Wednesday , August 10 2022

7 Fall Garden Plant Pairings for High-Impact Color

7 Fall Garden Plant Pairings for High-Impact Color

As we shift from summer to fall, consider these high-impact planting pairings to add jewel tones to your garden beds.

Head to the nursery and look for fall-blooming perennials that are just starting to bud (rather than in full bloom). Choose colors that pop when planted in containers and garden borders. Here are a few that are particularly nice:

1. Black-Eyed Susan & Joe Pye Weed

North American native Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia Horta) starts blooming in midsummer, but really peak by early fall — right when other summer bloomers are fading. With vivid gold petals and dark centers, they are a fall favorite for good reason.

When paired with eastern North American native Joe Pye weed (Etrochium purpureum), a July through September bloomer with butterfly-attracting mauve-pink blossoms, the effect is stunning.

Water requirement: Moderate

Light requirement: Full sun for Black-eyed Susan, and full to partial sun for Joe Pye weed.

2. Autumn Fern and Japanese Forest Grass

Get a big dose of fall foliage color (without giving up precious space for a tree or shrub) with autumn fern (Dryopteris erythrosoria) and Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra). Both plants love partial to full shade and are gorgeous in mixed containers or woodland settings.

The leaves of autumn fern are a medium green color and turn to a rich gold-bronze in the fall. The foliage of Japanese forest grass doesn’t change color in the fall, particularly hybrids like ‘Aureola’ or ‘All Gold.’ Instead, it stays golden throughout the growing season, which runs from early spring to fall in cold climates, and year-round elsewhere.

Water requirement: Moderate for autumn fern, and moderate to regular for Japanese forest grass.

Light requirement: Partial to full shade.

3. Purple Coneflower and Russian Sage

An all-star combination for late summer and fall perennial beds, purple coneflower and Russian sage are drought-tolerant and a good pair for tough, low-water spots.

Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is native to Eastern North America and are cold-hardy perennials that bloom for months. They attract native bees and butterflies. After the bloom, the spiky dark orange centers of the flowers can be left in the garden as decorative seedpods, and are a nice snack for birds.

Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) features pale stems and flowers, and adds an airy quality to beds when planted in drifts. It blooms from July to October.

Water requirement: Moderate to low, once established.

Light requirement: Full sun.

4. ‘Autumn Joy’ Stonecrop and Switchgrass

A fleshy, easy-to-care-for succulent topped with flowers that turn from white to deep mauve in the fall, ‘Autumn Joy’ stonecrop (Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’) is a popular fall bloomer. It matches well with pink-tipped “Shenandoah switchgrass (Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’).

Water requirement: Moderate for switchgrass, low to moderate for stonecrop.

Light requirement: Full sun.

5. White Coneflower and Feather Reed Grass

A planting of cream-colored ‘White Swan’ coneflower (Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’) and ‘Karl Roerster’ feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’) pairs neutral and bronze tones for a spectacular combination. With its reedy stalks that grow to nearly 5 feet tall, feather reed grass adds height and movement to planting beds. They are topped with tan-colored seeds that won’t spread.

Water requirement: Moderate.

Light requirement: Full sun.

6. Mexican Bush Sage, New Zealand flax and ‘Karl Foerster’ Feather Reed Grass

Make a statement with the color and texture combination of fall-blooming Mexican bush sage, scrappy New Zealand flax and ‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora).

A shrubby perennial, the purple-flowering Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha) is a fall garden superstar. It begins flowering in mid- to late-summer and features showy blooms that are sought after by bees, butterflies and hummingbirds up until the first frost.

Typically used to add structure to gardens, New Zealand flax (Phormium spp.) are popular throughout the season. For colorful stripes, choose a variety like ‘Maori Queen’ (syn. ‘Rainbow Queen’) or ‘Maori Sunrise’ (syn. ‘Rainbow Sunrise’).

Water requirement: Moderate.

Light requirement: Full sun.

7. Sneezeweed and Beebalm

‘Scorpion’ beebalm (Monarda ‘Scorpion’) produce magenta-purple colored flowers that complement the red-orange sneezeweed blooms.

Appropriately named, beebalm is a bee and butterfly magnet wherever it is planted.

Sneezeweed (Helenium spp.) puts on a late-summer to early fall floral show. For petals that look like they are tie-dyed, try the speckled orange and red ‘Mardis Gras’ sneezeweed variety. In addition, the yellow-flowered Helenium autumnale is a lovely North American native.

Tip: In late summer, deadhead sneezeweed and beebalm regularly to extend their blooms as long as possible into fall.

Water requirement: Moderate.

Light requirement: Full sun.

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