The fall season is upon us, and after a dry spring and summer, many are ready to throw in the trowel and call the 2021 gardening season a wrap. But I urge you to take a close look at the perennials in your landscape this fall. We tend to rely on trees and shrubs to give us the lovely orange, red, and yellow hues that delight us, but perennials can offer an autumnal beauty of their own. Take time to observe if any in your yard offer fall interest or do they offer perpetual problems? Here are a few problems that I commonly see in the fall landscape along with solutions:
Problem: Black-eyed Susans with black spots on leaves
This is known as Septoria Leaf Spot, and no matter the precautions and cleanup methods used, it always returns. The solution? Replace those cheery yellow flowers with newer cultivars that are resistant to that disease.
Solution: Rudbeckia ‘Sweet as Honey’ (shown above) is a brand new black-eyed Susan cultivar that is a great performer and is covered with blooms from July through September.It’s narrow foliage is disease resistant. Plant it with Sporobolus heterolepis ‘Golden Prairie’ for a lovely fall display.
Problem: Asters with bare legs
This embarrassing problem is prevalent with many older, taller varieties of Asters. You can camouflage those bare stems by planting shorter perennials in front of them, but there are better Asters that hold their leaves and have beautiful blossoms in September and October.
Solution: Aster macrophyllus ‘Twilight’ (shown above) is my pick for one of those better Asters. The showy purplish-blue flowers attract bees and butterflies, and it serves as host and nectar plant.
Problem: One-season Sedum
We wait all season watching the sedum grow up and finally begin to flower in early fall. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a sedum that shows color earlier?
Solution: Sedum ‘Sunset Boulevard’ (shown above). I have fallen in love with this sedum, with it’s mauve stems and hints of pink through the summer months. Raspberry-colored flowers appear in early fall and the leaves change to shades of orange and red. What more could you want?
Problem: Lack of good fall foliage color
I’m always on the lookout for perennials that offer interest in more than one season - especially foliage with fall color.
Solution: Penstemon ‘Pocahontas’ (shown above) is one such plant and checks several boxes on the list. It’s quite the sight to behold when in bloom, and it’s burgundy foliage remains from spring into fall.
Problem: Lack of Fall Flowers for Pollinators
Solution: In addition to the perennials mentioned above, there is one more to add to the fall garden, and that is Vernonia also known as Ironweed. V. ‘Southern Cross’ (shown above) is one that has caught my attention the last couple years. The plant grows 3’ tall and wide in full sun. The fine, narrow foliage stays fresh all summer and purple flower buds look like little jewels before opening to the purple blossoms that are loved by butterflies. Ornamental grasses are a great companion to this must-have perennial.
There’s much to enjoy in the fall landscape, so maximize yours with better, smarter perennial selections.
Hi, I'm Tracy - horticulturist, beauty-seeker, Word-lover, and blessed to be the owner of Bella Botanica. I also love to write about plants, gardening, and about my faith journey. Thanks for reading!