As autumn colors begin to appear in the trees and shrubs surrounding our homes, it’s a great time to take tired planters or beds and give them a seasonal refresh. Plants that will continue to add color despite the cooling temperatures include mums—a classic fall pic—as well as pansies, cabbages, ornamental peppers and more.
Timing the trade-off
Your plants will probably tell you when it’s time to make the switch. When they look tired and leggy you might start shopping. If that isn’t a clear indication for you, definitely make plans to rework your pots and beds after your area’s first frost.
Get ready to go
Removing dying annuals, leaves, weeds and other debris will give your fall plants the perfect stage. If it’s been a while, treat yourself to new tools—gloves, pocket pruners, a kneeling pad—whatever will help you get the job done more easily. Add compost or fertilizer to give your soil a boost and help keep your cooler weather plants healthy throughout the season.
When to prune and divide
Hostas, peonies and daylilies should be pruned in late fall or early winter. Mums and coneflowers should be pruned in spring just before new growth comes in. Some perennials use their foliage to protect themselves through the winter. Research your particular plants to find the best time to prune and how low to cut them.
Pick with pleasure
Now that you are ready to plant, have fun picking your favorites from a varied and colorful pack. Not only are flowers abundant in purples, reds and yellows, like asters, chrysanthemums and celosia, but vegetables—like ornamental peppers—are a fun addition.
The warm soils of fall are ready and waiting for you to plant almost anything—trees, shrubs and perennials. It’s a great time to prune trees, trim shrubs, or divide most perennials. The gentler weather leading into a period of dormancy gives plants time to acclimate to their new home.
Keep them happy
Fall plants need the same kind of love as our spring and summer plantings—maybe just not as often. Keep the soil moist, make sure they’re getting enough sun, and keep weeds under control so they don’t take over your new plants’ territory. If you have a gathering of mums, the key is to not let them wilt. Established mums need about an inch of water per week.
Yes, the summer may be coming to a close, but whether it’s a ride in the country, or a walk around your patio and gardens, it’s time to enjoy the colors of fall.
Article originally appeared in September 2023