Low-maintenance plants provide color in late summer and fall

Richard Bogren, Huffstickler, Kyle, Gill, Daniel J., Owings, Allen D.  |  8/12/2011 6:24:05 PM

Purple Flash ornamental peppers are a colorful foliage addition to the fall landscape. (Photo by Allen Owings. Click on photo for downloadable image.)

Copper plants, like the popular Louisiana Red variety, provide nice foliage to accent summer and fall flowers. (Photo by Allen Owings. Click on photo for downloadable image.)

News Release Distributed 08/12/11

By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists
Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings

Copper plants are great foliage plants for the landscape. These go by the scientific name of Acalypha, and they really put on a fantastic show in late summer and fall. You can choose from a tremendous number of these varieties – some old, some new. Proven Winners has introduced several the past few years, and we also have a number that are industry standards in Louisiana – such as Louisiana Red and Opelousas Red.

The LSU AgCenter is working on collecting and evaluating copper plants. We have about 20 varieties thus far. Bourbon Street, Jungle Dragon, Tahiti, Curly Q and Bronze are some of the variety names you will see at garden centers.

Copper plants that are planted early in the year can be in 4-inch pots. But if you plant them in late summer and early fall, try to get 1- to 3-gallon containers.

Ornamental peppers are a unique, specialty-type plant for home landscapes. These are mostly sold in the fall and have appealing characteristics such as colorful berries and foliage. Ornamental peppers produce colorful fruit (which actually are peppers) in a wide range of sizes, forms and colors. Purple, orange, yellow, red, brown, blue, and white are common. Multiple colors can appear on the same plant.

Flowering on ornamental peppers is not obvious – the fruit are the desirable feature. Plants can reach heights of 8 inches to 3 feet depending on the variety. Green foliage is common, but variegated foliage and plants with purplish-black leaves are also available.

Popular varieties of ornamental peppers available at garden centers in late summer and early fall include Chilly Chili, Purple Flash, Black Pearl and the Explosive series. These are not cold-hardy. They are warm-season annuals usually used for 3-4 months of foliage and berry color in the landscape, containers or patio garden setting.

Marigolds can also be called meri-mums and are used in fall even more successfully than in spring. They are a great replacement for garden mums in the fall landscape. You get eight-10 weeks of flower power with marigolds but only a month of flowers with garden mums.

Select African types for larger plants with big flowers or select French types for shorter, smaller plants with smaller flowers. It is best to plant marigolds from mid-August through mid- to late September. Marigolds prefer full sun and do best when irrigation is minimized.

Zinnias are another good fall-weather bedding plant that we normally think of for spring. Try the Profusion or Zahara zinnias. These are smaller-plant, smaller-flower varieties. Try the Dreamland or Swizzles, when available, if you want larger flowers.

It’s getting late to sow zinnia seed in a landscape bed, so purchase plants already started for you. Plant them in the August-to-September window. Zinnias love the dry weather of fall. Typically by this time of year, your spring-planted zinnias are not performing very well, so replacing them may be in order. The new plants will last until killing frost arrives.

Petunias can be planted a little bit later in the fall than the other plants previously mentioned. When planted early enough in the fall (October), they will bloom and give one to two months of nice flowering prior to a frost or freeze. Typically, petunias will live through winter in Louisiana, but they’re more prone to cold damage in north and central Louisiana than in south Louisiana.

Petunias usually will not bloom through winter, but plants will produce new foliage as weather warms in February and perform well through May or June. Plants in the Wave series are popular varieties. If you want more of the old-time petunia look, try the Madness series.

Try some color plants in your landscape the next few months. Whether color from foliage or color from flowers, all of these will perform well for you if you follow proper horticultural practices.

Visit LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (Louisiana Highway 30) in Baton Rouge, across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. For more information, go to www.lsuagcenter.com/lahouse or www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.

Rick Bogren
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