Sunflower blossoms have dried to shriveled husks, rose petals have been swept off their branches by early fall breezes, and wildflowers are reduced to spindly seed heads making ready for next year. What’s a flower lover to do for some color now that summer is officially over?
To find out, experts from three local garden centers recommended what to do: Brian Boyce, the nursery manager at Sunrise Garden Center, 1501 Learnard Ave.; Dorris Burton, an employee of Howard Pine’s Garden Center, 1320 N. Third Street; and Ann Peuser, the owner of Clinton Parkway Nursery, 4900 Clinton Parkway.
Here are six of their best recommendations of fall plants to keep your garden bright and beautiful as colder weather sets in.
Latin name: Chrysanthemum
Distinguishing characteristics: Small, rounded perennial with dark-green foliage and pompom flowers. The flowers are commonly yellow, orange, rust-red and purple, but can come in every color except blue.
Why they’re good for fall: Mums are the traditional fall flower, as integral as pumpkins and Thanksgiving turkey. And, Boyce said, you can keep them blooming all season. “There are different bloom periods for different types of mum — early, middle, and late. Assuming good care and weather, you can have mums blooming continuously for about two months.”
Fun fact about this flower: While mums are a fairly humble flower in the United States, the same is not true across the world. The emperor of Japan is said to occupy “the Chrysanthemum Throne,” and the word “chrysanthemum” means “gold flower” in Greek.
Where to buy: Just about everywhere. Sunrise Garden Center, Howard Pine’s Garden Center, and Clinton Parkway Nursery all have them, as do most area grocery stores.
Cost: About $10 for a gallon-sized plant.
Latin name: Viola tricolor
Distinguishing characteristics: Short, bright flowers, with a darkened center “face,” commonly used as a bedding annual in fall and spring. Pansies are typically orange, yellow or lavender.
Why they’re good for fall: “The word for pansies is ‘cheerful,’” Boyce said. “Everyone loves the bright colors and little pansy faces. They’re also extremely cold hardy. It’s possible to have good flower color into November or December.” Peuser agreed about the hardiness: “Many fall pansies will overwinter into the spring and be even prettier than the spring-planted ones.”
Fun fact about this flower: Early American children would make flower dolls using pansy blooms as heads. It’s easy to imagine — the flowers do look charmingly like tiny faces.
Where to buy: Sunrise Garden Center, Clinton Parkway Nursery
Cost: $4-$6 for a six-pack carton.
Latin name: Callicarpa
Distinguishing characteristics: A small, woody shrub with green leaves. Purple berries form in the fall.
Why they’re good for fall: “Beautyberry is an unassuming green blob most of the year, but in the fall it will be covered in tens of thousands of lilac-colored berries,” Boyce said. Just in time for that other Kansas team’s football season, Boyce said, “the berries are exactly K-State purple.”
Fun fact about this flower: While not very tasty raw, beauty berries can be used to make both jelly and insect repellent. If that combination seems off-putting, leave the berries on the shrub for your local wildlife instead.
Where to buy: Sunrise Garden Center
Cost: $40 for a plant about 3 feet wide and 3 feet tall.
Latin name: Brassica oleracea
Distinguishing characteristics: Ornamental kale is just as edible as the kale you buy in the grocery store, but — as it’s bred for color — it might not taste quite as good.
Why they’re good for fall: While ornamental kale may seem like it belongs in the vegetable garden, it transforms from food to flower when the weather turns frosty. “Ornamental kale turns neon pink or bright red when the weather gets cold. It usually won’t last all winter, but it’s very, very showy,” Peuser said.
Fun fact about this flower: While Mickey Mouse was unavailable for confirmation, several green-thumbed travel bloggers have noted that Disney World plants ornamental kale plants by the thousands in the winter, making for magical displays throughout the park.
Where to buy: Clinton Parkway Nursery, Sunrise Garden Center
Cost: $5-$10 per plant.
Latin name: Aster
Distinguishing characteristics: Aster is a perennial that comes in many sizes, from about 8 inches tall to about 8 feet. Its flowers are similar to daises and are ordinarily pink, white, purple or red.
Why they’re good for fall: Late season pollinators may struggle to find food as the abundant flowers of summer die off. Boyce said aster is a great food source for fall butterflies.
Fun fact about this flower: In ancient times, it was believed that asters could be burned to ward off snakes.
Where to buy: Sunrise Garden Center, Howard Pine’s Garden Center and Clinton Parkway Nursery.
Cost: $5-$10 per plant.
Latin name: Sedum
Distinguishing characteristics: Sedums are succulents. The fall blooming varieties generally have yellow, pink or white flowers.
Why they’re good for fall: Peuser said sedums are a plant for all seasons, but they’re especially beautiful in the fall. “They’re commonly called ‘live forevers,’ but the cooler weather really brings out a beautiful rust or pink color.”
Fun fact about this flower: If you like to grow plants with interesting varietal names, sedum is for you. Sunrise Garden Center stocks a variety called “Autumn Joy,” and Howard Pine’s Garden Center has one called “Frosty Morn.” But the best name of all is “Sedum T-rex,” also available at Howard Pine’s. It blooms a lovely pink, in contrast to its “tough guy” name.
Where to buy: Sunrise Garden Center, Howard Pine’s Garden Center, Clinton Parkway Nursery
Cost: $10-$15 per plant.