You might think that since spring and summer have passed the chance to plant and enjoy colour in your garden has ended for another year. But we are delighted to tell you that’s not the case. Autumn still presents an array of planting opportunities to get what might be a surprising amount of colour and joy in your garden.
With the soil warm from summer and moist from autumn rains, plus cooler average temperatures, it’s a perfect time to plant for autumn blooms of colour. You would be surprised how many of the nation’s favourite and most popular flowers are hardy enough to last well into the start of winter.
So why not get gardening and have luscious colour throughout your garden with our suggestions of fantastic September and October plants? Let’s go!
What Autumn Flowers Are Best?
If colours are what you want, then you won’t go wrong with these suggestions of both annual and perennial flowers that will do well in autumn. The only problem you will have is choosing which ones! Naturally, your favourite colours will play a significant role here, but are you planning on planting directly in a bed or going for a hanging basket? Maybe both? Low maintenance too? Read on and our guide to autumn flowers in the garden will help you decide.
Hydrangeas, specifically the extremely popular Paniculata variety, have gorgeous large conical pinkish-white flowerheads. These flowers can add quite a bit of impact to a garden, given they typically grow from eight to twenty feet tall (if not maintained), and are quite wide too. Further into autumn/winter they should become pinker in colour. Being quite cold-hardy, Hydrangea Paniculata should persist well into winter, and are able to endure even bitingly cold temperatures. They love sun, and don’t mind partial shade, but need a well-drained soil to flower best. As a bonus, they are generally reliable bloomers and you should see them begin to bud again when spring comes around. You could plant this one as a centrepiece surrounded by other colourful but smaller shrubs.
For good reason, Crocus flowers are one of the best autumn bulbs for the garden. These lovely bluish-violet flowers are one of the quickest growing and blooming autumn plants, but you’ll find they offer a lovely display of colour even before their full foliage appears. Crocuses do well in sun but can be spoiled by heavy rains so ensure they have some protection, such as under a tree or some shrubs. Generally wet conditions will spoil them too so ensure they are planted in soil that is well-drained and is not prone to waterlogging. Do that, and once planted they’re basically maintenance-free. Crocuses will spread out and come back the next year too for a larger display.
Sedum isn’t also known as ‘Autumn Joy’ without good reason. These star-shaped flowers are a beautiful rose-pink colour that matures into a dusty-red colour further into autumn. A perfect colour compliment to the season and a must if you love autumn tones. Sedums are quite hardy and drought tolerant but need well-drained soil and full-sun or slightly shaded areas to flower well. Once established, Sedum plants don’t require that much care. Being a perennial plant, the roots don’t die over winter meaning the plant will come back the following year too. Result!
Vibrant Cyclamen are perfect for adding strong colour to your garden for the autumn and winter months. Cyclamen come in a variety of colours; burgundy, burgundy flame, cheerful mixed, dark pink, harmony mixed, purple, red and white. They’re quite small yet particularly hardy, often flowering when almost nothing else can in winter. They ideal for under trees or in shaded areas. Because of their size Cyclamen can be planted in decorative bowls or hanging baskets which makes it easier to move anywhere in the garden in need of brightening up.
Dahlias are gorgeously colourful plants that widely range in colour from pastels to bright, rich colours. White, red, pink, yellow, orange, purple and shades in between. They range in size too; the flowers can be petite tennis ball sized to the size of a dinner plate. Dahlias like the sun and need fertile well-drained soil. Dahlias are at their best from August to September and should last well into autumn until the first frosts but they’re not as hardy as some other flowers on this list. If you want a flamboyant flower and range of colour, then you won’t go wrong with these flowers. Smaller varieties of Dahlia are great for hanging baskets, pots and window boxes too.
Photinia Carre Rouge
This shrub is perfect for any garden. It is quite easy to grow, evergreen and brightly coloured shades of red, making it a great option for contrast to the usual garden colours. It’s a perfect plant in beds or used as borders. The Photinia Carre Rouge is smaller and more compact than other varieties of Photinia, and this makes it a great addition to smaller gardens. It prefers full sun but can tolerate partial shade and needs a well-drained soil. It will also do well in a pot or container for placement on a patio or perhaps a balcony area.
One of the most popular plants around, the colourful pansy/viola is perfect for adding colour to your garden over autumn. Their small sturdy stature makes them perfect for bedding areas, and this characteristic also helps them to resist heavier rains and stronger winds. They are so rich and bright in colour, ranging from purple to blue to red, orange, yellow, burgundy, and lots more in between. Wonderfully fragrant too, many pansies/violas have a lovely sweet scent. Pansies like the sun but will do quite well in semi-shaded areas too. Ensure the soil is well-drained too. If you want an array of colour that lasts well into winter, then consider these. They are a perfect option for hanging baskets and containers too.
Chrysanthemums really come into their own in the autumn months. Large flowered and richly colourful, they’ll add colour to the garden when other areas are drab and fading. Chrysanthemum colours generally range from reds, pinks, yellows and oranges and as they grow form appealing dome-like shapes, which also makes them a particularly nice flower for pots. They are quite easy to grow, and hardy too, doing well in all but the harshest of weather conditions. They will flower best in full sun, with a well-drained soil. They need a bit of their own space however, as other earlier flowing plants can easily smother them until they are well-established.
