Guest column: Fall-Blooming Beauties for Oklahoma
Most gardeners like to have at least a few garden mums, pansies, violas, or ornamental cabbages and kale for fall color. Here are some suggestions for fall-flowering perennials that will look great in your Oklahoma landscape, will likely grow and get better for years, and will attract pollinators and provide nectar for migrating butterflies.
New England Aster has many daisy-like flowers and is a hardy native plant that comes in shades of pink, white, violet, blue, or lavender blooms and covers the plant in late summer and early fall. Cultivars range from 1 to 5 feet in height and all prefer well-drained soil in a full-sun location. ‘Alma Potschke’, with flowers of warm, vivid pink, is a favorite cultivar. The tall 4- to 5-foot tall ‘Hella Lacy’ has single blue-lavender flowers. The violet-blue blooms of ‘Purple Dome’ make an excellent contrast with gold and orange chrysanthemums. At only 18 to 24 inches high, 'Purple Dome' has the added advantage of requiring no staking.
Aromatic Aster Symphyotrichum oblongifolius forms a dense mound about two to three feet tall and wide, blooms for weeks in the fall, and is not stopped by early frosts. Recommended selections are ‘Fanny’ (bright purple flowers with yellow centers), ‘October Skies’ (sky-blue), and ‘Raydon’s Favorite’ (periwinkle).
Goldenrod ‘Fireworks’ is native to the eastern U.S. and grows in a clump about three feet tall and wide. It has sprays of beautiful bright yellow flowers that bloom in late summer and fall. The fact that pollinators love Goldenrod is proof that it does not cause hay fever. The ragweed that blooms at the same time is often found growing nearby. It is pollinated by wind and is the culprit that causes widespread hay fever.
Autumn Sage Salvia greggiiis a native to the southwest and can take Oklahoma heat, drought, wind, and full sun. ‘Pink Preference’ is an OK Proven variety that starts blooming in late spring and blooms throughout the summer with peak blooms of bright, dark pink in the fall. It makes a rounded mound up to 3’ tall and wide. The foliage is evergreen except in extremely cold winters. Cut back by 1/3 in early spring before new growth for thick compact plants and lots of flowers.
Pink Muhly Grass Muhlenbergia capillaris is a native grass that forms a mound of slender upward growing leaves 3 – 4 feet tall and wide. In the fall, plumes of rosy pink inflorescences float above the foliage and wave in the wind. A mass planting or border is beautiful in the fall. Pink Muhly Grass needs to be cut back almost to the ground in late February before new growth begins.
Sedums are some of the easiest plants to grow. They are succulents; therefore, they need full sun and can handle Oklahoma wind, sun, heat, and drought. Almost everyone has 'Autumn Joy' that has pinkish flowers in late summer and turns rust-colored for fall. ‘Autumn Fire’ Sedum has deep rose-pink flowers that turn coppery in fall. It is an improved variety that has longer-lasting flowers, sturdier stems, and is hardier than ‘Autumn Joy’. ‘Brilliantisima’ is a brighter pink that holds its color into fall. Sedums are good as cut flowers and also make good dried flowers.
Monarda or bee balm is a perennial that grows up to 5’ tall and blooms from early summer through fall in full sun. It is rabbit and deer resistant – if they are hungry enough, no plant is deer-proof. Monarda is a member of the mint family, so make sure you have plenty of room for it to spread without taking over other plants. ‘Jacob Cline’ is an especially good variety that is a deep red color and resistant to powdery mildew.
These plants will add color and beauty to your landscape each fall after many summer perennials have quit blooming for the season. Happy Fall Gardening!