Early in the year when you are planning for spring and summer it’s easy to forget the flowers that bloom in the fall. But with a little foresight you can find the plants that will give your garden plenty of autumn color. I found this article over at Gardener’s Corner which describes four colorful flowers that bloom at this season. In addition to the color they have the added benefit that they will attract butterflies and moths to your garden.
“Native wildflowers and their cultivars – yellow goldenrod, purple asters, golden sunflowers, and dusty rose Joe Pye create a lot of interest not only because of the attractive flowers, but also, the amazing variety of native butterflies, moths and other insects that feed on them,” said Nancy Pollard U of I horticulturist.
“Fall wildflowers are particularly outstanding at attracting adult moths and butterflies, which lay eggs that hatch into larva (caterpillars). The larvae provide a high protein source of food for many birds, particularly warblers and neo-tropical migrant birds of conservation concern. Birds are very good at keeping populations of these insects in check, so it is a very good situation for all.”
Flowers that bloom in the fall can to be tall – two feet to six feet or more depending on the species and cultivar. They often work best at the back of the flower border. Some varieties have been selected and given cultivar names because they are shorter, more compact or more disease resistant than the average species plant. Cultivars are usually propagated by cuttings. Cultivars do not always come true from seed, so you may want to cut back stems after flowering to prevent selfseeding of cultivars.
While there are some perennial sunflowers (Helianthus sp.) available commercially, Helianthus annuus, the native annual is so beloved, it is a garden staple. There is a sunflower for every garden situation ranging from the 16 inch ‘Elf’ to the three-foot ‘Solar Flash’, to the 12- foot Mammoth. The color palette has expanded from yellow with a brown center, to whites, burgundies, rose pink, with many tints and shades of colors in between. “While easy to grow from seed, sunflowers prefer sun,” Pollard noted.