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Helianthus salicifolius, perennial

Plant Picks: Annuals and Perennials for Fall

With fall just around the corner, now is a great time to add some blooms and color to your garden for the change of seasons. Keith Tomlinson and Caitlin Akkerhuis have put together their roundup of fall annuals and perennials that make excellent additions to gardens with a variety of conditions and needs – whether you are looking for bright blooms, natives, or plants for pollinators.

Mum, Annual ISTOCK

Chrysanthemums and Dendranthemums

Chrysanthemums, or mums, may be one of the most well known fall flowers, and for good reason. These vibrant plants come in every color imaginable, and bloom for about 4 weeks at a time. When selecting plants from the garden center, try picking ones with buds that are just opening to extend the time you have them in bloom.

Dendranthemums are the perennial version of the Chrysanthemum. You can plant these in the summer, and they will be ready to bloom in the fall.

Monkshood, Perennial

Monkshood

This plant prefers part sun, and will grow throughout the summer, producing vibrant purple flowers during the peak of our fall season. These plants are toxic, which makes them completely deer proof, however you will also want to keep this in mind for your own pets and family when planting.

Pennisetum, Perennial Ornamental Grass

Pennisetum

This family of ornamental grasses are in full bloom during the fall, and include favorites such as fountain grass and millet. These are great plants to add to your garden if you would like to attract birds, who will visit to eat the seeds.

Helianthus salicifolius, perennial

Helianthus salicifolius

This perennial sunflower will bloom in mid-fall. Like the other sunflowers, it features cheery yellow blooms.

Monarch Butterfly on Ascplepias

Asclepias tuberosa

This native is a must-have if you wish to support monarch butterflies. Also known as milkweed, or butterfly weed, it is the only host plant of monarch caterpillars. It will bloom through the fall.

New England Aster

This native aster will bloom well into fall, and is one of the taller varieties of aster. for shorter versions, plant New York Aster or Woods Aster.

Clematis paniculata

Also known as Sweet Autumn Clematis, this climbing plant will grow quickly, so you can easily end up with a plant that covers an area of 6 ft. or so.

Caryopteris

This flower will bloom from late summer through early fall. Mature plants will bloom for up to 8 weeks, making this a great choice if you are looking for long lasting blooms to attract bees and butterflies.

Summer Container, Vinca, Calamint and Persian Shield

Summer Container Garden Inspiration

Container gardens are a great way to add color to any size garden, since they pack a powerful punch of vibrant blooms and foliage into one space. They are moveable, adjustable, and delightful additions to any garden. With summer still in full swing, now is the perfect time to create a colorful and exciting container for your home.

When choosing or building your container garden, the goal is to achieve the ideal combination of plants that thrill, spill, and fill:

  • Thrill plants draw your eye into the container, creating a focal point through height, color, bloom or texture.
  • Spill plants draw your eye down and through the container by trailing over the edge.
  • Fill plants are those that help to fill the voids in the pot. They typically provide contrast to your thrill plant and add interest

Our favorite aspect about container gardens is the customization—you can use any combination of plants that you enjoy to create one you love. Check out our step-by-step guide to creating a custom container garden, and take a look at our designs below if you want some inspiration. Of course, if you prefer to have some assistance putting yours together, our specialists are happy to help!

Summer annuals and perennials provide vibrant color even in the heat of the season. Here are some of our favorite plant selections for the season:

Our Plant Picks for Sun

(1) Celosia, (2) Pentas, (3) Rudbeckia- annual, (4) Cuphea (Mexican Heather), (5) Euphorbia, (6) Angelonia, (7) Ageratum, (8) Celosia, (9) Lantana, (10) Petunia, (11) Verbena, (12) Calibrachoa.

Our Plant Picks for Shade

(1) Tassel Fern, (2) Coleus, (3) New Guinean Impatiens, (4) Japanese Forest Grass, (5) Begonia, (6) Lysimachia ‘Aurea’ (Creeping Jenny), (7) Trailing Coleus, (8) Heuchera (Coral Bells).

