Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Lower South
August, 2007
Regional Report

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The pink blooms of desert trumpet vine, a favorite of hummingbird moths, appear in late summer and fall.

Great Fall Bloomers for Late-Season Color

The sweltering heat of our southern summer is soon to pass. Cooler temperatures and a return of rainfall bring a new palate of plants for adding color to the landscape. Fall is the second garden season here in the lower South. It's time for the late-season bloomers to take center stage. Here are a few of my favorites for color in the fall garden.

Mexican mint marigold (Tagetes lucida). This relative of the standard garden marigold is a dependable perennial in zones 8 and 9, returning each year to form a mounded plant 2 to 3 feet in height. In fall the plant is covered with a multitude of small, yellow, single 1/2-inch blooms. The leaves have a distinctive, pleasing anise-like scent similar to those black jelly beans!

Philippine violet (Barleria cristata). The dark green foliage and upright form makes for an attractive plant. In late summer to fall the real show begins as the upright plant stems load up with an abundance of blue flowers. A white-blooming form is also available. Keep the soil moderately moist and mulch plants well to protect them over the winter as this plant is hardy only to zone 8b.

Coral vine or Queen's wreath (Antigonon leptopus). This drought-tolerant native of Mexico is a dependable perennial vine with heart-shaped leaves and a vigorous growth habit, so give it plenty of room. It is the best thing that could happen to a chain-link fence and also will fill an arbor once the weather really heats up. Coral vine dies back to the ground with the first frost. In late summer and fall it produces striking lacy clusters of vivid pink blooms that hang down like delicate chains.

Chrysanthemum 'Country Girl'. Everyone is familiar with mums for fall decoration. While several types can be coaxed into surviving out in the landscape, one of my favorites is 'Country Girl', also known as 'Clara Curtis'. In fall this low-sprawling plant is covered with 3-inch, single, daisy-like light pink flowers with bright yellow centers. Give it room to sprawl.

Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha). Mexican bush sage, native to Mexico, is a superb perennial in zones 7b and south. In late summer through fall, tall bloom spikes rise above the mound of narrow, strappy gray-green foliage for a stunning show. The standard type sports a purple calyx with a protruding white center flower. Also available is a form with both purple calyx and purple flower. A semi-dwarf variety, 'Santa Barbara', reaches only about 3 feet in height and spread.

Fall aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium or Aster oblongifolius). Fall aster is a dependable performer in our southern climate. Each fall the 2- to 3-foot mounded plants are covered with 1-1/2 inch lavender flowers with yellow centers. It insists on having good soil drainage and detests being overfertilized or overwatered. Cut plants back in spring to maintain a dense growth habit.

Copper canyon daisy (Tagetes lemmonii). Copper canyon daisy produces a 3- to 4-foot-tall mound of finely cut foliage with a very strong citrusy-pine odor. In fall the plant absolutely explodes with a profusion of single, bright yellow blooms about an inch in diameter, which are a great source of nectar for several species of beneficial insects. It is a superb choice for informal perennial beds or water-thrifty landscapes. Hardy in zone 8 and south.

Desert trumpet vine or pink trumpet vine (Podranea ricasoliana). Desert trumpet vine is a sprawling, arching plant that seems confused as to whether it wants to be a shrub or a vine. With a little direction in the form of a couple of early to midsummer shearings it will make a nice arching mound of a shrub. In late summer it begins to produce blooms similar in shape to its cousins: catalpa, desert willow, and yellow bells Esperanza (Tecoma stans). The pink blooms with burgundy markings are borne in clusters at the terminal ends of the shoots. The blooms continue to the first frost, providing an extended season of flowering. This plant is only marginally hardy in zone 8b so keep it mulched well for winter protection, or grow as an annual.

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