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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.

Container Gardens for Butterflies and Hummingbirds

Summer is here, and so are the hummingbirds and butterflies we love to enjoy in our gardens. Even with a small space you can plant blooms in containers to encourage local butterflies and hummingbirds to stop in for a visit. 

For more information on pollinators:

In this post, we will primarily discuss summer plants for pollinators that grow well in containers. If you want to learn more about supporting local birds, bees and butterflies, you may be interested in our posts on hosting native caterpillars, planting for pollinators year-round, or attracting hummingbirds.

This purple pollinator container garden features petunias, angelonia, ageratum and gomphrena (design by Peg Bier, Merrifield Plant and Design Specialist).

Selecting Plants for Your Container Garden

Butterflies and hummingbirds both eat nectar from flowers. Both hummingbirds and butterflies will be attracted to brightly colored flowers whose nectar has a high sugar content.

Butterflies prefer blooms with flat landing pads where they can easily land to sip nectar. Hummingbirds prefer blooms that are accessible by their long beak while still in flight. Every gardener will have their own favorites and plants that they swear by, but here are some popular favorites we all agree on for the summer:

Perennials

  • Agastache
  • Asclepias (Butterfly Weed)
  • Coneflower
  • Coreopsis
  • Gaillardia
  • Gaura
  • Heuchera

Annuals

  • Angelonia
  • Begonia
  • Calibrachoa
  • Crossandra
  • Cuphea
  • Dahlia
  • Fuschia
  • Gomphrena
  • Lantana
  • Pentas
  • Petunia
  • Salvia
  • Zinna

There are many plants to choose from, but you may find that your local hummingbirds and butterflies prefer certain types of flowers.

This pollinator container garden features salvia, angelonia and lantana (design by Peg Bier, Merrifield Plant and Design Specialist).

Container Combinations

When creating a pollinator container, your creativity is just about your only limit. While you will want to use mostly pollinator plants, it is perfectly fine to combine other plants you love into your containers as well. Here are some ideas to get you started!

Fresh Pink and White

This combination of pink and white flowers looks natural while maintaining a curated color combination of pink and white blooms. This fresh, vibrant container combines perennial coneflower and heuchera with annual lantana, angelonia and pentas.

Vibrant Red and Yellow

This container makes use of deep burgundy coleus to bring together the vibrant red and yellow blooms. For this combination, you will need perennial coreopsis and euphorbia with annual dahlia and coleus.

Bold Multicolor

This bright, bold container includes salvia, crossandra, gomphrena, cleome and portulaca.

Coneflower and Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly

Blooms for Pollinators from March to November

Terry Hershberger, Merrifield Plant Specialist

Throughout the growing season, we depend on bees, butterflies and other insects that transport pollen from plant to plant to fertilize our plants and successfully ensure that our gardens and farms generate seeds and fruit. To welcome these creatures during the spring, summer and fall, we can plan our gardens to provide an abundance of blooms and nectar for them from early spring through the onset of winter.

If you wish to welcome the bees, butterflies and other pollinators to your garden throughout the growing season, consider adding native plants to your garden that will bloom at various times from March to November, rather than planting so that you will experience one burst of bloom for a short period of time. Much like our surrounding region, you can design a garden which will feature different blooming plants throughout the growing season to support butterflies and bees.

Consider these options for continuous bloom.

Spring: March to May

Bloodroot, Native Perennial, ISTOCK

Bloodroot

Blooms March to May

This white flower blooms in woodland gardens in part to full shade, making it a good choice for those with limited sunlight.

Columbine

Blooms April to May

This delicate flower can be grown in full sun to part shade. It is particularly attractive to hummingbirds and comes in colors ranging from light pink to dark red and blue.

Wood Poppy, Native Perennial, ISTOCK

Wood Poppies

Blooms April to May

A good choice for shady gardens. These plants are a native to the woodlands of our region and feature yellow flowers.

Summer: May to August

Coneflower, Native, Pollinator, Perennial

Coneflower

Blooms June to August

Purplish-pink blooms are attractive to butterflies and bloom throughout the summer. This plant is tolerant of drought when established.

Liatris Spicata

Liatris spicata

Blooms in June

This member of the aster family features fluffy purple flowers atop talk spikes. This flower grows well in moist areas and is tolerant of clay soil.

Rudbeckia, Black Eyed Susan, Perennial

Rudbeckia

Blooms May to July

A daisy-like yellow flower which is particularly attractive to butterflies. There are many rudbeckia species native to our region.

