An avid gardener for over 40 years, Dolores has landscaped for private clients and maintained one client's small orchid collection.
In September, when the weather cools and summer fades, late-blooming perennial flowers will add color to your garden. Late summer and early fall are great times to spend outdoors. Dress up your garden and keep the show going with late summer-blooming and early fall-flowering perennials.
Most of the plants presented here are easy to grow and easy to find at garden centers and big box stores. Several of the plants shown are native to the United States and are disease and pest resistant.
Most plants shown here occur in several other, if not hundreds, of other varieties.
Sweet Autumn Clematis
Sweet Autumn Clematis is a frothy fall flowering perennial vine. Growing up to 30' tall, this showy fall favorite is great for climbing a trellis, pergola, or arbors and looks beautiful cascading over the edges of fences or walls. Sweet Autumn Clematis attracts bees and butterflies. It's great for softening edges and provides privacy with its dense foliage and flowering habit. Though the thick vines provide an excellent habitat for small birds, it can be very invasive.
Plant Sweet Autumn Clematis in full sun to partial shade in US zones 4 - 9. Prune or cut this fast grower back in early spring as the flowers are produced on new growth.
Solidago or Goldenrod
Solidago, or Goldenrod, is a beautiful late summer, early fall flowering perennial that is native to the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Introduced to Europe as a garden plant, solidago has become invasive in some areas.
The tall plant produces delicate spikes in a branched pyramid shape in shades of yellow. Solidago sempervirens, or seaside goldenrod, is salt tolerant. Solidago has become a favorite in the floral industry due to its versatility and long-lasting qualities.
Goldenrod has often been confused with ragweed. While ragweed is a great hay-fever offender, goldenrod is not, though frequent handling may cause allergic reactions in some sensitive people.
Liriope or Lilyturf
Liriope, or Lilyturf, is a sturdy ground cover used to prevent erosion and as a specimen plant under trees, used as a fill-in plant, or to line sidewalks or patios. The grassy evergreen plant is hardy and does well in wet or dry conditions, in full sun or shade. Tough Liriope can be divided easily, some varieties produce variegated foliage.
Though some varieties are invasive, Liriope Muscari is a clumping type. Liriope is salt tolerant and deer resistant.
Tiny spikes of blue, purple, white, or violet flowers appear in late summer or early fall and are about 12" - 18" tall. A shiny blue black berry-like fruit appears after flowering and remains on the plant on into winter. The fruits are attractive in small floral arrangements. Also called monkey grass, the foliage is a popular greenery in the floral industry.
Chrysanthemums or Mums
Chrysanthemums are a true icon of autumn. With their spicy, woodland scent and fall colors, chrysanthemums come in a wide variety of colors and shapes. Florist varieties may be difficult to grow at home in the garden, as most are green-house grown, long-stemmed types.
Garden mums grow on a bushy plant 2' - 3' tall in full sun, in US zones 3 - 9. Divide plants every third year to keep them vigorous. Pinch back chrysanthemum plants in spring and on until July to create branching. If you do not pinch back, flowers may develop early during the summer when the hot weather will cause the blooms to quickly fade.
Pompom or cushion mum are puffy and full of petals. Spoon mums have rolled petals that flatten at the end. Daisy mums are shaped like daisies. Chrysanthemums come in bronze, maroon, white, yellow, pink, orange, and deep reds. Grow in US Zone 3 - 9 in the garden or in containers.
New England Asters
A hardy native to the North Eastern United States, New England Aster (or Aster Novaeangliae) offers a beautiful contrast of color at the end of the flower season. The starry-like petals appear in lilac to purple surrounding a yellow or yellow orange center. Grow in full sun, in moist, rich soil.
The 3 - 6 foot tall asters must be grown with support or cut back in early summer to avoid flopping when the flowers bloom. New England Asters will attract late season butterflies and will stay in bloom from August until October.
Sedum - Autumn Joy
Autumn Joy Sedum, or Sedum Spectabile, is a large, fleshy-leaved succulent that blooms in late August and September. The thick stems are topped by flowers that resemble flattened, mauve or pink broccoli florets that darken into deep burgundy in the fall. 24 inch tall Autumn Joy is drought resistant, easy to grow, and tough.
