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Fall planting guide: What to plant and when

Jessica Padykula is a freelance writer and editor in Toronto, Canada covering a wide range of  topics for several online lifestyle publications. She is a regular contributor for SheKnows, covering travel, style, relationships, health and...

Best fall gardening tips

Spring isn't the only time to get your hands dirty. Fall is also a great time for gardening. If you're not sure what to plant as summer fades to fall, read these expert tips for what to add to your garden.

Woman gardening

To help us get a jump on fall planting, we caught up with Nicholas Staddon, plant expert and spokesperson for Monrovia, the leading grower of premium garden plants.

He stresses that for all plants listed, the earlier you can get them in the ground the better, so you can get a nice display of color through the fall and into winter. Aim for early September if you can.

Why plant in the fall?

"Autumn in any part of America is a fantastic time for planting plants, perennials, woody ornamentals or trees," says Staddon. "During winter the roots are still active and can be establishing themselves," he explains. This process will benefit the plants in the spring.

Aside from giving your plants a head start for spring by planting them in the fall, you can also add a splash of vibrant color to your garden by doing some post-summer planting. "In the fall, it's great to plant plants that are within view of the house — plants that have great color like yellow, or with amber-colored bark," notes Staddon. "They also look incredibly beautiful in the snow."

Ready to find out what to plant this fall in your region? Check out our guide below.

Region 1: Southwest

  • Blueberries: While this tasty fruit used to be strictly a Northern plant, Staddon tells us they're now being used in all parts of U.S. He recommends adding them to your garden this fall if you're in the Southwest.
  • Yuletide camellia: The fiery red hue of these fall-blooming camellias makes them an eye-catching addition to any garden.
  • Hydrangeas: Staddon suggests choosing a repeat blooming variety such as the Endless Summer hydrangea, so you get more flowers longer.
  • Succulents: Staddon says these work very well in the Southwest in the fall, and his pick is Campfire Cressula, which has a wonderful red color and works well in containers.
  • Lavender: There are many varieties of lavender, and if you're in the Southwest, they work well in the fall, since they are often are long, late-season bloomers.

Region 2: Northwest

  • Blueberries: Staddon again recommends blueberries for gardens in the Northwest.
  • Pacific fire: This tree boasts stunning fall foliage color and vibrant stems, which will stand out against the snow.
  • Chrysanthemums: No fall garden would be complete without mums. There are many different varieties and colors to choose from, and they work well both in the ground and containers.
  • Yuletide camellia: These have also really taken off in the Northwest, says Staddon, and he suggests planting them in the fall if you live in this region.
  • False cypress: This type of evergreen is ideal for a fall garden, in particular Blue Surprise, which boasts blue foliage, and Yvonne, which has golden foliage. "They really brighten up any garden in the fall through winter," Staddon says.

Region 3: Midwest

  • Dogwood:  Either the yellow twig or red twig varieties make a vibrant addition to any autumn garden thanks to their colorful stems.
  • Snowberry: This shrub is key for Midwest gardens, notes Staddon. "In the autumn, they produce clusters of white or pink berries which are highly decorative for the garden, plus birds like to eat the fruit," he explains.
  • Autumn flowering asters: If you live in the Midwest, you can easily add some color to your garden by planting fall flowering asters.
  • Chrysanthemums: These popular blooms also work well in the Midwest, says Staddon.
  • Ornamental grasses: A lot of people like to plant ornamental grasses in the autumn because of the seed heads, which are very decorative.

Region 4: East Coast

  • Holly: The Red Beauty variety makes a stunning hedge and boasts a crop of small, bright fruit in the fall and winter.
  • Clematis: Look for the sweet autumn clematis, which products small, white flowers, which are highly fragrant and perfect for fall.
  • Holly: The Scallywag variety is a shorter and more compact grower than the one mentioned above. It's a male holly, notes Staddon, so it won't produce berries, but it does have stunning burgundy foliage in the fall.
  • Sedums:  Use these either in the ground or containers if you're on the East Coast, in particular the Crystal Pink, Autumn Joy or Indian Chief varieties. These provide a pop of color to your fall garden.
  • Pansies: In warmer zones, pansies can be a great fall annual and an easy way to add color.
  • Poppies: Iceland poppies can be used across all regions in a fall garden, Staddon tells us.

Region 5: Southeast

  • Heavenly bamboo: Sierra Sunrise is a dwarf compact variety with pretty red foliage.
  • Sweetspire: The Little Henry variety is a great choice for fall planting since it, too, produces vibrant red fall foliage.
  • Razzleberry: This compact shrub is known for its dark burgundy foliage in the fall. Look for the Ever Red variety, which has red flowers and deep purple foliage.
  • Mahonias: There are many varieties, many of which boast bright yellow flowers and fall foliage.
  • Osmanthus fragrans: This large, upright bush has small, sweet fragrant flowers, which can brighten up a fall garden.

More gardening tips

13 Essential gardening tools
Decorating Diva: Digging up the hottest garden trends
Grow plants with a gadget: Click & Grow

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