Late Summer/Fall: August to November

Lobelia siphilitica

Blue Lobelia

Blooms August to October

This perennial grows best in wet soil and is native to wet locations in swamps and along streams. Blue tubular flowers grow in racemes reaching up to 3 feet tall.

Solidago altissima, Tall Goldenrod, Pollinator, perennial

Goldenrod

Blooms August to November

There are multiple native species of goldenrod blooming from late summer through the fall. As a native to the region, it tolerates clay soil.

Purple Ironweed, ISTOCK

New York Ironweed

Blooms August to October

This perennial features purple composite flowers atop tall stems. It is tolerant of wet and clay soil. It requires full sun.

Workhorses

These plants bloom for most of the growing season, from May or June through fall.

Asclepias tuberosa, milkweed, perennial, native, pollinator

Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Weed)

Blooms June to frost

This milkweed species is a food source for monarch butterflies and a favorite nectar source of butterflies overall.

Gaillardia pulchella

Gaillardia pulchella

Blooms June to frost

This plant tolerates poor soil and dry heat. It’s petals may be red, yellow, or both. Consider leaving spent flowers for the birds.

Purple Passionflower

Blooms July to September

A climbing, drought tolerant vine with unique fringed flowers. The blooms are a particularly loved by bees.

Joe Pye Weed with Monarchs, Perennial, Native

Planting Native to Support Butterflies

By Terry Hershberger, Merrifield Plant Specialist

Every year from June 18-24, we celebrate the pollinators – birds, bees, butterflies and other animals – that we depend on to move pollen from flower to flower and fertilize plants to ensure successful seed and fruit production. One of the most beloved pollinators is the butterfly. We have a multitude of varieties here in the Eastern United States, and anyone can support these important creatures by adding native plants they love to their garden, patio or deck.

Milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa, Plant NOVA Native

Supporting Butterflies in a Small Garden or Patio

Luckily for anyone living in a town-home, apartment or condo, there are plenty of plants butterflies love that can be grown in a small space or a container. Consider planting a mix of plants butterflies enjoy and host plants for baby caterpillars. Doing this can allow you to see the full life cycle of these beautiful insects from your home!

Container friendly native plants for adult butterflies:

Milkweed

Not only is this plant popular among many kinds of adult butterflies, it also serves as the host plant for Monarch caterpillars. They bloom mid to late summer and some varieties are drought tolerant.

Phlox paniculata and spicebush butterfly Plant NOVA Natives

Garden Phlox 

Phlox needs to be watered weekly during dry spells but is a wonderful plant for attracting butterflies with clusters of blooms.

Rudbeckia Plant NOVA Natives

Black-eyed Susan

This vibrant flower blooms from July to October and is drought resistant once established.

New England Aster Plant NOVA Natives

Aster

For a fall blooming flower, add aster. This plant is popular with a wide range of native butterflies.

Joe-Pye Weed

Joe Pye is tolerant of wet soil, so add it to any poorly draining areas in your yard. Blooms from mid-late summer.

Add these plants to your containers if you want to host caterpillars:

Even in a small space you can host a variety of native butterfly caterpillars! In particular, the Monarch, Black Swallowtail, Baltimore Checkerspot and Common Buckeye all lay their eggs on plants that can be grown in small gardens or on decks in containers.

  • For Monarchs, plant milkweed.
  • Add turtlehead – a relative of the snapdragon – for the Baltimore Checkerspot.
  • Plant dill and parsley for the Black Swallowtail.
  • Consider toadflax or spiderwort for the Common Buckeye.

Supporting Butterflies in Larger Gardens

If you are unlimited when it comes to space for setting up your butterfly garden, the options available to you are limitless for both attracting adults and caterpillars! In addition to all of the plants listed above, there are a variety of native trees that butterflies and their caterpillars love. Turn your garden into a butterfly sanctuary by adding these native plants!

Prunus serotina, Black Cherry, Plant NOVA Native

Black Cherry

Adult Tiger Swallowtails love this plant, and both eastern tiger swallowtails and red spotted purple butterflies lay their eggs on black cherry trees. Clusters of white flowers bloom in spring.

Sassafras

This tree plays host to both spicebush swallowtail and Eastern Tiger Swallowtail caterpillars.

Willow

This is a host plant for the viceroy caterpillar – a mimic of the monarch butterfly – and also a host for the eastern tiger swallowtail.

Pawpaw

Make a home for the caterpillars of the Zebra Swallowtail by planting the pawpaw. As a native edible fruit-bearing tree, this is a fun addition to any garden.

Thank you to Plant NOVA Natives for contributing the plant photos used in this post. 

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