Fall Color: 24 Best Perennial Plants

Even though summer is over and fall is here, your gardens do not have to go to sleep quite yet. They can offer beautiful fall colors for enjoyment and cutting.

Forever Autumn Color

Late summer and fall are the times the gardener is looking out for plants to add some autumn color and textural interest to the garden.        

If you plant perennials, they will come back every year with beautiful color repeats. 

We have found 24 different perennials that will give you fall color, and they’ll come back every year. Find the ones you like, get them planted now, and enjoy color in the autumn every year.

How Long Will That Plant Live?

When deciding what plants you want to put into your gardens for fall color, you have to choose between annuals, biennials. and perennials. That’s great, but what do these terms mean anyway? And how can they help you with your plant choices?

Annual plants, or annuals, will live only one year. You will have to replace them every year. The benefits of planting annuals include a very long blooming season.

Biennial plants, or biennials, will live two years.

Perennial plants, or perennials, will live more than two years. Some define a perennial as one that lives more than three years.

Best Perennials for Autumn Color

Anemone

fall color with white anemone flowers with yellow centers in the fall garden
White Anemone Flowers

Japanese Anemone is known as windflowers. These flowers have one of the longest blooming seasons which can last 6 to 8 weeks. They will add spectacular color when other perennials are starting to fade away. These are good in borders, cottage or coastal gardens, naturalized gardens. They will attract bees but are deer and rabbit resistant.

  • Growth: 2 to 4 feet tall, 2 to 4 feet spread
  • Colors: Range from snow white to dark pink and purple
  • Flowers: single, semi-double, or double.
  • Full sun, part sun
  • Soil: Chalk, clay, loam, or sand
  • Hardiness zone: 4 to 8

Asters

for fall color, add multicolored asters to the fall garden
Bright Multicolored Asters

Asters are perfect flowers for the late summer or fall gardens. They are versatile and can be used in rock gardens, borders, or where wildflowers are planted. Looking a bit like a daisy flower, asters are available in a wide variety of sizes and colors.

In fact, there are over 90 recognized species or asters! Plant them with coneflowers and goldenrod.

Asters will give you beautiful autumn color. They attract bees, butterflies, and birds, and will repel deer.

  • Growth: 2 to 3 feet tall or dwarf mounding depending on the variety
  • Colors: shades of pink, purple, blue and white
  • Flowers: similar to a daisy, also known as Michaelmas daisy
  • Full sun or light shade
  • Hardiness Zone: 4 to 8

Astilbe

Astilbe japonica red flowers with green leaves for fall color
Astilbe Flowers

This plant is sometimes known as false spirea and false goat’s beard. You can recognize astilbe by their tall, fluffy plumes that tower above frilly, fern-like foliage.

Plant with hostas, hellebores, or heuchera for more fall color. The flowers are excellent for cutting and will attract butterflies.

  • Growth: 3 to 4 feet tall or dwarf 12” high depending on the variety
  • Colors: vary from white, pink and deep red, through soft lavender and violet
  • Light to moderate shade
  • Soil: well-draining, high in organic matter
  • Hardiness Zone: 3 to 8

Balloon Flower

purple and light purple balloon flowers with green background
Balloon Flowers

Platycodon, or Balloon Flowers, are also known as Chinese or Japanese bellflowers. The name “balloon flower” comes from the unopened buds which swell up before opening and look like hot air balloons.

Kids love to pop them! Balloon flowers are deer resistant. Beautiful blue addition to the fall color garden.

  • Growth: 12 to 20 inches tall
  • Colors: deep blue, purple, violet, pink or white blooms
  • Flowers: opened flowers resemble bellflowers
  • Full sun or partial shade
  • Soil: well-drained
  • Hardiness Zone: 3 to 9

Bee Balm

bee balm flowers are red for the fall garden
Bee Balm

Bee Balm (Monarda) is in the mint family. It’s a naturally growing wildflower, with about 50 commercial cultivars commonly available.

There are several varieties of monardas, and they all look different from each other. The flowers make nectar that attracts bees and hummingbirds.

