Gardening with Deb: Plant now for fall color

Deb Babcock/For the Steamboat Today
Deb Babcock

CSU Master Gardeners are available to answer your gardening questions from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursdays continuing through gardening season. Call 970-870-5241, email csumgprogram@co.r... or visit the Extension Office at 136 Sixth St.

Every year, autumn comes around, and I kick myself for not putting in more blooming flowers that will give a final shot of color to my garden before winter sets in. This year, I’m going to put some new fall-blooming plants in as soon as the soil allows so I can enjoy more fall color come August and September.

There are lots of perennials that will bloom in the fall at our altitude … and many of our spring and summer blooming plants will reflower in the fall if we’re quick about cutting them down once they’ve finished their first bloom. One of my favorites is the deep blue, aromatic salvia (May Night). My little patch of salvia starts blooming in late spring. Then, if I quickly cut down the foliage once the flowers are spent, they often rebloom in September and October.

Other fall blooming perennials to consider for our Zone 4 mountain climate include:

• The yellow red and orange hues of blanket flower (Gaillardia x), a low-growing plant with pretty green foliage.

• Threadleaf coreopsis (Coreopsis verticillata) a medium-tall plant with yellow and orange flowers and thin leaves that remind me of soft pine needles.

• A popular plant in many Routt County gardens, the coneflower (Echinacea spp) has a tall daisy-like flower that is available in various shades of pink, yellow, red, orange and purple

• For pink color in the fall, consider one of my favorites, a large pink crocus named ‘waterlily.’ Japanese anemone (Anemone hupehesis ‘Prince Henry’) has huge pink blooms in August and September

• I’ve fallen in love with hollyhocks (Alcea rugosa) and find them to be among the latest blooming of my fall flowers, putting out blooms right until the snow comes. They come in so many wonderful colors.

• For some red color, as well as a wonderful aroma and butterfly attactor, beebalm (Monarda didyma) is a great addition to the garden.

• Dianthus is another of my favorites, but beware: This plant, commonly called garden pink, can spread throughout your garden. In mine, I think the chipmunks have planted the seeds all over, but I don’t mind. It’s a beautiful pink-flowering plant that lasts all summer into the fall, and the thick, green foliage is very pretty, too.

• Many of the sedums sold at local garden centers are also fall blooming, particularly autumn joy, dragon’s blood and autumn fire

• And you can’t beat asters for late fall color. We have several native species in shades of blue and purple.

For ideas on which plants to put into your own garden, check out the plants at the Yampa River Botanic Park. The staff there has more than a dozen years’ experience testing and trying out different varieties of blooming plants and can give you wonderful advice.

Deb Babcock is a Master Gardener through the CSU Extension Routt County. Questions? Call 879-0825 or email

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