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Sunday - December 04, 2011

From: Austin , TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Lists, Wildflower Center, Wildlife Gardens, Planting, Grasses or Grass-like, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs, Trees, Wildflowers
Title: Color year round, welcome to Austin Texas.
Answered by: Leslie Uppinghouse


I am new to Austin and want to plant colorful flowers for fall and winter that get a "wow" reaction. I have not seen much at the local nurseries. Any and all suggestions are greatly appreciated!


It is almost too exciting to write folks who are new to Austin and are looking for planting advice. We are hoping perhaps that you herald from far away and we can expound all of the Central Texas wisdom we can muster for your answer. The very best part about gardening in central Texas and Austin in particular, is that you can have spectacular color year round in your garden. Fall, some would argue, might be our best season for color. 

When planting for year round color think about your layout and the total canvas that your yard encompasses. Some times people get excited about one season or another and reach for an annual off the shelf to satisfy their immediate craving. Annuals are great and every garden can use them and should, but annuals should be filling in the gaps. You need to start with the bones of the yard, if you can build color in the bones then anything you find seasonally on top of that will create the wow factor your are looking for.

Planting for fall takes time, only in that many of the best fall bloomers can easily be planted by seed, which you would plant much earlier in the season and this takes some planning. There are several perennials that you can put in the ground now however, that will give you good color. Some of these bloom from spring all the way through fall and into the winter. The list of native plants available for your project is long and varied. The best way to figure out which of these you should plant now, verses which to purchase in seed form next season, can be done using our web site in the recommended species section. In there you can then narrow your search by bloom time and with that list created, you can research how best to propagate each plant.

You will see that there are a lot of interesting grasses that come up in a search of bloom times from September through December. Grasses provide some of our nicest fall color. Also you will find blooming trees as well to choose from. Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry) is a great example of a good color bone. This medium shrub or small understory tree is lovely year round but really spectacular in the fall when it loses its leaves leaving only bright purple berries left on the branches. Another bright berried tree is Ilex decidua (Possumhaw). This tree is a favorite for birds in the winter but it produces so many berries that you should have plenty all winter to share and enjoy.

Good choices for semi woody perennials that either bloom later in the summer or early in the spring and keep blooming well into the fall are: Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii (Flame acanthus)Chrysactinia mexicana (Damianita)Lantana urticoides (Texas lantana)Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii (Turk's cap or turkscap) and Melampodium leucanthum (Blackfoot daisy). These perennials can provide you a staple of color in the fall that you can then augment with plants that do best when planted by seed. Some of these seeds will be perrenials, some are re seeding annuals and some are grasses. Some examples of good fall color to be planted by seed are:Coreopsis tinctoria var. tinctoria (Golden tickseed), Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem)Solidago radula (Western rough goldenrod)Andropogon glomeratus (Bushy bluestem)Helianthus maximiliani (Maximilian sunflower), Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)Rudbeckia hirta (Black-eyed susan) and Phlox drummondii (Annual phlox).

There are many more plants to choose from, so play around with the search-ability of the recommended species section of the web site. If you find plants you like in that section you will be able to find the plants and or seeds locally in nurseries or catalogues in the area. You might be having trouble finding the annuals you are looking for now because most of these are grown by seed and are stocked early spring. Now is a good time however to get good deals on some of the woody perennials as well as the trees and with this rain, a good time to get them in the ground before it becomes really cold. Winter will also be a good time to sit on the couch and read all about your area and become familiar with all of the native plant choices you have now inherited. Fall and winter are also a great time to visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Centers grounds. There you can see many of the plants you will find listed in your search in the gardens and wild, in the surrounding acres on the property. There is also a section on our web site that is helpful for finding flowers that are in bloom from month to month and that is in our image gallery. There you will see a selection of plants in bloom for that featured month as well as plants in bloom at the Wildflower Center.

Also, now is a good time to catalogue the plants you have now in your yard. Sometimes people will move to a new house and assume that they don't have a lot of plants on their property only to be pleasantly surprised in the spring. We had such a tough summer with practically no rain at all and it is only now that we are starting to see new seedlings daring to appear. So before you dig up your yard, pay attention to what is coming up. If you are lucky you might see a whole bunch of bluebonnets sprouting, or rain lilies not yet in bloom, so don't weed anything out before you know what it is. Some of the fun in moving to a new area can be the surprises. 


From the Image Gallery

Annual phlox
Phlox drummondii

American beautyberry
Callicarpa americana

Sorghastrum nutans

Maximilian sunflower
Helianthus maximiliani

Blackfoot daisy
Melampodium leucanthum

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