While most gardeners plant in the spring, autumn is also a great time to exercise your green thumb. Although the air temperature is dropping, the soil stays warm for a few more weeks, and seasonal rains help new plants develop the strong roots they’ll need for spring growth.
Pansies: These cheerful flowers with “faces” thrive in cool weather. Give them a sunny spot and keep them well-watered but not soggy. Look for pansies in red, yellow, lavender, orange, purple and white.
Violas: While violas may look dainty, they’re sturdy little plants that often live through mild winters. Keep them deadheaded to encourage re-blooming. They’re pretty in containers or massed in beds and borders.
Garden mums: Chrysanthemums, or mums, come in jewel-like colors and many different forms. Some flower heads are round and full; others resemble daisies or have curved petals that look like spider legs. The plants bloom for weeks in sun and well-drained soil.
Asters: “Aster” means “star” in Latin, and these bright flowers really are stars in the fall garden. The plants tolerate light shade but bloom more vigorously in sun. You’ll find them in pink, red, blue, lavender, purple and white.
Ornamental cabbage: Ornamental kales and cabbages form big rosettes of pink, ivory, cream and purple leaves. They’re ideal for sunny locations that have rich, moderately moist soil.
Burning bush: For spectacular autumn foliage, you can’t miss with burning bush shrubs. Hardy to USDA Zone 4, they need sun and well-drained soil. Plant them alone or in masses to show off their brilliant red and orange leaves.
Azaleas: Traditional azaleas can handle a range of growing conditions, but perform best when grown in the filtered shade of tall trees. Encore azaleas can take full sun and are cold hardy to USDA Zone 6. They’ll re-bloom in spring, summer and fall.
Arborvitae: Versatile, evergreen arborvitaes are excellent to use as hedges, foundation plantings, windbreaks or accent plants. They grow quickly in sun or part shade. Depending on the variety, some arborvitaes have golden-yellow or blue-green foliage, and others take on rust or gold tones in cold weather.