Some people give up in their yards after a few weeks of hot weather and then either the weeds take over or plants dry up.  There are a number of plants that wait until fall to “show off”. Not always a bloom but very colorful foliage. Burning Bush (Euonymus olatus), sometimes called “Spindle Tree, turns brilliant red in autumn.  It may grow 15 feet tall but more common is the dwarf form which may reach 10 feet. A number of them may have only pink leaves. 

          Beauty Berry (Callicarpa dichotoma) grows about 5 feet high and wide. Some of the lower branches tend to droop. The blooms are very small but produce purple berries in thick clusters rather late in the fall.  It is hit by the first frost so I always worry whether I will get berries. Most of the Callicarpa species are listed for zone 7 and 8.  After frost I cut it back to the ground.  Some years it will send up young shrubs not far away from the mother plant.

          Japanese Blood Grass (Imperata cylindrica) gets its best color of red after nights cool off. “Rubra” also known as “Red Baron” is one of the favorite cultivars. The seed heads are very inconspicuous in late summer. It has a bad reputation for reverting back to a green blade that is invasive so I will not save the seed.  It only grows about 16 inches tall, likes full sun or light shade showing up its color best with a green, taller background.

          Sedum “Autumn Joy” (Sherbstfreude) is one of my favorite later fall plants as the migrating Monarch Butterflies on their way back to Mexico use them to spend the night. I have counted 75 on one plant in the morning after a cool night as they can not fly until they warm up.  Autumn Joy forms large clumps about 2 to 2 1/2 feet across with huge deep pink heads that deepen to red.  They don’t look too bad all winter when snow covered. They are very juicy plants if you cut a stem.  If you cut the plants back in early July they will have smaller, not so heavy heads.  Easy to divide in spring, they like full sun and will grow in part shade but tend to flop.

          For the very latest season color I like to start Ornamental Kale or Ornamental Cabbage.  They do best in cool weather so can be started quite late.  I don’t want to build another chicken wire fence to keep the rabbits away so I start the plants in the greenhouse or on a bench until they get tough enough leaves to make them uninteresting.  Usually I save them to plant in my larger pots above rabbit reach after the summer plants start to tire. By October they are growing fast and will look like huge roses until a deep freeze. A light frost will not hurt them.  This year I have red, pink, and white centered ones, with ruffled edges.

          Blue Spirea (Caryopteris species) is a small shrub with late blooms attracting many different insects.  They bloom on new wood but they seem to do better for me if I wait until spring to cut them back quite close to the ground. Every year I get a few new seedlings coming up which is good as they don’t seem to be a very long lived shrub.  Plant breeders have developed several shades of blue which is not too common a color in the fall.

          By the time fall comes the Ornamental Sweet Potato Vines (Ipomoea batatas), especially the chartreuse one (Marguerite), has climbed up it if has something to climb on. And it has covered a good deal of the soil around it.  It needs to be near a water source with all those large leaves demanding water.  In the fall after frost I cut it off, dig the potatoes, and store them in the basement.  In spring there may be many new plants. Last fall I got one huge potato about 18 inches long with many young starts.  I like to plant it in an 18 inch to 20 inch pot by a trellis so it can go up or down. 

          Lantana is a necessary for me because its late blooms attract many butterflies.  Down South it is a shrub 3 to 6 feet tall.  Here in Nebraska it is killed by frost and usually gets only 2 to 3 feet tall for me.  Its color combinations are exciting so in spring I try to find as many different ones as possible in the same flower such as yellow and pink, red and orange, yellow and violet, as well as a number of solid color flowers. I like it under a window so I can watch the butterflies that feed on the nectar.  Some people are allergic to the leaves. Eating any part of the plant can make anyone very sick. 

          Toad Lilies (Tricyrtis species) are fun plants for a shady area.  They grow on mountains and cliffs in the Himalayas and Philippines .  With good imagination they are somewhat star shaped, usually stripe or spotted with hairy stems.  Each year new ones are developed.  It is recommended to use heavy winter mulch where snow cover is not reliable.  My rabbits have developed a taste for Toad Lilies so cages, a fence, or blood meal, or a repellants is necessary.

Copyright 2009





          If you have a dead tree, shrub, or plant, fall is the time to replace it. If you have a bare spot where some perennials did not make it, August is the time to plan and prepare your course of action and your soil. What are you going to put in that spot? Drive around and see what other people have that appeals to you or go to your garden center and ask what is new or what they suggest. FALL IS FOR PLANTING!!!

The second part of the title suggests that fall is the time to renew. The best time to dig and divide Iris is in August and early September and for Peonies in early September. Day Lilies can be divided most anytime. In renewing your trees and shrubs this fall, be very careful when and how you prune. If you are not sure, talk to an expert at your garden center or call your County Extension Educator. DO NOT PRUNE spring blooming shrubs such as Lilac, Forsythia, Bridal Wreath Spirea, and Flowering Almond. They should be pruned after they bloom next spring. Fruit trees and grapes are best pruned in late February or early March. The best time to prune most deciduous trees is also in late February or March before they leaf out. Oak Trees should be pruned only when dormant in order to prevent “Oak Wilt”.

Copyright 2009