Contact Us Host an Event 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

Plants for a school garden in College Station TX
July 20, 2011 - I need to plant some things in my school garden. Green plants and plants with some color. Hardly ever rains here. Please give suggestions.
view the full question and answer

Identification of shrub with purple flowers in Las Vegas, Nevada
July 13, 2011 - Large purple flower shrub, flowers are on long stems. Round flowers with green leaves on the stalks, used as front yard landscaping in a new house in Las Vegas NV. Very drought tolerant, shrub grows ...
view the full question and answer

Native perennials for Donley County, TX
July 16, 2009 - What are the best perennials to plant in Donley County, TX?
view the full question and answer

Comments on white-flowered Mountain Laurel from Austin
December 23, 2012 - Following up on the August 23, 2012, question from Driftwood about the white-flowering mountain laurel, I have found a few more leads to explore. First, there are four more images of white-flowering m...
view the full question and answer

Plants for clay soil in Leavenworth IN
October 02, 2009 - I live in south central Indiana; the soil is very bad clay, either hard as a rock or mud. I have made several raised beds but am still having problems with plants rotting. What types of plants work he...
view the full question and answer

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