Stars of the Fall Garden

Spring perennial bloomers are easy. There are so many great spring performers that you always have something blooming all spring long with little effort. Fall can be a little trickier to have a constant parade of colorful bloomers and I always am looking for new candidates and old favorites. One of the all time favorites for long lasting color is Japanese Anemones, or Windflower.

Anemone ‘Pamina’

Long-Lived Perennial

Floating above the border on long willowy stems, Japanese Anemones are a stalwart herbaceous perennial that lasts for years. Many perennials are short-lived, lasting only for a few seasons, but I have had Anemones bloom for me in my garden for over 30 years. Reliable and deer resistant, they come in a variety of pinks, reds, and whites. Spreading by rhizomes, once you plant them, you can always count on them in late August and early September for a long lasting flower show.

Anemone Fantasy ‘Pocahontas’. a shorter Anemone at 12-18″

Dancing in the slightest breeze, the dainty flowers are great for floral arrangements in the fall. Commonly called Windflowers, these herbaceous perennials are different from the bulb Anemones that bloom in springtime. For more information on spring blooming Anemones, go to  #Bouquet of the Day to see how I grow these springtime stunners.

Springtime Anemones grown from tubers come in a wide variety of colors

 Perennial Anemones grow well in moist soil conditions and can take part sun or part shade. I find the flower color is actually best with some afternoon shade.  They steadily spread when happy.

Anemones arching over a pathway at Ladew Topiary Gardens
Goldenrod is a great foil for Anemones
Japanese anemones work well as a foundation planting

Japanese anemones can grow up to 4 feet tall. Some taller varieties may need staking to keep them from falling over, but if you situate them close to supporting plants, they are fine. ‘Honorine Jobert’ a wonderful white heirloom variety is one of my favorites, but needs a little help in staying upright. That help might be surrounding supporting plants or against a fence. or wall.

Tall ‘Honorine Jobert” supported by a wall at Ladew
Honorine Jobert Anemone


Spreading by underground runners, the plants can be divided every few years to keep them in bounds. In the spring, you can dig them up and divide them and give some away or spread to other parts of your garden. When frost hits them, cut them back.

Red Riding Hood, a shorter Anemone at a nursery

Designing With Anemones

If you have partial shade under a large tree that gets some morning sun, try growing Japanese Anemones. I find that they do well in full sun, but make sure that they are well watered.

Anemones planted in a mass

When your coneflowers and phlox are fading from the late summer/fall garden, Japanese Anemones fill a gap in the blooming show that starts up with asters, sedums, and aconitum or monkshood. Forgetting about them all summer long with just the foliage showing, the flowers pop up out of nowhere and you remember why you planted them!

Newer Varieties

Closeup of ‘Red Riding Hood’

Since so many people have small gardens and can’t accommodate full-sized perennials, shorter varieties of Anemones are on the market and more are coming out. I thought I would hate them as one of the beauties of Anemones is the winsome willowy stems. But the shorter varieties are very floriferous and create a pop of color, albeit with a whole different form. Clumping forms of 12 to 18 inches tall, the plants are covered with blooms to make an instant color statement.

‘Autumn Bride’ Heuchera

Very underutilized in perennial borders and foundation plantings, I love using this particular native Heuchera or Coral Bells and sprinkle it throughout my gardens.

Creamy white wands of tiny flowers top the basal rosettes of lime green fuzzy leaves of ‘Autumn Bride’ Heuchera

A wonderful part shade or full shade perennial that you can’t kill, this perennial deserves a spot in everyone’s garden. I have nominated it for ‘Perennial of the Year’ several times but it has yet to catch on as a popular plant. Deer resistant, drought tolerant, and suited for mid-Atlantic humid summers, this perennial keeps on giving year after year.

Here is ‘Autumn Bride’ in late summer in full sun with Nepeta in the foreground
Lime green fuzzy leaves make this ‘Autumn Bride’ stand out in the spring

A wonderful ground cover plant that you can substitute for the more common Pachysandra and vinca, this plant is semi-evergreen, staying around for about 10 months of the year. When spring comes, I just give the plant a hair cut to remove the tattered winter foliage and it shoots out new growth.


I debated whether to nominate my last candidate for a superb flowering perennial in autumn, between Aster and Sedum, and Aster won out. Asters are native which made this one a much better addition to my favorite fall flowers. And there are so many different varieties, shapes, and sizes that I decided to include asters as one of the best of the best for our native pollinators.

Aster ground cover, Aster cordifolius, Blue Wood Aster,  at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania

A versatile plant and long lived, you forget you have them until in September they burst into bloom. And the butterflies, bees, and other pollinators flock to the flowers. Planting asters is like looking to the future. You plant them in the spring and forget about them and them all the sudden they become queens of the garden!

Asters lined out at a nursery

There are quite a few species and varieties of asters and the two most commonly encountered asters are the New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) and the New York Aster (S. novi-belgii), but you will see a range of hybrid varieties available in showy pinks, blues, and purples at garden centers.

Asters also attract bees and butterflies, providing the pollinators with an important late-season supply of nectar.

Thanks to the aster’s late bloom time, they are sometimes called “Michaelmas daisies,” which refers to the holiday of the same name that occurs annually on September 29.

Skippers on aster flowers
‘Blue Bayou’ Aster
Not sure of the variety

Aster Culture

Easy to grow, thriving on neglect, asters grow profusely in full sun to light shade. I have noticed that rabbits and deer are fond of them when young, so protect them until they get about a foot high and they are on their own! Preferring consistent moisture,  my asters perform well without any coddling.

Asters make this border at Ladew Topiary Gardens stand out
In the meadow at Ladew Topiary Gardens
Aster is a wonderful companion to Goldenrod
Place asters in the back of the border
Great fall border in Scotland with aster and goldenrod

5 Replies to “Stars of the Fall Garden”

  1. I guess my Japanese anemones were too happy! They spread so much, I had to just rip them out, couldn’t control the spread. My garden is small unfortunately! But I loved them!

    1. I planted Anemone Pocahontas last year and expected tons of blooms this fall but I have none, which is odd. Usually anything I plant grows well. Maybe next year!

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