Try these six fall-blooming perennials for your garden
Verbena bonariensis with pink muhly grass | Photos by Dee Nash
One goal I’ve been working toward for the last 30 years is creating four-season interest in my garden. The most difficult thing is having perennials that continue to bloom in fall.
Fall is one of the best times in Oklahoma gardens. Temperatures are moderate. The rains return, and even more important, butterflies and other pollinators need food before winter. Here are six fall-blooming perennials for your garden.
1. Pink muhly grass, Muhlenbergia capillaris, is an autumnal superstar. With its tall pink blooms, it literally stops traffic as people drive by our property. That’s why I planted it by our street.
2. If you plant only one aster in your garden, I would suggest Symphyotrichum laeve ‘Bluebird’ smooth aster. It is a great late-blooming pollinator plant. ‘Bluebird’ is a spontaneously occurring variation of our native smooth asters and is my favorite because of its blue-green foliage and clear blue flowers. If you can’t find it, look for ‘October Skies’ which is shorter.
3. Speaking of native asters, I also like S. carolinianus, syn. Aster carolinianus, Carolina climbing aster, which grows on a tuteur in my back garden. It has pink rays around a golden center. If you want to add height to your garden, a tuteur or obelisk is a great way to do this. Carolina climbing aster doesn’t truly climb, but has long stems that clamber about.
4. Chrysanthemum rubellum ‘Country Girl’ mum is a passalong favorite that goes by several different names, including Ryan’s Pink and ‘Clara Curtis,’ according to Southern Living magazine. A friend sent me a cutting years ago, and I’ve moved it all about my garden. Unlike some commercial mums, ‘Country Girl’ has a nice open shape great for butterflies, hoverflies and bees. It is also a soft peachy pink that goes well with autumnal hues.
5. Plant perennial milkweeds to help monarch butterflies as they move south to their overwintering grounds in Mexico. You can also grow tropical milkweed, but it will not return each year, although it may reseed if we have a mild winter. Three perennial milkweeds native to Oklahoma are Asclepias incarnata, showy pink swamp milkweed, Asclepias viridis, green milkweed and A. asperula, spider or Antelopehorn milkweed.
6. Goldenrod, Solidago spp., is a genus of native prairie plants. It has both high nectar content and high-quality pollen, but it is still often confused with ragweed, Ambrosia artemisiifolia, which blooms at the same time. Goldenrod doesn’t cause hay fever because it is insect pollinated. Its pollen doesn’t blow through the air like ragweed’s. You can find many different varieties of goldenrod especially at native plant nurseries.
If you plant even some of these six perennials, your fall landscape will be alive with butterflies and other winged creatures. In fact, plant a few by your back door or near your patio and enjoy the morning or evening show.