Design Ideas: Five Fall Plants for Your Garden

Autumn is truly when New England shines. So many quintessential pieces of the area’s identity come out in fall: apple picking, the Patriots, and of course the amazing foliage transformations. But changing leaves aren’t the only source of color in the fall garden. Here are a few of my favorite ways to brighten the landscape in autumn.

Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis paniculata)

This floriferous twining vine is one of the harbingers of fall, blooming in late September then turning to clouds of silvery seed heads. The delicate white flowers can cover the plant and the aroma is enough to stop you in your tracks.

Rudbeckia sp. (Black-eyed Susan)

A classic, tough perennial, Rudbeckia starts flowering in the summer, but the sunny yellow blooms often last well into fall. The bright yellow flower is a great compliment to the reds, oranges, and yellows of changing leaves and brings a cheerful warmth to the garden.

Anemone hupehensis (Japanese Anemone)

As the summer perennials begin to fade away Anemones announce themselves on the fall stage. The delicate stems hold simple flowers of clear pastel tones that stand out as so many of their garden companions trend toward brown. These late bloomers will often continue right up to frost.


About as ubiquitous a shrub as there is, I won’t spend too much time on Hydrangeas, but there is a reason they are as prevalent as they are. As the flowers age through the fall they turn to pinks, magentas, and purples that are often more impactful than their early season colors. Some of my favorites for the fall include ‘Bloomstruck’, ‘Quick Fire’, and ‘Grandiflora’.

Malus (Crabapple), Crataegus (Hawthorn), Ilex verticllata (Winterberry), Viburnum, Callicarpa dichotoma (Purple beautyberry)

One of the great things about fall is the long-anticipated fruiting of so many plants. As leaves and flowers depart, fruit and berries remain as one of the more persistent sources of color through fall and into winter. Some of the longest lasting berries, like Winterberry and Purple Beautyberry, make excellent additions to winter decorations.

Bonus – Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’

I’m including this at the very end because I recognize that it is so prevalent that it may be edging into the “overused” category. That being said, this perennial has a lot going for it, it is virtually indestructible, surviving even the most neglectful gardener to produce masses of pale pink flowers in the fall which then age to a deep magenta. For me there are few sights as cheerful as Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ covered with contented bees.