  • Growth: 12” to 3 feet tall, 18 to 36 inches wide
  • Colors: lavender, red, pink, or white
  • Flowers: open, daisy-like shape with tubular petals
  • Full sun to afternoon shade
  • Soil: rich, moist
  • Hardiness Zone: 4 to 9

Blanket Flower

blanket flowers are orange with yellow fringes
Blanket Flowers

Gaillardia or blanket flowers (gaillardia x grandiflora) are known for their large (2-3” wide) single or double-daisy flowers atop gray-green foliage.

A part of the sunflower family, you can see the family resemblances in these flowers. Gaillardia will grow in spots where nothing else will. Complementary plants include echinacea, salvia, and sedum. They are resistant to deer.

  • Growth: 2 to 3 feet tall
  • Colors: yellow, wine red, orange, or peach
  • Flowers: named after colorful native blankets
  • Growth: 12 to 18 inches
  • Full sun
  • Soil: dry, porous
  • Hardiness Zone: 3 to 10

Cardinal Flower

red cardinal flowers on green stalks
Cardinal Flowers

Lobelia or Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) has brilliant scarlet or red flower spikes.

It is a native wildflower that is attractive to both hummingbirds and butterflies. It grows in moist locations beside water features or gardens.

  • Growth: upright, clump-forming 3 to feet tall, 1 to 2 feet wide
  • Flowers: flower spikes fiery scarlet or brilliant cardinal red, two-lipped blossoms
  • Colors: bright red
  • Full sun
  • Soil: clay, loam, moist but well-drained
  • Hardiness Zone: 4 to 8

Coneflower

purple coneflowers with orange colored biddles
Purple Coneflowers

Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is a native wildflower. The most popular variety is the purple coneflower.

Beautiful when planted with black-eyed Susans and Rudbeckia. These flowers are attractive to bees, butterflies, and birds. The prickly stems provide some deer resistance.

  • Growth: 2 to 4 feet high
  • Flowers: daisy-like flowers with slightly drooping petals, dark green foliage
  • Colors: purple, pink, white, soft yellow, green, orange                                                        
  • Full sun
  • Soil: chalk, loam, sand, well-drained
  • Hardiness Zone: 3 to 9

Coral Bells

purple coral bells foliage and flowers
Coral Bells

This plant is also called alum root. Coral bells (heuchera) is prized for their flowers, and heuchera makes an excellent ground cover.

A perennial with the foliage as the star, they are resistant to slugs and deer.

  • Growth: low growing mound, varied heights 1 to 3 feet high
  • Flowers: spikes with coral bell-shaped flowers, colored coral, green, red, white, or pink
  • Colors: The foliage is the highlight, colors ranging from black to purple to light amber.    
  • Shade or filtered sun
  • Soil: moist but well-draining
  • Hardiness Zone: 3 to 9

Coreopsis

yellow coreopsis flowers with orange centers
Coreopsis

My mom used to have a bunch of “pot of gold” in her flower beds. As you might guess, Coreopsis (Asteraceae genus) is also known as tickseed or pot of gold. This is a native North American prairie plant.

There are two varieties for your garden: Coreopsis Grandiflora with large flowers, and Thread Leaf Coreopsis (Coreopsis Verticillate) with airy flowers.

An excellent addition to your cutting garden, coreopsis will attract bees, butterflies, and goldfinches.

  • Growth: upright clumps, 10 to 18 inches tall
  • Flowers: daisy-like
  • Colors: yellow, orange, pink, and red
  • Light: full sun, part shade
  • Soil: well-drained
  • Hardiness Zone: 4 to 9

Cranesbill Geranium

purple cranesbill geraniums on green foliage
Purple Cranesbill Geraniums

Hardy geraniums or Cranesbill geraniums (Geraniaceae) are true geraniums. These are not to be confused with the bedding plants also called “geraniums (belonging to the Pelargonium family).”

The name cranesbill refers to the shape of the seed pods which resemble the bird. Bees love them!