Container Design Inspiration

Tropical Container with Elephant Ears, Coleus, Verbena

Clockwise from top: Elephant Ear, Trailing Coleus, Verbena, Petunia, Trailing Coleus. This dramatic container for sun makes a statement – elephant ears with their bold foliage and sweeping height grab attention and the vibrant colors of coleus, petunia and verbena complement it with color and blooms at the base. Add this container to any space for a tropical feel.

Summer Container Angelonia, Creeping Jenny

Angelonia (top) and Creeping Jenny (bottom). We love the simplicity of this container, which while only containing two types of plants, is still bursting with summer color and blooms. The elegant stalks of angelonia create texture and movement and the bright green of the creeping Jenny contrasts nicely with the blooms and dark green of the Angelonia.

Clockwise from top: Calamint, Bachelor’s Button, Iresine (Cherry Blood Leaf), Vinca, Iresine (Variegated Heart Blood Leaf). This vibrant container is packed full of cheerful vinca and vibrant bachelor’s button. Calamint—which has a lovely scent, cherry blood leaf and variegated heart blood leaf serve as the “thrill” plants drawing the eye upwards, while the vinca trails down the sides. This container will be bursting with color all season!

Summer Shade Container with Begonia, heuchera, Japanese stiltgrass and ferns

Clockwise from the top: Begonia, tassel fern, heuchera, Japanese forest grass. The tonal color palette and varying textures of this container will draw the eye to even the shadiest spot of a garden. Begonia provides a pop of color, while perennial Japanese forest grass, heuchera and tassel fern provide interest with contrasting textures and shades of green.

Caring for Your Containers

Here are some basics that will help you keep your containers healthy and beautiful during the summer:

  • Larger containers hold water better, so bigger is better when picking your size—you will need to water less with a larger container.
  • Since summer brings the heat, you will need to check your container for watering once or even twice per day. Only water when the soil is dry—and then follow our watering instructions and water the container thoroughly. If you are leaving town on summer vacation, create a watering plan for your time away! Ask a neighbor or friend to check on your containers every day and care for them as needed.
  • We recommend using a bloom boosting fertilizer to keep the blooms fresh all season. Miracle Grow Bloom Booster and Doctor Earth Bloom Booster, an organic option, stimulate new blooms and flowers and keeps them looking fresh in the summer heat. If you have a lot of containers, you can purchase one of these fertilizers with a hose end applicator to combine your watering and fertilization into one task. Lastly, make sure you deadhead the blooms as they die off in order to encourage further blooms and keep your container’s stunning appearance.
ISTOCK, Hummingbird, Cardinal Flower

Attract Hummingbirds to Your Backyard

Terry Hershberger, Merrifield Plant Specialist

Every spring I look forward to the arrival of hummingbirds in my garden. These agile birds use their wings (which beat between 70 to 200 times per second) to hover in place, fly backwards, and even fly upside down! Not only are these amazing creatures fun to watch, they also make excellent pollinators, visiting as many as 1,000 to 2,000 flowers each day to make up for the energy they expend performing their aerial acrobatics. Here in Virginia we most often see the Ruby Throated Hummingbird. The males in this breed are instantly recognizable by their bright red throats.

You can easily create a sanctuary for these incredible birds at your own home with bright flowers, a supplemental nectar feeder and a hummingbird friendly water source.

Bright Flowers

Catch the eye of local hummingbirds with brightly colored flowers. Some sources say that hummingbirds are particularly attracted to red, I find that the color does not matter as much as the sugar content of the flower’s nectar (ideally 10 to 11%). Tubular or elongated flowers are best suited to the shape of hummingbird tongue, which folds to form a straw. I plant a variety of flowering plants to attract birds throughout the spring and summer.

Perennials

Bee balm: Blooming in mid to late summer, beebalm’s tubular flowers make the perfect addition to a hummingbird garden. Try the Jacob’s Cline variety for a native plant option.

Native cardinal flower: Due to the shape of this vibrant red flower, most insects are not able to feed from this plant, making it the perfect option for people seeking to attract hummingbirds but keep away other critters.

Annuals and Bulbs

Gladiolus: These showy bulbs produce tall spikes of flowers in an array of vibrant colors. Plant these bulbs after the danger of frost has passed in spring and you can expect flowers in the summer.