Plant in full sun to partial shade in well drained soil. Cut back in early July to avoid flopping when the heavy flowers begin to bloom. Autumn Joy can be easily divided in early spring.
Russian Sage, or Perovskia Atriplicifolia, is a beautiful 3' - 5' tall perennial that begins to bloom in mid-summer and remains in bloom until October. The delicate foliage and flowers create a misty look with grayish green leaves and blue flowers. Stems are woody at the base. The fragrant foliage is what earns this plant's name, as it is not really a sage.
Russian Sage prefers a sunny location and tolerates drought. It will not thrive in humid southern regions. Cut back in spring at the first sign of new growth. Russian Sage dries well and attracts little or no pests or diseases. Grows best in US zones 4 - 9.
Joe Pye Weed
Joe Pye Weed, or Eupatorium, is a US native perennial plant grown best in US zones 5 - 10. Seen growing at the edges of fields or roads, Joe Pye Weed can stand up to 7 feet tall. It's mauve to dusty rose flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Some varieties feature deep mauve stems that look lovely against the large, deep green leaves.
Grow Joe Pye Weed in full sun to partial shade, in moist soil if in full sun. The plant comes in dwarf varieties. Taller versions can be cut back in June. Joe Pye Weed may spread.
The name Joe Pye is believed to have originated with a native American herbalist who used the plant to lower the fevers of typhoid victims.
Rose of Sharon
Rose of Sharon, or Hibiscus Syriacus, is an attractive, hardy hibiscus that blooms in late summer and on into early fall. This 8' shrub has tough, woody branches that can be pruned into tree form for an attractive specimen plant.
Rose of Sharon, with its slightly tropical look, is great for adding color as the rest of the garden fades. Large flowers come in lavender, deep pink with red centers, white with red centers, and a few varieties with double blooms.
Rose of Sharon attracts hummingbirds. Plant in US zones 5 - 9, in full sun to partial shade, though it does better in full sun. Rose of Sharon is tolerant of poor soils and drought, though it can be invasive. Prune in late winter to produce large blooms.
Hydrangea is a large, attractive shrub that comes in several forms. Pee Gee hydrangea grows in a tree form and blooms in late summer. The white blooms turn to a lovely dusty pink or vintage rose color as the season progresses into fall.
Mophead hydrangeas bloom in early to mid summer but retain their blooms well into late summer and fall. The blooms dry but stay quite attractive, their color changing over time.
PeeGee prefers full sun, while Mopheads need some afternoon shade. Plant in well drained soil. Hydrangeas need a good watering in hot, dry weather.
Monkshood or Acontium, sometimes called Wolf's bane is an attractive perennial that can grow up to five feet tall. There are several varieties of this poisonous plant. The milky sap is toxic so wear gloves if handling. Avoid planting if there are children around. Do not grow beside vegetables. The sap can irritate skin.
Blue to purple flowers appear on a spike in late summer or early fall. Monkshood will not fare well in very hot summers.
U.S. Plant Zones 3 - 7.
Questions & Answers
Question: How do I shape my dwarf dappled willow into a weeping willow?
Answer: Dwarf Dappled willows ( Hakuro Nishiki ) are shrubs with an upright growth when they are young. They grow to between 4 - 6 feet tall and wide. Branches will begin to arch as the plant ages. Some have been grafted onto a five-foot stem to create an eight-foot tree form of the plant. Color is best when planted in full sun. Prune in late winter to remove dead or damaged branches.
Dolores Monet (author) from East Coast, United States on July 15, 2019:
Hi Linda - you are right! When my friend sang the praises of this type of Clematis, I thought it would be a great addition to the list. In subsequent years, we found that the vine did indeed spread wildly! It has become a bit of a pest.
Linda C on July 09, 2019:
Clematis terniflora (syn paniculata) is deemed invasive. It readily seeds everywhere and should not be planted and ideally removed.