Many Plants Provide Late-season Color

Daniel Gill, Merrill, Thomas A.  |  4/19/2005 10:28:54 PM

Get It Growing News For 10/01/04

Some plants seem to save up all summer for the spectacular display of flowers, fruit and foliage showing up in our gardens now through November.

If you want to punch up the color level in your garden in late summer and fall, here are some trees, shrubs and perennials you might consider including in your landscape.

Look for the leaves of various deciduous trees to change color now through early December (most of the colorful foliage occurs in late November). Although the overall color change is decidedly less spectacular this far south, a few of the trees that reliably color up well here include ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), which provides yellow color; sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua), which has leaves that turn purple, burgundy, orange and yellow; and Chinese pistachio (Pistachia chinensis), which goes to purple, red and orange.

Trees also provide color now and through the winter with fruit. Hollies are notable in this regard, and they are beginning to color their brilliant red berries now.

Excellent choices for our area include the popular Savannah holly and Foster’s holly (Ilex x attenuata ‘Savannah’ and ‘Fosteri’) – both small trees. The Savannah holly grows to about 25 feet and the Foster’s to about 15 feet. Another great thing about holly berries is that they are excellent wildlife food for birds.

Two beautiful native hollies are the yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria) and deciduous holly (Ilex decidua). The deciduous holly drops its leaves in winter, unlike other commonly grown hollies that are all evergreen. Once the leaves fall, the bright red berries – which literally cover the branches – put on a traffic-stopping display.

Two other excellent native hollies for berries are the American holly (Ilex opaca) and small-growing dahoon holly (Ilex cassine).

If you choose to plant a holly, make sure it is a female – male hollies do not produce berries. To be sure you get a female, buy a holly that already has berries on it.

On a smaller scale, three species of cassia grow 8 feet to 10 feet and produce a brilliant display of golden yellow flowers from September to December.

The candelabra plant (Cassia alata) produces bold, dramatic foliage and spikes of globular gold flowers.

Cassia corymbosa is a larger plant growing into more of a tree shape. Starting in September, clusters of ½-inch yellow flowers are produced in great quantities followed by seed pods that look like green beans.

The most spectacular of the three species is the golden wonder tree (Cassia splendida), which blooms from October through December if the weather stays mild. The larger golden yellow flowers almost cover the foliage and are bound to attract attention in any landscape that includes it.

Some of the most outstanding shrubs for bloom now are sasanquas (Camellia sasanqua) and various roses.

Sasanquas are one of those indispensable shrubs for our area. Dwarf types stay under 3 feet, while standard varieties will slowly grow to 10 feet to 12 feet and can be trained as a clipped hedge, large shrub or tree shape. The 2-inch to 3-inch, fragrant flowers are produced in abundance and come in shades of light red, rose, pink and white, depending on the variety you choose.

Soon, camellias (Camellia japonica) will begin to bloom and continue through the winter. And roses will produce outstanding flowers through early December or longer if the winter is mild.

Although generally not known for their fall blooming, azaleas that bloom during seasons other than spring are becoming more available and popular. Particularly notable are some of the Robin Hill azaleas, such as ‘Watchet,’ the popular Glen Dale variety ‘Fashion’ and the new Encore Autumn series azaleas, which include ‘Autumn Embers,’ an intense red variety.

In addition to the popular chrysanthemum, herbaceous perennials such as the toad lily (Tricyrtis formosana), red ruellia (Ruellia graecizans) and cigar plant (Cuphea micropetala) also contribute to the late year floral display. And gingers that belong to the genus Hedychium, such as the butterfly ginger and Kahili ginger, bloom abundantly until the first really cold weather occurs.

Lots of herbaceous perennial wildflowers are in bloom along roadsides now as well, and two that make excellent additions to the garden include wild ageratum (Eupatorium coelestinum) and goldenrod (Solidago species). In October and November, wild ageratum produces powder-puff clusters of lavender-blue flowers on plants about 24 inches tall. Goldenrod is a well-known fall bloomer that often gets blamed for causing hayfever. It doesn’t, but it does produce spikes of intense yellow flowers that enliven the garden.

In addition, although they bloom through the summer, salvias always seem to look especially good in the fall. Two species, Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha) and forsythia sage (Salvia madrensis), are outstanding. Mexican bush sage produces spikes of furry purple or white flowers on 3-foot to 5-foot-tall plants. Forsythia sage is an unusual yellow-blooming salvia that makes large spikes of mellow yellow on a 5-foot plant with dark green, quilted leaves.

Get It Growing is a weekly feature on home lawn and garden topics prepared by experts in the LSU AgCenter. For more information on such topics, contact your parish LSU AgCenter Extension office or visit our Web site at  A wide range of publications and a variety of other resources are available.


Contact: Dan Gill at (225) 578-2222 or 
Editor: Tom Merrill at (225) 578-2263 or 

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