Throughout most of North America, fall brings the year's most temperate weather. Most plants rejoice in its clear, cool days; many outstanding perennials, in particular, reserve their blooms for this season. Although most gardeners choose to plant perennials in spring, early fall provides equally suitable conditions for this job.
Indeed, in the South, where winters are mild and summer heat is the plants' greatest challenge, fall-planted perennials have a better survival rate because there's more time for their roots to settle in before summer. Gardeners who do decide to try fall planting, incidentally, will discover a dividend: To make room for Halloween pumpkins, nurseries hold sales, marking down perennials by as much as 50 percent.
1. Autumn Crocus
The autumn crocus produces its leaves first (in late winter or early spring) and then, after a summer dormancy, sends up a cluster of flowers in early to mid-fall. This is an excellent plant to naturalize in rock gardens and lawns.
2. New England Aster
The vivid hue of the Aster novae-angliae 'September Ruby' can be used as an upright accent in borders with all sorts of color schemes. It also attracts butterflies to the garden. New England aster's daisylike blooms appear from late summer through fall.
3. Hardy Begonia
A begonia that needn't be confined to a windowsill at summer's end, this plant will tolerate temperatures as low as 0 degrees Fahrenheit if its tuberous roots are protected with mulch. The flesh-pink flowers are a useful source of color for a shady spot.
4. Hybrid Goldenrod
By crossing North American native goldenrods (Solidago spp.) with a European species, S. virgaurea, horticulturists have bred a range of more compact, less invasive plants that produce blooms of superior size and color. This is an exceptionally tenacious, adaptable plant for the back of the border or anywhere in a meadow garden, but use it with care: Although less aggressive than their wild ancestors, hybrid goldenrods are very robust and may overwhelm less assertive neighbors.
5. Autumn Daffodil
Despite its name, this bulb more closely resembles a crocus than a daffodil. Its flowers, appearing in early to mid-fall, are two-inch-tall goblets of gold borne on four-inch stems. The plant’s need for perfect drainage makes it especially suited to the rock garden, spot at the foot of a south-facing wall, or some other warm, dry location.
6. Grape-Leaf Anemone
The grape-leaf anemone takes its name from the grape-leaflike foliage mounded at the base of the plant. They also bloom in fall and are similar in appearance to the grape leaf, but their flowers range from white to pink to red. A. x vitifolia is breathtaking when planted in drifts so that its blossoms create delicate clouds above a bed or border.