In the Garden:
Lower South
September, 2012
Regional Report

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Fall brings blooming surprises like these schoolhouse lilies that emerge with the first fall rains.

Fall is for Fabulous Flowers

Many of the flowers we grow for spring or summer blooms perform their best during the cooler days of fall. Marigolds, for example, look fabulous in the fall when the red spotted spider mites that plague them in summer fade from the scene.

Some spring blooming garden flowers are seeded outdoors in the fall to allow them time to germinate and grow into small plants in preparation for the big spring growth and bloom period. Poppies and larkspur are two examples. Sweet peas perform better if fall planted. Gardeners who plant these spring bloomers in the next month or two will enjoy much greater success this coming spring.

Wildflowers, especially those that bloom in the spring, should be seeded in the fall season. Mow an area you'd like to seed in wildflowers down as short as possible and rake the area to scratch the soil surface. Then scatter wildflower seeds and water them in to set the stage for a beautiful spring to summer show.

Many types of bulbs are planted in the fall. This is especially true for winter and spring blooming bulbs. Whenever possible choose species and varieties that are likely to naturalize in your area. This provides an annual blooming return on your investment. A few examples of naturalizing bulbs are several types of daffodil/narcissus, oxblood lily, rain lily, spider lily, crinum, Amaryllis johnsonii, and several types of lycoris.

Flowering perennials can also be fall planted with excellent results. Fall planting allows the plant time to start establishing an extensive root system prior to winter. When next spring arrives, these plants are ready to take off growing.

This head start on getting established can be a monetary advantage too. I have compared performance of a slightly smaller perennial set out in the fall to the next larger "pot size" planted the following spring. By late spring to summer there will be little if any difference, except in your pocket book where the smaller plant saved you a considerable cost.

In addition to fall being prime planting season, it is also a great blooming season. A number of plants wait until fall to bloom. A few examples include coral vine, Mexican mint marigold, Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha), fall aster, mountain sage (Salvia regal), and that old garden favorite, chrysanthemum.

As you drive about the neighborhood or visit a local botanic garden note what is blooming to help build your list of great fall bloomers. When developing your landscape plan make sure to include some of these plants to provide late season interest in the landscape.

Roses may bloom throughout the year, but they put on their second grand performance in the fall season. While February is the traditional rose planting month, there is no reason to wait until then to plant a rose, except for the fact that bare root plants are only available in late winter. Fall is a superior time for planting container grown rose bushes and will result in more successful establishment and survival for the plant.

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