  • Growth: mounding, 18 inches to 24 inches
  • Flowers: five petals in pink, purple, blue, white
  • Colors: pale blue and violet to light pink and bright magenta
  • Full sun to part shade
  • Soil: Well-drained soil
  • Hardiness Zone: 4 to 8

Daylilies

orange and yellow daylilies
Daylilies

I love Daylilies and have several different colors planted. Daylilies (Hemerocallis) are one of the easiest perennials to have in your garden. And they come back every year!

They tolerate a wide variety of soil conditions, are not troubled by pests or disease, and faithfully bloom every year with little attention needed.

Most daylily flowers bloom in the morning and die by nightfall. As a result, you will have each flower for only day, but each stem holds at least a dozen flower buds.

It’s amazing how many different varieties are availble now (over 50,000 named hybrid cultivars!). Therefore, you can choose a different one for every kind of gardening use!

  • Growth: up to 2 feet tall; flowers on leafless stems
  • Colors: yellow, pink, purple, and orange
  • Full sun
  • Fertile, well-drained soil
  • Hardiness Zone: 3 to 9

Hardy Begonias

hardy begonia pink flowers with dark green foliage
Hardy Begonia

A tuberous perennial with long-lasting sprays of blossoms, Hardy Begonia (Begonia grandis) is a fun perennial to grow.

Complementary plantings include hellebores, hosta, and Hakone grass. They are attractive to hummingbirds and bees.

  • Growth: bushy mound of foliage with flowers up to 2 feet tall
  • Colors: pink or white
  • Light: shade to full shade
  • Soil: moist but well-drained
  • Hardiness Zone: 6 to 9

Hardy Mums

Beautiful-pink-chrysanthemum-hardy-mums-hardy-chrysanth
Hardy Chrysanthemums

Chrysanthemums, often called mums, are brilliant additions to the late-fall gardens.

Be sure to plant the perennial Hardy Mum (Chrysanthemum genus), and not the annual mum or you’ll be replacing it every year! Mums attract butterflies and bees.

  • Growth: multibranched stems with flowers
  • Colors: wide range from yellow, orange, red, to pink
  • Light: full sun
  • Soil: well-drained soil
  • Hardiness Zone: 4 to 10

Helenium

orange helenium and yellow rudbeckia in the fall garden
Orange Helenium and Yellow Rudbeckia

Heleniums (Asteraceae genus) are a member of the sunflower family which includes coneflowers, cosmos, blanket flowers, and sunflowers.

Complementary plantings include daisies, obedient plants, daylilies, and monkshood. Heleniums are attractive to bees and other pollinators and are also deer resistant.

  • Growth: 1 to 3 feet tall
  • Colors: red, orange, yellow; blue or green foliage
  • Light: full sun
  • Soil: good, well-drained
  • Hardiness Zone: 3 to 9

Ironweed

Little Ironweed flower in the morning light-
Ironweed Flower

With blue flowers that turn into fluffy seed heads, Ironweed (Veronia) is named for its strong stems.

Butterflies, bees, and other pollinators really love ironweed flowers! But deer do not!

Plant ironweed next to other pollinator plants like goldenrod, asters, and giant hyssop. You can add beautiful color combinations, which can be a benefit for the environment at the same time.

  • Growth: 4 to 6 feet tall at maturity
  • Colors: purple-crimson
  • Light: full sun
  • Soil: moist almost acidic
  • Hardiness Zone: 4 to 8

Leadwort

blue leadwort flowers with green background
Leadwort Flowers

Someethimes referred to as plumbago, Leadwort (Ceratostigma Plumbaginoides) is used as a groundcover and has showy blue flowers.

Plant leadwort with yarrow and coreopsis to complement their yellow flowers in the late summer gardens.

  • Growth: 6 to 12 inches tall
  • Colors: purple, blue flowers, bright red foliage in the fall
  • Light: full sun, part sun
  • Soil: well-drained
  • Hardiness Zone: 5 to 9

Monkshood

purple monkhood flower with green background
Monkhood Flowers

Monkshood (Ranunculaceae) goes by several names including wolfsbane. It is a relatively unknown perennial that blooms in late summer into fall with spectacular blue spires.

All parts of the plant are poisonous, so be aware! Keep away from pets and children. Do not use it as a cut flower. Resistant to deer and rabbits.

