Fresh Ideas for Cool-Season Color

Fresh Ideas for Cool-Season Color

Need a few ideas for fall mum overload? Here are a slew of plants that do their thing in fall, adding depth and drama to beds, borders, and containers. Those of you in colder zones, check out a group of rhodies that have amazing fall color! (That’s Limemound® Spirea above.)



Blue Balloon® Bluebeard
Zone: 5 – 9

Striking deep blue flowers into fall and highly fragrant, rich green foliage with silvery undersides. Vigorous and highly adaptable. Up to 2.5′ tall, 2′ wide. Full sun.


Solanna™ Golden Sphere Tickseed
Zone: 4 – 9

Compact but showy blast of color right into fall. Just add a few pumpkins to update the look! Hardy and frost tolerant. Up to 12″ tall and wide. Full sun.


John Creech Stonecrop
Zone: 3 – 9

Durable, weed-smothering groundcover’s lush carpet of foliage develops deep burgundy tones in cooler temperatures. 2″ tall, 12″ wide. Partial to full sun.


SunBelievable™ Brown Eyed Girl Helianthus
Annual, Zone 11

Produces over 1,000 flowers in a single season, summer until first frost. ‘Nuff said. Full sun. 32″ tall, 40 in. wide


Bountiful Blue® Blueberry
Zone: 6 – 10

Award winning variety with the bluest of summer foliage that transforms to deep red in fall. Best effect from planting in a mass. Up to 4′ tall and wide. Full sun.


Magic Carpet Spirea
Zone: 4 – 9

Compact with clusters of small pink flowers contrast with bright gold mature foliage that turns rich russet red in fall. Up to 2′ tall and wide. Full sun.



Double Shot® Watermelon Azalea
Zone: 6 – 9

Compact reblooming azalea displays luscious, watermelon pink flowers twice a year, first in spring and again in fall. Up to 3′ tall and wide. Full shade to partial sun.


Zinfandel Grape
Zone: 7 – 10

The last clusters of summer’s fruits are now robed in dark reddish-purple foliage that will linger well into fall. Up to 25′ long. Partial shade to full sun.


Red-Leafed Mukdenia
Zone: 4 – 9

Should-be-better-known groundcover’s maple-like green leaves are edged with bright-red streaks in fall. Up to 1′ tall, 2′ wide. Partial shade to full sun.


Orange New Zealand Sedge
Zone: 6 – 10

Cue the white pumpkins! Finely textured, bronze-green leaves age to electric orange in the cool season. Up to 18″ tall, 24″ wide. Partial shade to full sun.


Black Negligee Snakeroot
Zone: 3 – 9

Dark-purple foliage and dramatic long, slender fragrant flower spikes that tower above the foliage in fall. Up to 2′ tall and wide; spikes to 6′ tall. Full to partial shade.


Hot Lips Turtlehead
Zone: 3 – 8

Cheerful spikes of pink snapdragon-like flowers emerge in late summer well into fall. N. American native selection. Up to 2′ tall and wide. Full shade.



Did you know that some spring blooming rhododendrons and azaleas also display wonderfully colorful fall foliage? Who wouldn’t want a piece of that!

Many azaleas (which belong to the genus Rhododendron–consider them cousins) are deciduous and so put on quite a show, but don’t count out rhodies, some of which color up in winter in hues from gold to scarlet to burgundy. Not all rhododendrons or azaleas have this feature, so be sure to read plant descriptions carefully and also consult with a local garden center if this is important to you.

Here are just six of the varieties that provide reliably brilliant fall color.


Bubblegum Rhododendron
Zone: 5 – 8

Bubblegum-pink, lightly scented flowers and a dense backdrop of small deep green leaves that turn bronze over the winter months. Up to 4′ tall and wide. Partial sun.


Karen Azalea
Zone: 4 – 9

Hardy, highly reliable, vigorous, upright plant. Foliage turns brilliant burgundy in fall. Showiest when planted in groups. Up to 4′ tall, 5′ wide. Filtered sun.


Olga Mezitt Rhododendron
Zone: 4 – 8

Foliage turns rich mahogany color in late fall, holding through winter. More heat and sun tolerant than other varieties. Up to 4′ tall, 3′ wide. Partial to full sun.


P.J.M. Rhododendron
Zone: 4 – 8

Bright lavender-purple blooms. Foliage takes on mahogany-brown winter color. Notable tolerance for both heat and cold. Up to 5′ tall and wide. Partial sun.


Weston’s Aglo Rhododendron
Zone: 4 – 8

Early flowering variety with reddish blotched pink bloom and glossy foliage that turns a smoky-purple hue in fall. Up to 5′ tall and wide. Partial shade to partial sun.


Rosy Lights Azalea
Zone: 3 – 7

Fragrant and exceptionally cold hardy. Handsome narrow olive-green leaves turn rich maroon in fall. Up to 6′ tall and wide. Partial to full sun.

Image Credits: Rhododendron fall color

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