Add color now to your late-season garden in Western New York

plumbago in Williamsville NY
Plumbago. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

“There’s a lot of color here,” said Mark Yadon, vice president at Mischler’s Florist and Greenhouses, as he surveyed the tables full of flowering perennials and annuals at Mischler’s.

As you look around your garden in late summer, do you still see exciting color? If not, try these tips.

Plant perennials that flower now

Go to garden centers such as Mischler’s now and you’ll see many perennials in bloom. Some of these weren’t blooming in late May or early June, so you might have walked right by them. You bought flowering plants that bloomed early in the season, but now they have fizzled out.

Shop now to see perennials that look great now.

And yes, you can still plant perennials now.

In fact, here are five reasons why you should plant perennials in autumn. One of those reasons is that garden centers have perennials on sale now. Mischler’s has just begun its White Tag Sale with select perennials. Shop early for the best selection.

Refresh your containers

Your mixed container looked great most of the summer, but now one or two of the plants look awful.

Well, don’t leave it like that! Yadon suggests pulling out the scraggly plants and replacing them with plants that are vibrant now.

Some replacement choices are:

  • An autumn annual, such as winter pansy, ornamental pepper, flowering kale or mums. Early mums are available now at Mischler’s. They’re just budding or beginning to open, so if you buy mums now, you can watch them blossom.
  • A perennial in flower (see examples below)
  • Sedum
  • Ornamental grass

Create a new container with perennials, annuals or a mixture

Yes, you can buy a mum in a pot and set it out as is. But you can also make a more interesting container by mixing plants that have different colors, heights and textures. The pot itself can add color.

Mischler’s also has pots already assembled with a mixture of plants for autumn.

Colorful flowers for late summer

Here are a few examples of plants that flower in August and September in Western New York.

Erodium in bloom in Williamsville NY
Erodium. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Erodium

Erodium is an annual that starts flowering in spring. It may stop for a week or two, but it’s pretty much a constant bloomer.

It’s a low-growing plant, getting only three to six inches tall. You can pop one into a container to replace a plant that is past its prime.

Erodium likes sun to part shade. Allow the soil to dry between waterings.

Plumbago

Unlike some of the other plants in this article, plumbago (Plumbago ceratostigma) isn’t a long-flowering plant; it comes into its own in late August. That’s when it produces colorful clusters of blue flowers. (See the image at the top of this article.)

Plumbago is a perennial. It has low-growing mats of foliage, making it a good ground cover. It gets six to eight inches tall.

Another point of interest is that the green foliage turns to a mahogany color in fall.

It likes sun or partial shade.

Scabiosa in bloom in Williamsville NY
Scabiosa. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Scabiosa or pincushion flower

Scabiosa or pincushion flower is a perennial. It’s long blooming, from summer to autumn.

The plant gets about a foot tall and likes full sun.

gaillardia 'Arizona Red Shade' in Williamsville NY
Gaillardia ‘Arizona Red Shade’. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Mischler’s has several varieties of gaillardia or blanket flower, and they all like full sun. They’re long bloomers with flowers from summer through autumn. The one pictured above is ‘Arizona Red Shade’, which grows 12 inches tall.

Echinacea plants in bloom in Williamsville NY
Varieties of echinacea. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Echinacea is often referred to as purple coneflower, but there are many echinacea hybrids with a variety of flower colors including white, yellow, deep pink and red. The hybrids tend to be shorter than Echinacea purpurea, which is native to other parts of the United States and reaches 36 inches.

Echinacea plants do well in sun.

By the way, purple coneflowers have pink petals, not purple.

Hardy hibiscus in Williamsville NY
Hardy hibiscus. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Hardy hibiscus is another perennial that doesn’t flower until the end of summer, but when it finally bloms, it has large, dramatic flowers. This shrubby plant can get three feet tall.

It’s one of the last perennials to come back in the spring, so just be patient. You’ll be happy you waited.

11 Comments on “Add color now to your late-season garden in Western New York

  1. Hi Heidi. Yes, local garden centers are trying to get more natives, and groups such as the Western New York Native Plant Collaborative are leading the way. I think gardeners are looking for–and planting– more native plants. Thanks for your kind words!

  2. Thank you Connie, for referencing the Sweet Autumn Clematis at the DEC website. I am familiar with this website, as I use it often. I have been a native gardener at a local non profit in our area for many years, I would love to see more people leaning towards the beautiful native plants in our Western New York area. Sweet Autumn Clematis is only regulated because it is considered an invasive. Of course, that is only my opinion. I would like to see more natives introduced in our local greenhouses. They are getting close, but not quite there yet. Thank you for the great job you do with this online gardening forum.

  3. Hi Heidi and Connie, the Latin name for ‘Sweet Autumn’ clematis is Clematis terniflor. Clematis terniflor is listed as a regulated species in New York State by the Department of Environmental Conservation. That means you can buy it and you can grow it in your garden, but you can’t let it grow in the wild. You can see the definitions of prohibited and regulated species on page 2 of this list from the DEC. Clematis terniflor is listed on page 9 of that list, but you might be confused because the common name is listed as Japanese Virgin’s Bower rather than Clematis terniflor .

  4. I noticed a ton of bees this year that constantly flocked to the lavender I planted around my patio. It’s beautiful smells divine and the bees love it.
    I’ll be planted milkweed this year for the butterflies that hopefully will flower for them next year.

  5. Hi Susan, thanks for this suggestion. When it comes to “which varieties are good for local pollinators,” some people who know much more than I do about this topic would say “only plants native to our area.” So plants native to North America but not native to WNY (or to the county in WNY in which you garden) wouldn’t be good choices. Even hybrids of plants native to our area wouldn’t be good choices. There are no plants native to our area on this list. While some introduced plants attract butterflies, that’s not the same as being a plant that’s good for pollinators. When I talk about native plants, I try hard to make sure to specify that the plants are native to our area.

  6. I have 3 kinds of hardy hibiscus that butterflies and hummingbirds love and they bloom 2 weeks after each other and all 3 have huge blooms –
    1.Cranberry Crush with deep scarlet blooms followed by
    2. Kopper King with satiny blooms whitewashed in pink followed by
    3. Peppermint Schnapps with hot pink candy stripes blooms/ this blooms the last and will bloom till Late September. This grows up to 7 ft tall and the most prolific among the 3.
    Suggest you plant them now if you can get them because they are hard to find.

  7. Here’s 2 plants to consider for fall –
    1. Aconitum or Monkshood – they have the deepest blue purple flowers in Oct- Nov, are tall and look majestic when planted at edge of backyard.
    2. Sweet Autumn clematis has tiny white blooms- they’re starting to come out now and blooms last till October.
    Both are easy maintenance altho the clematis can get wild after several years so you have to trim them down yearly when they get to be 3-4 years old. They are also fragrant and butterflies love them.

  8. Thanks for these suggestions. I’m always interested, too, in knowing which varieties are likely to be good for our local pollinators. Can you note that feature when you list the plants? Thanks.

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