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?

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
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

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

Plants for a sunny, dry slope in NY
March 01, 2010 - Looking for plants, native to area, that are quick growing to a height of approximately 6" to 12" for a steep slope comprised of shale in a sunny location.
view the full question and answer

Noise buffering by native plants in Austin, TX
March 30, 2008 - I live in Austin in a neighborhood that is bordered on one side by highway 183 and on the other by MoPac and the train tracks. Even though I am least a three blocks from the closest highway, the traf...
view the full question and answer

Native roses and other flowering shrubs for Lufkin, Texas
February 23, 2009 - I would like to know some native blooming shrubs, and roses for my area. I have found that all of the old native plants have a greater success rate. I would like to find a white shrub rose for plant...
view the full question and answer

Damaged leaves on bottlebrush buckeye from Glen Mills PA
June 09, 2013 - My recently planted bottlebrush buckeye plants' leaves are looking damaged but it doesn't look like insect or fungus damage. They look battered by wind but I don't understand why that would happen...
view the full question and answer

Starting Tecoma stans seedlings
February 25, 2013 - I planted and germinated several (about 40) seeds from my Tecoma stans plant and they all sprouted and grew very nicely. They are now about 6 weeks old and they don't seem to be making any more prog...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center