As the summer days fade slide into fall, you may find your garden is looking a little bedraggled. Now is the perfect time to plan ahead for next year, by assessing where you could use an infusion of late-season color or a blooming focal point to steal the scene.
The following five perennials are reliable September bloomers in many parts of the country. (Before you buy or plant one of them, check to make sure it does well in your climate and conditions.) And remember, you can also fill in the gaps with hardy annuals like pansies, geraniums, and sweet alyssum, which all thrive in the cool, sunny days of fall.
1. Aster (Aster novae-angliae). The New England aster is a refreshing autumn alternative to the chrysanthemum. Daisy-shaped flowers come in shades of blue, lavender, pink, and white. It blooms heavily, and reaches two to four feet, depending on the variety.
2. Japanese anemone (Anemone x hybrida). A good choice for partial shade, this tall perennial features delicate flowers in pink, rose, or white. Over the years, it spreads to form large clumps, so pick a site for it accordingly.
3. Turtlehead (Chelone glabra). This plant earned its name because of the shape of its pink blossoms. This is a tough, woodland perennial that thrives in light shade and makes the best impact when planted in a mass.
4. Toad lily (Tricyrtis hirta). A woodland plant with orchid-like flowers, toad lily is a terrific, fall-blooming addition to the shade garden. It looks especially lovely when planted with variegated hosta.
5. Sweet autumn clematis (Clematis terniflora). A tough, perennial clematis vine that produces large masses of creamy white flowers in late summer and early fall. It’s a vigorous grower, so plant it along a fence, pergola, or trellis – it will easily stretch out 10 to 20 feet in a season. (Tip: Cut it back hard, to within a foot or two of the ground, each year in late winter or early spring, before new growth begins.)
6. Autumn joy sedum (Sedum spectabile ‘Autumn Joy’). A garden classic, with succulent stems and leaves and broccoli-shaped flower heads that turn from bright green in summer to rusty red in fall. Plant in full sun with good drainage.