamental trees – e.g. birch, cherry blossom
  • Autumn onions
  • Winter lettuces
  • Bare root fruit trees

What To Plant In November

  • Christmas roses
  • Hyacinth bulbs
  • Magnolia tree
  • Bare-root roses
  • Heather
  • Grasses
  • Trailing ivy
  • Spring bedding displays of pansies, violas and primulas
  • Overwintering onions and garlic
  • Asparagus
  • Rhubarb crowns

What To Plant In December

  • Winter shrubs
  • Bare root native hedges
  • Fritillaria, ivy, skimmia, and evergreen grasses in winter containers
  • Strawberries
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Currants
  • Gooseberries

A Colourful Garden All Year Round

So now you know – just because the days get shorter and colder doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice anything in your garden! Take good care of all the seeds and bulbs you plant throughout autumn and carry out regular pest control to ensure their best chance of survival, and you’ll have a garden that stays beautifully vibrant throughout the year.

What are your favourite autumn flowers? Let us know in the comments below.    

Sources

  [i] https://www.rhs.org.uk/press/releases/RHS-launches-Grow-at-Home-this-autumn

 

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