Rhododendron Bloombux is a hardy and easy to grow evergreen shrub that grows clusters of beautiful pink flowers. They generally can grow up to 1 metre tall and spread to 1 metre also. It responds extremely well to pruning so it makes for a fabulous looking hedge or border plant. Bloombux flower well in full sun but will tolerate partial shade and needs a well-drained soil too. It’s quite the hardy little plant and will continue to provide colour through winter too until it flowers again in the spring.
Hebe or ‘Autumn Glory’ is a very hardy evergreen shrub that offers brightly coloured foliage and white, lical or deep purple flowers throughout autumn. The great thing about Hebes are that they are easy to grow and really low maintenance. They’ll flower best in full sun positions but can tolerate lightly shaded areas. Plant in moist but well-drained soil too which does not suffer from waterlogging. They have a low nutrient requirement and rarely suffer from pests or diseases unless they are really neglected. Hebes are versatile plants that also do will in a patio pot or container so you can place them in areas that need brightening up.
Heather Garden Girls
Heather Garden Girls are a hardy, very colourful, and low-growing evergreen shrub. They come in a variety of colours; shades of red, pink, and white, and are a fantastic way to make your garden more colourful. You might have seen these growing on heathlands and moorlands particularly in late summer/early autumn. Because their flower buds don’t fully open, they are more resistant to worsening weather conditions, and so provide a long-lasting display of colour. Heather garden girls enjoy a sunny position and a well-drained soil. This is an easy one to grow if you need a low-maintenance colour injection. Since they’ll only grow to a maximum height of around 30cm they are quite suited to pot or container planting too.
Begonias are as adaptable as they are beautiful and rich in colour. Their colours range from shades of pink, red, yellow, orange to white. They can be planted in pots, containers, hanging baskets, and of course bedded into the soil to give a nice border. Quite easy to care for, they will provide colour all the way through autumn to the first frosts in winter despite being fairly tender. They need sun but will still do well in a partially shaded area. Well-drained and nutrient filled soil is best. Elect for a fragrant variety to give a lovely scent on hanging baskets hung next to doorways, on balconies and even window boxes.
If you like bold pink colours, Nerine are for you. They can make for quite the statement flower and would be a lovely sight on a bright autumnal morning. Nerines are relatively long-lasting and save the best of their display generally until September, sometimes later, which makes them a great choice of autumn flower. Nerines require a well-draining soil, but it should not be nutrient rich as the flower does better in poorer soils; in fact, if the soil is nutrient rich it will encourage leaves to grow rather than their lovely bright flowers. They will need a very sunny patch, ideally full sun, or very slightly shaded. They won’t flower well at all in shaded areas. Nerines are hardy too and should last into the first frosts of winter. They’re a suitable flower for pots too.
Asters are another great choice to inject some colour in your garden. Asters tend to form dense bushy growths of flower heads with a yellow which makes for a ‘blanket’ of colour. They come in a variety of colours, but the classic lilac shades with a bright yellow centre are the most recognisable. Asters like full sun, or partial shade if just in the morning for example. A fairly hardy plant, it will require a well-drained soil again, not susceptible to waterlogging. Because it’s a fairly bushy plant it will also smother any nearby weeds nicely (giving something back to you – win, win). Certain varieties do better than others in pots, so make sure to check this beforehand.
OK so this one is for autumn and winter, but we couldn’t let this magical little flower slip off our list. Aptly named for its delicate multi-petalled white downward drooping flowers. Snowdrops are hardy and offer a striking bloom in the colder months when little else is growing. To successfully flower, snowdrops need a position that offers light shade in the garden and are not fussy about specific soil types but do need a moist but well-drained soil. Planting in borders and beds near taller shrubs and trees is a good position for them.
When Should I Plant in Autumn?
To ensure your flowers bloom in good time we advise planting as early as possible. Ideally you want to get planting in early September to give your flowers the best time to bloom and this will ensure your hard work and investment pays off. If you’re creeping well into October before you get a chance to plant, then we hate to say it, but it might be best to switch tact. Save yourself the risk of failure and backache and opt to get some end of year colour in your garden with some hardy winter flowers and shrubs instead. You can also plant bulbs ahead for Spring too and steal a march on the following year.
Feeding Autumn Plants
Growth of most of your plants will stop in autumn, so it is the final chance to fertilise them before the year is out. A low-nitrogen fertiliser is best because it won’t encourage soft-growth that’s vulnerable to frost and disease the way a high-nitrogen feed will. Your low-nitrogen feed will help your flowers to stay healthy, and resist frost.
Is It September Already?
Time to get going! Choose your autumn flowers, prepare and plant early, and you’ll be all set to enjoy a wonderfully colourful bloom throughout your garden. Cared for correctly, many of the flowers listed here will come back every year, so you’ll have the added bonus of an established autumn flowing garden you can enjoy for years to come, and be the envy of the neighbours.