Annuals Add Color, Fragrance to Fall Landscapes

Fall is a great time to plant flowers, and there are plenty of colorful annuals to choose from, says Mary Beth Musgrove, Alabama Cooperative Extension System horticulturist.

"There are a lot of annuals that flower from fall through winter," she says.

As gardeners become aware of flowering plants for cool season months, garden centers are stocking a wider selection.

"Cool season annuals can be planted in late September through October for a longer flowering season. Pansies are a mainstay Ė there are so many different varieties to choose from. Ornamental cabbage and kale also come in a variety of colors. Kale provides a nice contrast to pansies and other flowering annuals with interesting cut-leaves and foliage colors."

Other popular choices for fall planting include colorful Iceland poppies, bright yellow marigolds and garden mums.

"Garden mums only bloom for a short time," says Musgrove. "But they are perennials, so they have an added benefit of blooming again next fall. Marigolds provide similar flower colors to that of mums and will bloom until the first frost. Viola tricolor, a member of the pansy family, is also a good fall choice. Johnny Jumpups, as they are commonly called, produce an abundance of small, colorful flowers that seem to smile. As their name implies, they donít always stay where theyíre put. Donít be limited to the old-fashioned species. Many color choices are now available, including a pastel called Ďsorbet,í"

Gardeners in south Alabama can enjoy annuals for a longer growing season than those in other parts of the state can.

"The mild winters experienced in south Alabama, combined with fall and spring, make excellent growing climates for snapdragons, geraniums and dianthus ("pinks")," says Musgrove. "Sweet alyssum also grows well there, producing a mound of tiny white flowers that are quite fragrant. Petunias also enjoy cooler weather. More and more garden centers are selling them in the fall, as well as in the spring."

Musgrove says fall is also a great time to do soil testing. Check with your local county Extension agent for more information.

To clean up yard waste, especially leaves, Musgrove suggests composting it or using leaves and pine straw as mulch around plants in beds.

"A lot of people donít like the look of leaves used as mulch, but they make an excellent mulch that lays down well and insulates plants," she says. "If you donít like the way leaves look in your beds, try topping beds with a layer of pine needles."

A little time spent on your yard in the fall can ensure a colorful season of flowers in both fall and spring.

SOURCE: Mary Beth Musgrove, (mmusgrov@aces.edu), Extension Horticulturist and State Master Gardener Program Coordinator, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, (205) 221-3392