Keep Your Garden Looking Great with Fall-Blooming Annuals

As the days grow shorter, these annual flowers will add color to your fall garden.

PA Amish Farmer's Market-007

You know fall is on the way when pumpkins and mums begin appearing at your local nursery. That’s also when summer flowers in the garden start to fade, leaving things less colorful.

But you don’t have to settle for a boring fall garden. There are plenty of fall flowers that aren’t mums. You can plant all kinds of flowering cool-season annuals now to add beautiful color to your garden. Here are a few of my favorites.

Viola

Violas

Violas come in many colors and are easier to grow than pansies. You can create a gorgeous fall container, like the one above, by combining five colors of violas.

Lobelia

Lobelia container

Lobelia is one of the bluest flowers that you can find anywhere. It looks great as a trailing plant when planted next to taller flowering annuals. In this container, which I saw at an Amish flea market in upstate New York, the lobelia looks like it’s sprouting from the ends of the ornamental grass in the center.

Geranium

geraniums and bacopa

Geraniums do well in the cooler temperatures of fall. I like to plant trailing annuals around them such as alyssum or bacopa (pictured above). Another great combination: bright pink geraniums with blue lobelia.

Marigold

Wheelbarrow Marigolds

Marigolds will also flower into fall. The bright orange flowers contrast nicely with this old green wheelbarrow. When the flowers fade, sprinkle some of the seed throughout your garden and they will reappear after winter.

Cosmos

Cosmos

Cosmos are a must-have for any garden. They usually come in shades of purple, but are also available in yellows and orange. Cosmos are easy to start from seed, but for fall planting you’re better off buying transplants. Buy cosmos seeds for spring planting.

A few years ago I drove through North Carolina in October and noticed large swaths of cosmos along the highway medians. They were just beautiful.

Snapdragon

Snapdragons

If you have kids, then you know snapdragons are one of their favorite flowers, with their opening and closing “dragon mouths.” Snapdragons are a great flowering annual to use toward the back of the garden because of their height. I like to plant petunias in front of my snapdragons.

Trailing Petunia

Pink Petunia hanging basket

Trailing petunias are becoming really popular. The flowers are smaller than regular petunias, but their trailing growth habit makes them a great choice for hanging pots.

Ornamental Kale

Ornamental Kale

Here’s a surprise addition to fall gardens — ornamental kale. The purple and white colors of this leafy vegetable deepen with cool temperatures. Plant with purple violas and bacopa for a beautiful cool color combination. Like regular kale, ornamental kale is an edible plant, but don’t eat it. Because it was bred as an ornamental plant, it doesn’t taste as good.

So as your summer flowers fade, celebrate the arrival of fall with these fall bloomers!

Noelle Johnson
Noelle Johnson is a horticulturist and Certified Arborist who lives and gardens in the desert Southwest. Growing up in Southern California, it wasn't until she married and moved to Arizona that she began to try her hand at gardening. She received her degree in Urban Horticulture and went to work managing landscapes for golf courses and later working as a landscape designer. Noelle now helps people create the gardens of their dreams through helpful advice, focusing on using beautiful, low-maintenance plants. Freelance writing and speaking to groups about gardening for birds and butterflies keep her busy as well. Noelle occasionally serves as a bird rehabilitator in her community and says her feeder is always full. When she is not writing or helping other people with their gardens, you can find her “playing” outside – growing fruits and vegetables, and planting flowering shrubs and maybe a cactus or two.