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Falling for Flowers: How to Plant a Fall Flower Garden

Sarah Logie

As Content Strategist at BrighterBlooms.com, Sarah is smitten with words and a fanatic for flowers, particularly cut florals and house plants. With a love for curating compelling content, she also enjoys furthering her plant knowledge along the way!

Written by

Sarah Logie

Summer’s long, sunny days produce colorful blooms in unbelievable sizes, but for many people, autumn is when their garden really comes alive. A fall flower garden gives rise to yellow, orange, and red displays, making for an eye-catching landscape.

Fall annuals and perennials are great ways to embellish your yard, especially if you have deciduous trees like Maples or Oaks. Beyond that, a fall flower garden emphasizes verdant evergreen shrubs and trees, taking your yard from monochrome green to multicolored magic. 

Ready to dig a little deeper and discover what you’ll need to plant a fall flower garden? Let’s go! 

Options for a Fall Flower Garden

Sunny Knock Out Rose
Sunny Knock Out Rose

When it comes to fall flower garden ideas, the sky's the limit. But two popular, easy-to-plant options? A full sun or shade garden, or a container garden. Let’s explore the two!

A Full Sun Garden vs. a Shade Garden

A garden in full sun means the plants will receive at least 6 hours of sunlight daily. This is ideal if you have no tall trees, or shade from house siding, patios or other structures in the area. These plants tolerate heat well and require lots of sunshine to thrive.

On the other hand, a shade garden consists of plants that won’t mind, or even prefer, living in shade to partial shade. That means four hours or less of sun per day. Many shade gardens are situated under tree canopies, where some light peeks through. However, a dry shade garden is one where the plants receive no direct sunlight at all. This might mean the plants are stationed under building canopies, or trees with very dense canopies. 

But don’t worry - there's many fall flower annuals and perennials that grow in each garden type. We’ll go over the most popular options for each later.

A Container Garden

Fire Light Hydrangea
Fire Light Hydrangea

If you’re short on space or live in an area where the soil isn’t exactly plant-friendly (think extremely acidic or alkaline soil, compacted ground, or yards covered in concrete), then a container garden is the answer. From tiny terracotta pots to massive fiberstone tree planters, a container garden is a versatile alternative.

Don’t forget about hanging baskets, window boxes, and planter boxes, either! Another great thing about container gardens? All the different materials you can handpick to best meet your plants’ needs and your aesthetic vision. 

For starters, ceramic containers are a great match for perennials with top-heavy blooms. The pot’s hefty weight keeps the plant from toppling over. Metal containers are best if you need something that's easy to move around and can withstand various weather conditions.

Other choices include concrete, fiberglass, resin, stone, clay, and plastic (check out our White Delilah Pot for a great plastic option!). For vegetables or fruit trees, peat pots or flexible plastic bags are most sensible. They’re easy to transport and make transplanting a breeze when it’s time to move up a container size.

When in doubt, you can line your planters. Ornamental containers like fabric pots and carved, wooden pots may last longer this way. You can then reuse the same pot after your annual has reached the end of its life. What better way to plant than with durable, reusable containers? Easy on the Earth and your wallet!

Best Plants for a Fall Flower Garden 

Autumn Fire Encore Azalea
Autumn Fire Encore Azalea

It’s time to get down to the details. Here's our recommendations for the best fall flower garden plants.

Flowering plants belong to either the annual or perennial category. Annuals are superior for covering bare areas in front of hedges, sprucing up island beds, and filling in plant containers, but they’ll grow for just one season. Perennials achieve the same things, but they last for at least three years. Perennials might be better suited to you if you want to minimize planting time and focus on maintenance instead.

Fall Annuals

Fall annuals complement evergreen foliage and accentuate autumn colors. Take a look at some tried and true fall annuals here:


Plant Name

Planting Time

Zone

Light   Requirement

Flower Color(s)

Soil Type

Maintenance

Pansy

August - October

5-10

Full sun to Partial shade

Red, Yellow, Orange 

Light Blue

Well-drained

Moist

Minimal

Viola

September

3-8

Full sun to Partial shade

Violets

Blues

Multi-color

Well-drained

Moist

Well-fertilized

Minimal

Marigold

Spring

All

Full sun

Orange

Gold

Well-drained

Minimal

Celosia

Spring

2-9

Full sun to Partial shade

Red

Golden Orange

Purple

Well-drained

Moist

Minimal

Ornamental Kale

Summer - Fall

7-11

Full sun

Purple

Cream

Burgundy

Well-drained

Moist

Minimal


Note: some varieties are classified as tender annuals. They can be grown as perennials, but only in certain zones where winters are milder. Pansies and Celosias fall into this category. Additionally, zones and planting types vary between regions and plant varieties.

