Fall does not always mean the shut down of the garden, there is still plenty of color that can be found with these colorful fall perennials.
With summer winding down across the nation, the late blooming, colorful fall perennials are coming out and taking center stage. The dominant colors of the fall perennial garden lie in the yellow/orange to red range with a few blues and white from the aster family. Of course not all the color comes from the blooms. Many perennials with variegated leaves also look attractive in the fall when the surrounding flowers have ceased to bloom. These too can be counted on as colorful fall perennials.
The most common fall perennial is the chrysanthemum. These colorful plants can be purchased from most of the garden centers across the country. However, not all the fall chrysanthemum will be perennial in your American garden. Additionally many of these chrysanthemums have been pampered in the greenhouses that grew them, and shipped in peak bloom.
Alas, your American garden is unlikely to be able to replicate those conditions so you will have to get your new chrysanthemums adjusted to wind and cool rains. Purchase these plants on a calm day with overcast skies. Although they do not necessarily need to be kept inside, leave them in a sheltered position for a day or two, just as you would spring transplants. Depending on where you are located, plant your chrysanthemums in full sun and in a well drained soil. If you plan on having the plants survive until next year, mulch them well and cover them generously with mulch for the first winter.
Asters are another great fall perennial which will grow well in zones 4 and above depending on variety. In colder zones, plan on using asters as an annual which flowers late in the growing season. Look for asters in your favorite nursery and you will likely find them marked down in the fall sale. The daisy-like flower of asters comes in a variety of shades that include pinks, reds and blues with contrasting centers. Asters can also be grown from seed to give you added variety and color.
Another fall flower that is less well known in the north is the Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans). This pretty red flower will appear very late in the growing season which means that the flower and entire plant are frequently destroyed by early frosts in the north although you should have taken advantage of the leaves for teas and desserts throughout the summer months. However, if you can get the plant to produce flowers, by potting up the salvia, it will continue blooming indoors for several weeks. Pineapple sage is a large plant that will need a two gallon or eighteen inch pot to bring it indoors. Taking cuttings of this plant also works well to get you a good start for next year.
On the foliage side look for various colored sages such as Purple sage (Salvia officinalis purpurea) and Tricolored sage (Salvia officinalis tricolor) both of which are marginally hardy to zone 5; and the multi colored cabbages that have become popular of late.
All these colorful fall perennials will brighten up the garden as the day length shortens and the nights get cooler.