Gartenmeister fuchsia: This plant grows in full or partial shade and is an excellent addition to any hummingbird garden with orange, tubular flowers.

Vines

Honeysuckle: Grow this flowering vine on a fence or trellis for blooms that you can enjoy during spring and summer.

Trumpet vine: The yellow, orange, or red flowers of the trumpet vine make it a cheerful addition to a hummingbird garden! These vines grow very quickly and will need pruning. Blooms from summer to fall.

Supplemental Food Source

Hummingbirds need to eat every 10 to 15 minutes, every day to sustain their energy. They supplement their diets with food from a nectar feeder. Hang one at your home to provide them with an extra food source. You can purchase food for the feeder or make your own.

To make your own hummingbird food, boil four parts water and mix in one part white granulated cane sugar. Do not use brown sugar or honey as they can both harm the birds. It is very important to clean the feeder with hot water or a vinegar solution at least once per week as the sugar can ferment and spoil. If the weather is particularly hot, consider cleaning the feeder every 3 to 4 days to keep any visitors safe. Hang your feeder in the shade to preserve the sugar solution. Hummingbirds will continue to visit your feeder until they migrate south in the fall. You can take your feeder down in the middle of September if you are concerned that it might be causing any birds to linger too long.

If you need to protect your feeder from uninvited guests like ants and bees, try using ant guard or Tanglefoot Insect Barrier to protect the feeder by applying it in a small strip where the hummingbirds do not land. The base of the shepherd’s hook where your feeder hangs is a good locations. Consider adding bee guards if bees start snacking at the feeder, as a bee sting can cause serious harm to a tiny hummingbird.

Water

A bird bath is not the best option for hummingbirds since most are too deep. A drip fountain or misting device is a great alternative that they can easily access. You can also run a sprinkler in your yard, and the birds will fly through it to catch the water droplets.

Blooming Easter Gifts

Nothing says happy Easter more than a bright, blooming plant! Here are our picks for bright blooms to treat your loved one this Easter:

Geranium

We love geraniums for their showy clusters of blooms in bright shades of red, pink, rose, orange, white and purple. These annuals perform well in hanging baskets, containers and bed borders in full sun to part shade conditions. Geraniums perform best when planted in rich, well-drained soil. We recommend removing the spent blooms and fertilizing regularly to encourage continued flowering. When watering, allow the soil to dry out between sessions.

Hydrangea

Beloved for their clusters of delicate, paper-like flowers, hydrangeas come in a variety of shades, including white, pink, blue and purple. Keep your hydrangea looking its best by placing it in bright, indirect light while indoors. Once the risk of frost has passed, you can transplant it directly into the garden in a part sun location. Keep your hydrangea well-watered to prevent the blooms from wilting.

Begonia

We love begonias for their ability to provide constant color throughout the season in a variety of light levels, ranging from full sun to shade. Begonias produce lush, large blooms in shades of pink, white, orange, yellow, salmon and red. Plant begonias in moist, well-drained soil where they’ll receive afternoon shade from the hot summer sun, and fertilize regularly.

Gerbera Daisy

With velvety smooth petals surrounding a center eye, gerbera daisies look nearly perfect. Gerbera daisies produce large blooms that stand on leafless stems above foliage in many vivid colors. These happy blooms make a great addition to containers and garden beds and can last for a week or more when incorporated into a fresh-cut arrangement. Place gerbera daisies in full sun to part shade with moist, well-drained soil, remove spent blooms by snipping at the base of the stem and fertilize regularly. 

Petunia

An ever-popular spring annual, petunias are vigorous growers and prolific bloomers. We love  these blooms in, hanging baskets, window boxes and garden beds as they come in many color choices with beautiful veining. Plant petunias in full sun to part shade with well-drained soil, remove the spent blooms and fertilize regularly to encourage continued flowering.

Easter lily

A traditional favorite, the Easter lily produces large, fragrant, trumpet-shaped flowers. They can be enjoyed throughout the holiday indoors and transplanted to the garden once the risk of frost has passed. Place the lily in bright, indirect light and away from direct sunlight or heat. Keep in mind that an Easter lily is not a good gift for those with cats as they are toxic. Be sure to remove the foil on your Easter lily when watering to allow the water to drain through the pot.

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