Fall Perennials

Fall perennials last a few years, reducing your gardening chores to regular maintenance. Check out some of our favorite perennials to plant in the fall: 


Plant Name

Planting Time

Zone

Light   Requirement

Flower Color(s)

Soil Type

Maintenance

Peony

September - October

3-9

Full sun to Partial shade

Red

Purple

White

Pink

Well-drained

Moist

Fertile

Minimal

Chrysanth-emum

Spring or late summer

4-9

Full sun to Partial shade

Yellow

Purple

Red

Burgundy

Well-drained

Moist

Heavy feeder

Heuchera

September - October

4-9

Partial shade

White with red leaves

Well-drained

Humus-rich

Minimal

Coneflower

Early fall

3-9

Full sun to Partial shade

Purple

Red

Orange

Yellow

Well-drained

Average moisture

Minimal


More Plants to Add Fall Color

If you're looking for some specific favorites to plant for fall color and texture, try out the ones below. They'll provide easy-care, eye-catching charm!  

Pampas Grass
Pampas Grass

Plant Name

Planting Time

Zone

Light   Requirement

Flower Color(s)

Soil Type

Maintenance

Pampas Grass

Spring and Fall

7-10

Full sun to Partial shade

White

Well-drained

Evenly moist

Minimal

Purple Fountain Grass

Spring and fall

9-11

Full sun to Partial shade

Purple-

burgundy

Well-drained

Evenly moist

Minimal

Pink Muhly Grass

Spring and fall

6-9

Full sun to Partial shade

Deep pink

Well-drained

Evenly moist

Minimal

Autumn Fire™ Encore® Azalea

Spring and fall

6-9

Full sun to Partial shade

Cherry red

Well-drained

Acidic

Minimal

Alice Oakleaf Hydrangea

Spring and fall

5-9

Full shade

White and pink

Well-drained

Evenly moist

Minimal

 

Tips for Fall Planting

Spring is synonymous with gardening, but fall is also one of the best times for digging in the dirt. The soil is still warm, rain is ample, the weather is mild, and weed and insect populations are low. In order to get your fall garden growing, there’s a few technical things to remember - aside from brainstorming plant varieties and gathering garden inspo. 

Know your Area’s USDA Hardiness Zone 

Discover your USDA Plant Hardiness Zone with this map. Using this information, search your area’s first and last frost dates so you can time your blooms perfectly - you’ll want to plant well in advance of your area’s first frost. Pinpoint when it’s best to plant seeds or starters to ensure your flowers won’t succumb to frost. Most importantly, you can narrow down which fall plants will thrive in your landscape.

Get Familiar with your Garden’s Soil Type 

Knowing your soil’s type, moisture, and nutrient levels lets you know whether you need extra fertilizer, organic matter, excess water, and more. You can also uncover the best flowering plants for your soil without purchasing additional costly gardening equipment.

Consider Color and Height for a Cohesive Look 

Pink Muhly Grass
Pink Muhly Grass

The flower species you choose matters. You want to add color to your garden, but also recognize that texture and height play big roles. Here are some fall flower garden ideas to get you started:

  • Monochrome: Choose different plant varieties with similarly colored flowers. This way, you’ll enhance texture and height while maintaining a color scheme that’s easy on the eyes. For instance, you might mix classic yellow Marigolds, yellow Pansies, and yellow Chrysanthemums. Tall Chrysanthemums pair well with shorter Marigolds and Pansies, and you won’t have clashing colors if you prefer a monochromatic look.

    On the other hand, expert landscapers recommend planting similar-shaped  flowers for a harmonious appearance. Violas and Pansies, for example, look similar but are available in different color variations.
  • Contrasting/Complementary: Per the color theory, colors opposite each other on the color wheel are visually appealing. For example, red flowers against evergreens is a classic combination. On the other hand, orange blooms next to blue ones make for an unpredictable duo that brings excitement to your fall garden. One idea is placing orange Coneflowers with blue Violas and even purple Kale.
  • Staggered: Staggered heights create a balanced feel. Shorter flowers paired with medium-height shrubs and flowering plants against tall hedges or trees is a quintessential arrangement. Tall, flowering grasses also look good with any of the plants in our list above.
  • Gradient: If you want to highlight the variety of colors in fall flower garden plants, a gradient color scheme is a fantastic choice. Start with light shades and transition to darker ones to tell a colorful story. 

    Stick with a single palette like all warm colors (yellow, orange, red) or all cool (green, blue, purple), or combine as many colors as you can, paying attention to what color sits next to the other on the color wheel. Pink flowers are categorized as warm, but some flower varieties produce cool pink shades. 
  • Mix containers with in-ground planting: If you’re blessed with space for both containers and in-ground plantings (or if you just can’t resist plants, like us), then congratulations! You have infinite creative freedom to express a certain feeling or visual impact with your garden. Create lush container arrangements by mixing up plants that spill over, droop down, and grow up. Likewise, combine different colors or shades in ground for a fuller look.

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If fall is the season that puts a spring in your step, we hope you’ve enjoyed our pro tips on how to successfully plant a fall flower garden. Make sure you have all the gardening tools and supplies you need before making your first dig, and happy planting! 

And don't forget to check out our Fall Planting Checklist below for quick and easy, autumn planting tips! 

Fall Planting Checklist

Sarah Logie

As Content Strategist at BrighterBlooms.com, Sarah is smitten with words and a fanatic for flowers, particularly cut florals and house plants. With a love for curating compelling content, she also enjoys furthering her plant knowledge along the way!