Goldenrod’s (Soldago spp.) bright yellow bloom is a head-turning beacon amid fall’s browns, russets, and purples. Various species offer a range of heights and flower forms, but strong vertical character and bright yellow coloration are characteristic of most. Goldenrod has long been falsely blamed for late-season allergies, but ragweed, which blooms at the same time, is usually the true culprit. Many goldenrod species are hardy to Zone 5.
Tip: Plant goldenrod in tough sites—most types do well in poor soil.
Editor’s pick: Fireworks (Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’, Zones 3–8) boasts shooting-starlike blooms.
Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, Zones 3–10, top of photo, left, is one of the most reliable sources of fall color. These rugged plants are nearly indestructible, and their dusty-rose flowers are lovely. The bad news is that ‘Autumn Joy’, because of its merits, is overused. The good news is that there are other great late-season sedums (see below). Generally low growers, fall sedums work well as a complement to taller performers.
Tip: Because sedum plants aren’t particularly showy before they bloom, use them in mixed plantings where other species can carry the load until fall.
Editor’s picks: Sedum ‘Matrona’,
Zones 4–9, below, is an equally attractive, but somewhat less used, substitute for ‘Autumn Joy’.
For something different: Sedum kamtschaticum ‘Variegatum’, Zones 4–9, has variegated foliage in addition to attractive fall bloom.
Asters (Aster spp.), bottom of photo, left, exhibit some of the most vivid fall coloration of any plant. However, in addition to vibrant purples and mauves, they come in softer hues such as white and pink. Plant form varies, too, from open, arching shapes to dense clumps or mounds. Asters often continue to bloom well after the first light frosts, and, as the last plants to bloom in some areas, they are a magnet for late-season lepidopterans. Many types are hardy to Zone 4 or 5.
Tip: Pinch back tall, upright asters in early summer to encourage denser growth and more bloom in fall.
Editor’s picks: New England (Aster novae-angliae) and New York (Aster novi-belgii) asters, both hardy in Zones 4–8, are rugged plants with a profusion of fall bloom in a range of colors.
For something different: Boltonia, (Boltonia asteroides, Zones 4–9), an aster relative, is also a late-season bloomer, with white or pink blossoms and a more delicate appearance.