Updated/Fact-Chacked on April 26, 2023 by Gareth James
If you are planning your garden for the season ahead, don’t forget to think about autumn flowering plants to keep the colours going until the first frost.
You will find shrubs that produce colourful fruit in autumn, but in this article, we will look at plants that will give you colour in September, October and November. We will be writing a follow-up post dedicated to shrubs and climbers with autumn colours, so these will be excluded from this article.
Some of the plants I have included will flower in summer and continue until the first frost; I love plants with a long flowering season.
Below is an example of autumn flowering plants from my front bed. The image was taken in November, which was particularly mild last year, prolonging my colour.
Here are ten plants that will give you colour throughout the autumn months, from late August to November. Some of these will continue flowering until first frost, then your winter flowering plants will take centre stage.
Asters (Michaelmas Daisies)
Asters can bloom from July through to late October. Aster is easy to grow and not fussy about soil type but prefers partial shade. They come in a range of different colour varieties: lavender (Ochtendgloren), Lilac (Calliope), Purple (Island series), Moroon (Royal Ruby).
Asters make great autumn flowering plants for containers; just ensure you have good drainage.
Colchicum (Autumn Crocus)
These autumn crocus will flower from September through to late October. This Colchicum should not be confused with the standard spring crocus; Colchicum are part of the lily family and are autumn plants. They come in a range of amazing colours for autumn and thrive in partial shade, under a tree is perfect.
You can plant bulbs in August; they will flower in the coming months. Strangely, they produce foliage in spring to feed the plant, then disappear completely until autumn.
Colchicum makes great autumn flowering plants for bees late to hibernate, like the common carder bumblebee and Ivy bee.
Sternbergia Lutea (Winter Daffodil)
These will flower throughout autumn. Autumn daffodil bulbs are best planted in a sunny spot in your garden with well-drained soil. You don’t see these flowers often and they are synonymous with old gardens, like the Queen’s Garden at Kew where they grow under a tree.
Cyclamen (Sow Bread)
Cyclamen only start to flower in late autumn and will keep going into winter if there is no hard frost. Cyclamen grow best in shady borders and under trees or in pots.
I tried to buy a load of Cyclamen bulbs from Crocus.co.uk last summer, but they don’t even ship them until mid-September.
Helianthus (Common Sunflower)
Everyone loves sunflowers, especially kids. A local farmer planted a whole patch of them recently; the field had constant visitors of teenage girls taking pictures for Instagram.
Sunflowers can be grown from seed and can flower in 11 weeks. As the name suggests, they love the sun – simply plant in small pots with peat-free compost in April and move into a sunny border in May.
Dahlia will give you colour all summer and through autumn until the first frost, but they do require a little care and attention.
Last year I went a bit nuts buying dahlia and I plan to do exactly the same this season! I like to dig up my tulips when they have finished flowering and plant dahlia in their spots – I then do the reverse in November. Dahlia bulbs do not like frost and are best dug up and stored in a shed.
Single-headed Dahlias, like Colchicum, are good autumn-blooming plants for bees and other pollinating insects.
Liriope Muscari (Lilyturf)
This Autumn plant is an evergreen herbaceous perennial that flowers from August through to November. I adore my liriope because it has grass-like architectural foliage when not in bloom, they are also super-low maintenance and last for years.
Liriope can also be grown in partial shade, ideal for north and east-facing gardens.
I love my crocosmia! I actually forgot all about it at the back of one of my borders until this week. At the time of writing (mid-August), it’s just starting to bloom here in the North East – after a sunless August.
Crocosmia really stands out from other flowers with their exotic-looking nature, sitting on their stems in an organised fashion. Crocosmia can keep their bloom until late October, which is perfect for keeping the colour going until winter.
Kniphofia (Red Hot Pokers)
Another exotic-looking plant that is striking in any border. Kniphofia keeps flowering into November and is easy to grow and cultivate, though loved by slugs and snails. Kniphofia come in a variety of colours, all very striking – I have the ‘Tawney King’, which blooms in a deep orange colour and stands over a metre tall.
I planted mine in spring, but they did not flower this year, I think it takes a long time to establish roots.
An old favourite and not to be missed if you are planning for autumn colour, Chrysanthemums will flower into October if in a secluded sunny position. Chrysanthemums varieties come in many different colours and petal shapes, we love Pompoms, Spiders and Quills.
I’m currently growing two types of ‘Matchstick Chrysanthemum’ which have amazing petals with different coloured tips.
Gareth is the owner of Plantsman Media. Gareth lives in the North East of England and is obsessed with flowers. He has just started RHS level 2 certification.