In this blog post, I will suggest 5 different plants with excellent fall interest to incorporate into a landscape alongside mums in order to prevent a visually bland fall display of only mums. For more information about these plants visit the Missouri Botanical Gardens website.
When September rolls around, you can’t set foot into a garden center without drowning in the vibrant purples, yellows, reds, and oranges of mums. I will be the first to admit that mums are beautiful; I have five different cultivars currently planted in my yard. However, mums should not be the only fall interest in a landscape. Monoculture, simply put, is not very aesthetically pleasing, nevermind the fact that monoculture caused the Irish Potato Famine. With the diversity of plants available to us today, the ability to create something beautiful and unique in a landscape is easier than ever. While there are immensely more options, I will just suggest 5 fall plants to ease you out of the comfortable and monotonous mum mindset.
#1 Japanese Anemone/Windflower (Anemone tomentosa)
Japanese anemone begin blooming in August and continue through October. The foliage grows in a dense low to the ground mound and the flowers rise above the foliage a foot or two creating a fantastic display of floating flowers. This unique shape will contrast with the mounded habit of your mums and create pleasing visual diversity. Additionally, anemone flowers tend to be paler in color, adding a nice dimension to the typically vibrant and rich blooms of mums. For example, the pale purple of the anemone pictured above (Anemone tomentosa ‘Robustissima’) would pair very nicely with a deep purple mum to bring out its faint purple hues. Similarly, a golden yellow mum would bring out the color of the anemone’s stamens.
#2 Beautyberry (Callicarpa sp.)
Beautyberry is a spectacular plant for fall interest. This 4’ tall 3’ wide shrub puts on berries in September and holds on to them through October. Callicarpa comes from a greek word meaning ‘beautiful fruit.’ The name speaks for itself, just look at that display of fruit pictured to the left (Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Early Amethsyt’). Its height makes it an excellent backdrop for mums in a perennial border. Plant it near your annuals planters so the berries can bring out the purple variegation in your ornamental kale!
#3 Heuchera (Heuchera sp.)
Heuchera are used quite often in the landscape, but their practicality does not end in a planting bed. The wide range of colors available make them an ideal choice for fall planters. The colors range from chartreuse green to candy apple red to almost black (Heuchera ‘Black Pearl’)! Incorporate your favorite heuchera colors into a planting bed of mums to break up the monotony, or add them to a planter with a purple fountain grass and mum. The possibilities are truly endless with heuchera! What are your favorite heuchera combinations? Share them with us in the comments!
#4 Bluebeard (Caryopteris incana)
My next plant suggestion is bluebeard, a deciduous shrub that blooms a delicate amethyst blue in July and continues through October. Bluebeard has bright golden foliage and reaches heights of 3-5’. However, the cultivars ‘Sunshine Blue’ and ‘Sunshine Blue II’ only reach heights of 2.5-3’ tall. If space is an issue in your planting beds, you might want to go with one of the smaller cultivars. The bright golden foliage of bluebeard will pleasantly contrast with the dark green foliage of your mums to create a more interesting fall display of color.
#5 Red Rooster Sedge (Carex buchananii ‘Red Rooster’)
The last suggestion I would like to make is a very specific one because it deserves more attention than it gets. Red Rooster Sedge has unique, reliable color and a perfect fall aesthetic. It’s coppery-bronze foliage has a reddish tint that is evidence when the sunlight hits. As added interest, the tips of the sedge have wispy curls. Its upright habit makes it an excellent option for fall containers. The texture and height it provides are important aspects of any visually pleasing planter. This plant is often overlooked due to its color appearing drab at first glance, but if paired with a bright red mum or ornamental pepper to bring out the red tinting, this sedge performs just as well as any other fall plant.