10 Flowers to Plant This Fall

Fall gardening doesn't have to be just tidying up and storing things. Here are big-payoff flowers to plant in the fall.

Fall, Autumn, pumpkins, gourds and colorful mumsSHEILAYARGER/GETTY IMAGES

Plant Now for Next Year’s Blooms

Once fall arrives, I look for perennials and other plants on sale because I know fall is a great time to plant in my garden. Garden centers often reduce prices in the fall for quick sales so they don’t have to try to overwinter the plants in containers. I’ve gotten some great bargains in the fall!

Some tips for fall planting:

  • If it’s been a dry summer, water the area so it’s easier to dig and you’re not plopping plants into dusty holes.
  • Keep plants watered, but as temperatures cool, do it less often than in the summer when it’s hot.
  • Mulch around the plants so they don’t heave out of the soil during freeze/thaw cycles.
  • Don’t forget to plant bulbs, too, for spring flowers. Fall is the best time to do that.
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Pink Peony Flower with buds blooming in the luscious green background
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Peonies are perennials that do great when planted in the fall.

If you purchase peonies via mail-order companies or online, most will ship you bare roots. Each will have one or more “eyes” on it, which should be planted facing up and covered with an inch or two of soil.

Water it in and wait for spring when new growth should emerge fairly early. You should get a bloom or two that first year.

If your peonies are getting overcrowded, or you’d just like to share them with others, you can also dig them up in the fall. I usually do this after cutting back the foliage. I dig up the roots, separate them into pieces with three to six eyes on each, then share and replant.

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Multicolored Tulip Flower Bed in the residential backyard of a home
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If you want tulips in your garden, plant the bulbs in fall. Nothing could be easier to plant. Just dig a hole three to four inches deep, drop the bulb in with the pointy end up and cover it.

You don’t need to water them in, but don’t leave loose bulb skins scattered around on top of the soil. These can attract squirrels and other small animals who will dig up these bulbs.

Also, don’t be in too big a hurry to plant them. I like to wait until around Halloween, but farther south, some gardeners wait until closer to Thanksgiving.

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Clumps of daffodils blooming in English garden orchard in spring, Surrey, England, UK.
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The daffodil is another flower planted as a bulb in fall. Just wait until the soil temperature falls to between 50 and 60 degrees, usually when nighttime temperatures are in the 40- to 50-degree range.

After planting, cover the area with a thick layer of mulch so the ground doesn’t freeze before the bulbs grow some roots. Many stores and garden centers sell daffodils earlier in fall. If you buy those, keep them in a cool spot until it’s time to plant.

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Cheerful Coneflowers in pink, creamy white and yellow in a dark green wooded area in an undisclosed location
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Coneflowers (Echinacea sp.) are some of the most popular native flowers, often planted in prairie-style gardens.

Dig a hole the same depth as the container the coneflower comes in. Gently remove the plant from the container, loosen up the roots, then put it in the hole and backfill with the same soil you dug out. Water it in, then put some mulch around it.

It will die back in fall. But then in early spring, you should see new shoots come up from the roots. At that time, remove any stems from the previous year.

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lawn of colorful crocuses - a beautiful, bright Easter background
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These are the first flowers I see in spring and the last in the fall. Both types of crocuses are planted as bulbs (technically called corms) in fall.

For spring-flowering crocuses, plant the corms later in fall. You should find these for sale at local garden centers. They’re smaller bulbs, making them easy to tuck in spots by sidewalks and any place you’ll see them as you come and go. I even plant some in my lawn.

You’ll probably need to order fall-blooming crocuses, Crocus speciosus, from a specialty bulb company. They should ship at the time you should plant them, in early fall.

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Hellebores Flower blooming in a vivid green garden with white buds blooming in the background
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Hellebores look like roses. They’re commonly called Lenten or Christmas Roses, depending on when they bloom. I plant them as I would any perennial grown in a container, six weeks or more before the ground freezes.

Hellebores like part to full shade and will stay green all winter. The plant should be established by early spring when flower buds begin to form. That’s when I cut off the old foliage. Those hellebores will look a little ugly for a week or two after that. But soon new foliage will emerge, the flowers will open and they’ll be pretty again.

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Purple Alliums In Springtime Flower Border
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Alliums, commonly called ornamental onions, are usually planted as bulbs in the fall. They are as easy to plant as daffodils or tulips. They grow best in full sun with well-drained soil.

Dig a hole two to three times as deep as the height of the bulb. Plant the bulb with the pointy end up and cover it. That’s it.

Most allium looks like big balls of purple flowers on tall stems. My favorite is Allium schubertii. In full bloom, it resembles a big purple sparkler.

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Violet flower Colchicum during the autumn in the park in Poland
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I started growing colchicums, a gorgeous fall flower, in my garden several years ago when a friend sent me some bulbs. Within a few weeks, the blooms came up, and I was hooked.

You aren’t likely to find bulbs for colchicums in stores, but many places sell them online. They should ship them to you in early fall. Plant them immediately in a spot with well-drained soil and full to part shade. They’ll bloom within a few weeks.

In spring, the foliage will come up. Let that grow, then cut it back when it dies back in mid-summer. Blooms should reappear in early fall!

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Colorful Tulips At Keukenhof In Holland
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While some gardeners think of hyacinths as fragrant flowers to purchase in pots in the spring, I know them as bulbs to plant in fall.

You can purchase hyacinth bulbs at a local garden center or order them from online bulb companies. They’ll ship the bulbs to you in fall. Plant them at the same time as tulip and daffodil bulbs. Pointy end up!

To keep my hyacinths from looking too formal, like rows of flower soldiers, I toss a few bulbs into the flower bed and plant them wherever they land. I learned this method from Colour Your Garden: Exciting Mixtures of Bulbs and Perennials, by Jacqueline van der Kloet.

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Colorful chrysanthemum flowers in the autumnal garden
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I usually buy a few potted chrysanthemums in the fall. I’m often asked if they can be planted in the ground and survive the winter. Yes!

I planted mine early in the fall as soon as I saw mums for sale. I kept them watered and mulched around them before the ground froze. I left the dead foliage on them all winter, and only cut it back when I saw green sprouts coming up from the roots. The ones that heaved out of the ground, I gently pushed backed down.

Now they’re a lovely perennial that comes back each year.

Carol J. Michel
Carol J. Michel is an award-winning author of several books including five gardening humor books and one children's book. As the holder of degrees from Purdue University in both horticulture and computer technology, she spent over three decades making a living in healthcare IT while making a life in her garden. She started writing about gardening on her blog called May Dreams Gardens which lead to numerous magazine articles, her books, and a podcast called The Gardenangelists. She was recently named a GardenComm Fellow by Garden Communicators International.