Top 10 Fall Flowers for a Perennial Garden

Welcome shorter days and longer nights with colorful perennials that light up your late-season garden.

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Fall gardens can be just as colorful and pretty as summer gardens—it just takes a little planning. For best results with these late bloomers, make sure you plant them earlier in the season, so that they’re bright and hardy when fall hits. Deadheading is often key to making sure these fall perennials keep producing blooms past the summer months. Besides additional color, a huge benefit of maintaining a fall garden is that it helps pollinators, too. Hummingbirds and butterflies go wild for the nectar of many of these autumn superstars.

photo credit: Courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries

Mr. Goodbud Sedum

Sedum ‘Mr. Goodbud’

Zones 3 to 9

There’s a lot to love about this fall-blooming sedum. The red-tinged foliage and purple-red stems add color to your spring and summer garden. Autumn brings contrasting white buds that open into 5- to 6-inch clusters of vibrant purple-pink flowers.

Why we love it: The strong, purple-red stems keep the plant from flopping over. Plus, sedum remains standing for winter interest.

Where to buy it: Terra Nova Nurseries

photo credit: Monrovia

Hot Lips Turtlehead

Chelone Lyonii ‘Hot Lips’

Zones 3 to 8

The vibrant rosy-pink color is sure to lure you in for a closer look at the uniquely shaped flowers. Dark green leaves and red stems add to its appeal. Grow this versatile plant in full sun to part shade. Psst—here’s more colorful shade garden plants.

Why we love it: The species is native to wet woodlands and streams, making it a great choice for those tricky moist areas and rain gardens.

Where to buy it: Monrovia

photo credit: Proven Winners

Russian Sage

Perovskia Atriplicifolia

Zones 4 to 9

Blue flowers shine from summer through fall on this stunning heat- and drought-tolerant plant. Grow in full sun and well-draining soil for best results. Prune plants back to 4 inches in late winter or early spring for more compact growth. Or grow a compact variety such as Blue Spires, Lacey Blue or Denim ‘n Lace. Check out the top 10 year-round perennials.

Why we love it: The fragrant foliage adds a bit of aromatherapy to your spring garden cleanup.

Where to buy it: Proven Winners

photo credit: White Flower Farm

Waterlily Autumn Crocus

Colchicum ‘Waterlily’

Zones 4 to 7

Add a colorful surprise to the front of your garden with the large leafless blooms of Waterlily autumn crocus. Plant the bulbs in late summer and then enjoy the flowers right away in fall. Next spring, 6- to 14-inch tall leaves appear for about 8 weeks and then fade away for summer. Each fall, the flowers reappear, sans leaves. Learn why fall is the perfect time to plant perennials.

Why we love it: Autumn crocus looks great among spring-flowering groundcovers.

Where to buy it: White Flower Farm

photo credit: perennialresource.com

Joe Pye Weed

Eutrochium Purpureum

Zones 4 to 9

Give this big boy some room! It reaches 7 feet tall in full sun to partial shade and moist soil. You and the butterflies will fall in love with the large, fragrant mauve-pink flower clusters. Plus, the seed heads persist and add texture to your winter garden. Plant these long-blooming flowers to attract butterflies and hummingbirds

Why we love it: For tight spaces, try Little Joe (3 to 4 feet tall) and Baby Joe (32 inches tall). Both of these small options are ideal for rain gardens.

Where to buy it: Perennial Resource

photo credit: Brecks.com

Hot Lava Helenium

Helenium ‘Hot Lava’

Zones 3 to 8

Hot Lava’s non-drooping, outstretches petals provide an ever-changing display of color. The daisy-like flowers open yellow, develop orange and red streaks, and finally mature to red.

Why we love it: Dress up your indoor decor by adding these colorful blossoms to your fall bouquets. Check out the top 10 flowers for a cutting garden.

Where to buy it: Brecks.com

photo credit: North Creek Nurseries, Inc.

Lemon Queen Sunflower

Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’

Zones 4 to 9

Save a spot in the back of the garden for this royal sunflower. Creamy yellow flowers top 6-foot-tall plants from late summer through fall. The upright, bushy plant provides a nice backdrop for neighboring flowers. Pinch the stems back throughout June if you want to keep your plant shorter.

Why we love it: It’s great as a cut flower. Plus, hummingbirds and butterflies take advantage of the bright blooms. Discover more fall flowers that attract butterflies.

Where to buy it: North Creek Nurseries, Inc.

photo credit: North Creek Nurseries, Inc.

Fireworks Goldenrod

Solidago Rugosa ‘Fireworks’

Zones 4 to 9

An explosion of bright yellow flowers tops this 3-foot plant. Grow low-maintenance Fireworks in full sun or light shade. Contrary to popular belief, this is not the hay fever culprit. Ragweed, which is often found growing next to goldenrod, causes the sniffles. Learn how to grow wildflowers for butterflies.

Why we love it: Goldenrods are a great nectar and pollen source for fall’s flying pollinators and other beneficial insects.

Where to buy it: North Creek Nurseries, Inc.

photo credit: Doreen Wynja for Monrovia

Mammoth Garden Mum

Chrysanthemum Morifolium ‘Mammoth’

Zones 3 to 9

Bred by the University of Minnesota, this hardy mum is right at home in both the north and south. Grow it in full sun in the garden or a container. This heavy bloomer produces plenty of flowers, so share fresh-from-the-garden bouquets with friends. Check out more easy plants you can grow in containers.

Why we love it: It’s a large mum that needs no early season pinching to stand upright in your autumn garden.

Where to buy it: Monrovia

photo credit: Bluestone Perennials

Alma Potschke Aster

Symphyotrichum Novae-Angliae ‘Andenken An Alma Potschke’

Zones 4 to 8

Vivid rose-pink blooms on this New England aster grab the attention of passerby. Pinch the stems back to 6 inches throughout June to encourage compact growth, sturdier stems and more flowers. Or let it grow (it’ll reach about 4 feet) and surround it with sturdy neighbors. Butterflies love late-blooming asters.

Why we love it: Birds and butterflies visit late-blooming asters, which adds motion and life to your yard.

Where to buy it: Bluestone Perennials

If you’re interested in even more fall flowers, check out these bonus fall blooms:

  • Black: Chokeberry
  • Blue: Caryopteris
  • Purple: Beautyberry
  • Red: Firethorn
  • Off-white: Northern Bayberry
  • Yellow: Witch Hazel

Melinda Myers
Nationally known gardening expert, TV/radio host, author, columnist and speaker.