  • Growth: mounding foliage with flower spikes 2 to 4 feet tall
  • Colors: blue, purple, white, or bicolor
  • Light: sun, partial shade
  • Soil: average and moist
  • Hardiness Zone: 3 to 7

Nippon Daisy

white daisies have a butterfly perched on them
Nippon Daisies

Montauk Daisy (their name in Long Island) or Nippon Daisies (Nipponanthemum nipponicum) have white daisy-like flowers with cheerful yellow centers.

They are fun in the late summer garden and make excellent cut flowers to bring inside. Butterflies love them.

  • Growth: 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide
  • Colors: white
  • Sun: Full sun
  • Soil: well-drained
  • Hardiness Zone: 5 to 9

Ornamental Grasses

purple fountain grass is lovely with purple stems and flowing tops
Purple Fountain Grass

There are so many different ornamental grasses available! As a result, you will never run out of variety when using them in your gardens and containers.

Ornamental grasses will add color and movement to your gardens and can be the “thriller” in your containers.

Remember the container planting theory that you need a “thriller” (tall focal plant in the center), the “fillers” (lower mounding plants in the pot), and the “spillers” (the draping plants over the container’s edge) in your container.

  • Growth: depends on variety, from a low mound to very tall
  • Colors: depends on variety
  • Light: full sun
  • Soil: well-drained
  • Hardiness Zone: 3 to 9

Pincushion Flower

bright magenta and orange pincushion flower
Pincushion Flower

This is one of my favorite perennials!

Pincushion Flowers (Scabiosa Columbaria) resemble a pincushion with their cushion-like center and pin-looking stamens. You know what a pincushion is, right?

Use them in border or bed plantings, or in containers. Complementary plantings include coreopsis or lantana. Pincushion flowers will attract butterflies.

  • Growth: 1 to 2 feet tall
  • Colors: blue, purple, yellow, and white
  • Light: full sun
  • Soil: well-drained
  • Hardiness Zone: 3 to 7

Red Valerian

red valerian flowers are pink on green stems
Red Valerian Flowers

Striking in the garden for its beautiful flowers, and Red Valerian (Centranthus Ruber) is also very popular in the perennial garden for its ease of care.

The flowers are fragrant, will attract butterflies and are resistant to deer.

  • Growth: 2 to 3 feet tall, 18 to 24 inches spread
  • Colors: crimson, pink, or white
  • Light: full sun
  • Soil: well-drained
  • Hardiness Zone: 5 to 8

Salvia

purple salvia flowers with green background
Purple Salvia

Salvia, also known as sage (Salvia spp.), is part of the mint family. There are over 900 species of salvias, and this large genus includes annual, biennial, and perennial herbs.

The culinary herb sage is even part of this family! The salvia plants have square stems and velvety leaves.

They are attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds, so they definitely have a place in your garden.

  • Growth: 1 to 2 feet tall
  • Colors: blue, green, pink, purple, red, white, yellow
  • Light: full sun
  • Soil: any
  • Hardiness Zone: 5 to 9

Sedum

sedum with pink and white flowers in the fall garden
Sedum Flowers

The Sedum (Stonecrop) family is a group of succulents that are easy to grow in your garden. This family is really diverse.

You can find sedums that are upright and tall, some that are creepers, those that love sunshine, and some that tolerate only shade.

The family includes plants like jade plant, kalanchoe, silver beads, and string of pearls. Make sure to learn about the sedum you choose before you plant it!

  • Growth: 18 to 24 inches tall
  • Light: full sun
  • Soil: well-drained, chalk, loam, sand
  • Hardiness Zone: 3 to 9 (depending on variety)

Forever Fall Color

autumn flowers with dark leaves in the background
Fall Bouquet

So, even though summer is over and fall is here, your gardens do not have to go to sleep quite yet. They can offer beautiful fall colors for enjoyment and cutting.

We have recommended several perennials that will give you fall color and come back every year.

Find the ones you like, get them planted now, and enjoy color in the autumn. You’ll be glad you did.

If you want to read about planting fall containers, here’s a post we wrote.

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