En EspaŅol

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?


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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
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


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


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

Tree or shrub for acoustical protection in Clermont FL
September 20, 2010 - What type of tree or shrub would be best to lower the db level of freeway noise in Central Florida? I live about 3/4 of a mile from a freeway but due to the wind and hills it causes the noise to bounc...
view the full question and answer

Identification of small shrub
May 27, 2007 - Need an identity of a small bush, probably native . There is only a single limb sticking out of a large dense evergreen holly. It is deciduous, has opposite ovate entire simple leaves, and clusters o...
view the full question and answer

Need a good plant for Clayton, NC.
August 23, 2012 - What would be a good plant for Clayton,NC for this time of year. I would like for it to come back every year so I don't have to replant. I have several full sun areas that I need to cover in the fron...
view the full question and answer

Cutting back a Rhododendron in Maryland
June 17, 2015 - I have a planting of six shrubs across the front of my house (alternating azalea & rhododendron). All have died except for one huge rhody & a small azalea next to it. Can I cut the huge rhody back to ...
view the full question and answer

Small drought-resistant shrub for northeast Texas
June 23, 2009 - I am replacing the formal hedge of hollies along the front of my house and was planning to use mostly Inidan Hawthornes, but now I'm reading that they are very prone to disease, are there any low gro...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center