In the Garden

Creating Beautiful Color in the Landscape

Above photo: Mexican Bush Sage in all it’s beauty ~ 

Many only think of foliage color as trees with colorful leaves. In Texas, fall arrives even when the temperature is warm.

Plants react to the shortening days and cooling temperatures. Shorter days cause many plants in landscapes to slow or even stop growth. Pecans and acorns begin to fall. Many perennials, such as Lycoris, Mexican Mint Marigold, Fall Asters, and Autumn Clematis, along with fall flowering plants, bloom. Fall is here, and many plants are available at garden centers for color in your landscape or containers.

Garden centers are or will soon be full of colorful petunias, snapdragons, dianthus/pinks, sweet alyssum, hardy cyclamen, celosia, and pansies. For the best selection, purchase and plant as soon as possible.

Plant these colorful flowering plants in sunny and part-sun locations, or in containers where you will enjoy the flowers and colorful foliage all fall and into the winter.

Yes, we can have colorful foliage plants like purple fountain grass, copper plants, ornamental kale and cabbage, Swiss chard, and crotons. Purple fountain grass, copper plants, and croton are not winter-hardy but are well worth the fall colors until the first freeze. Crotons are also easy tO bring indoors.

Plant groups of the plants for the best impact in the landscape. (In containers, mix the different plants together.) For the best display, mix tall, short, and trailing plants in one container.

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A bee gathering pollen in a snapdragon flower

Snapdragons, Dianthus, sweet alyssum, and pansies are some fragrant options. Snapdragons are available in short and tall varieties with many color choices. The tall ones are great to cut for flower arrangements. Having snapdragons in your garden, keep an eye out for bees gathering pollen inside a snapdragon—a true sight to see. Another favorite flower is Dianthus; they are pink, red, and white, and smell like cinnamon.

Sweet alyssum is a white or purple ground cover. Mix sweet alyssum with pansies or plant in mass to enjoy the flowers and fragrance. Both the symmetry and color of ornamental kale and cabbage make an incredible show, so plant three, five, or more plants together for a good display.

Ornamental kale and cabbage are purple or white, their colors turning more intense as the plant grows and the temperature cools. Swiss chard varieties with bright, colorful stems in red, yellow, or orange grow all winter and into the summer. The structure and color of these plants brighten any winter landscape or container.

Several herbs stay green and delicious all winter. Try parsley, thyme, oregano, rosemary, and chives, either in the landscape or containers.

All these plants grow well in sunny, well-drained locations or containers with fresh potting soil. All are cold hardy to 25 degrees Fahrenheit, except petunias, purple fountain grass, copper plant, and croton. Remember, always water before a freeze, and be prepared to cover the plants if the temperature drops below 25 degrees.

Garden centers and feed stores will carry freeze protection fabrics. Be ready to secure the materials to the ground so the wind won’t blow the fabric off the plants.

So dress in your planting clothes, grab your tools, and get out in the garden this weekend to plant the beautiful colors of fall and winter.


Dotty Woodson

Dotty Woodson has B.S. and M.S. degrees in Horticulture from Tarleton State University and a doctoral degree from Texas A&M and Texas Tech Universities for Agricultural Education, Communication, and Leadership. Woodson taught horticulture, irrigation, rainwater harvesting, and landscape water conservation by design, plant selection, and efficient irrigation efficiency for 35 years.

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