Summer’s heat and humidity take a toll on gardens, and by now, many plants look tired and bedraggled. Others have died. While we usually think of planting in the spring, autumn is also a great season for gardening. The cooler weather makes it enjoyable to work outside again, and seasonal rains help new fall annuals and shrubs get established.
When you’re ready to get your hands in the dirt, check out our recommendations for the best autumn flowers and shrubs for the South (and selections for South Texas Valley gardens).
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, blue, orange, purple and white, and give them a bloom-booster fertilizer. Also for South Texas Valley gardens.
Snapdragons: These plants are fun for children, who squeeze the sides of the blooms to make them “snap.” Snapdragons prefer part sun to full sun and come in almost every color except blue.
Violas: While violas may look dainty, they’re sturdy little plants that often live through mild winters. They need light shade in hot, Southern climates. Keep them deadheaded to encourage re-blooming. They’re pretty in containers or in masses 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. Also for South Texas Valley gardens.
Shrubs for outside the South Texas Valley
Oakleaf hydrangea: These North American native plants take on showy colors each fall as their leaves change from green to purple, bronze and crimson. Grow them in a woodland garden or as specimen plants in morning sun and afternoon shade, or in full shade.
Nandina: Nicknamed “heavenly bamboo” for its delicate foliage, nandina likes full sun. This shrub’s beautiful leaves change colors with the season and may be bronze-red, bluish-green, light green or reddish.
Camellia sasanqua: Hardy in Zones 7 and 8, camellias are evergreen shrubs for full sun to part shade. The flowers start opening in fall and may be red, rose, pale pink or white. New leaves start out as copper or bronze and mature to dark, glossy green, making the shrubs attractive even when they’re not in bloom.
‘Tiger Eyes’ Rhus typhina: ‘Tiger Eyes’ sumac is a cultivar with eye-catching charteuse foliage that changes to yellow, orange and scarlet in fall. Grow the plants in full sun for the most brilliant color. The plants need moderately fertile, moist soil that drains easily.
Shrubs For The South Texas Valley Area
Croton: Tropical crotons come in a wide variety of leaf shapes and vibrant colors, including yellow, orange, red, cream and pink. These tropical evergreens like direct sunlight and are hardy to USDA Zones 9B to 11. Give them some shade in extreme heat.
Ixora: Butterflies love these evergreen shrubs with yellow, red or pink blossoms. Give Ixora full to partial sun, and look for dwarf varieties if space is limited.
Oleander: Fragrant oleanders open their pink, lilac, red, purple, yellow, white or copper-colored flowers from summer into fall. They tolerate full sun to light shade.