Rent Shop Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Wednesday - October 28, 2009

From: Bloomfield Hills, MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Shrubs
Title: Fall flowering purple shrub for Bloomfield Hills MI
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Need a fall flowering shrub for my temperature zone, preferably purple.

ANSWER:

Have you seen any fall flowering shrubs around your area, in purple or any other color? And what months do you consider to be Fall? These are rhetorical questions, because when we search on shrubs native to Michigan, blooming purple in September, October or November, we got zilch. When we added August to the bloom months, we got Diervilla lonicera (northern bush honeysuckle), which is a deciduous shrub to 3 ft with dark-green leaves changing from yellow to red in autumn, and small green bell-shaped flowers that become orange-purplish-red, and bloom from July to August. 

Next we tried searching on shrubs on which the bloom period extended into September. We found:

Cephalanthus occidentalis (common buttonbush) - evergreen, to 12 ft. tall, blooms white, pink June to September

Dasiphora fruticosa ssp. floribunda (shrubby cinquefoil) - semi-evergreen, blooms yellow June to September

Spiraea alba (white meadowsweet) - deciduous, 3 to 6 ft. tall, blooms white June to September

Your USDA Hardiness Zone is 5b to 6a, which means that your average annual minimum temperatures will range from -10 to -5 deg. F. Every plant's main task is to reproduce itself; to do this it must set seeds and in order to set seeds it must bloom. So, if a woody plant waits until October or November to bloom, its seeds are going to fall on frozen earth and be very unlikely to survive the winter. Even if you bought a plant, not relying on seeds, there would still be the fact that the plant has evolved over millions of years to prosper in your climate, including temperatures, rainfall and soil. There is no way to explain to a plant that it should bloom in October or November, which is why you are probably not seeing any blooming shrubs around right now. 

There are other possibilities for Fall color and interest that do not involve flowers. The sumac is a shrub that has good Fall color and the female plants have berries that persist through Winter. Follow these links to find out what these four native to Michigan sumacs would have to offer in color and interest in your garden:

Rhus aromatica (fragrant sumac)

Rhus copallinum (winged sumac)

Rhus glabra (smooth sumac)

Rhus typhina (staghorn sumac)

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Diervilla lonicera

Cephalanthus occidentalis

Dasiphora fruticosa ssp. floribunda

Spiraea alba

Rhus aromatica

Rhus copallinum

Rhus glabra

Rhus typhina

 

 

 

More Shrubs Questions

Eight Foot Screen for Austin, TX
September 01, 2011 - I'm looking for a fast-growing shrub to "extend" the height of my fence and provide privacy in my yard in Austin. My lot is pretty much full sun and very dry, mostly clay soil. 8' is my goal. Than...
view the full question and answer

Will Mexican Buckeye Survive in SC?
May 09, 2015 - I have grown a Mexican Buckeye indoors from seed in Greenville, SC. Will it survive the colder climates here if transplanted out of doors? Thanks for your advice!
view the full question and answer

Privacy Hedge Suggestions for Tampa, Florida
May 15, 2014 - My back wall is made of stone and is about 6' high. We are very close to a busy road. I need a plant that will reach about 7-8 feet high or a hedge to reduce some of the noise. What plant/hedge would...
view the full question and answer

Transplanting adventitious shoots of a mountain laurel in San Antonio
August 20, 2009 - Is it possible to transplant branches (shoots) growing from a mountain laurel that was chopped down? Some are two years old and several feet tall (but not yet blooming) and some as small as a foot. ...
view the full question and answer

Landscaping on South Padre Island
June 07, 2008 - I'm in charge of landscaping at my beachfront condo in South Padre Island and find the wind, salt air, and heat challenging for growing almost anything. We would like to incorporate native plants, b...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.