Plants For The Autumn Garden

While the beautiful blossoms of summer are now just a lovely memory, autumn’s cooler temperatures mean that your garden’s next round of flowers and plants are getting ready to shine. Fall flowers are just as breathtaking as those that bloom during the summer season, providing attractive color and foliage that add charm and interest. From plants with buds of stunning seasonal shades and vibrant hues to shrubs boasting berries and blooms to flowy ornamental grasses that are sure to add a bit of whimsy to your cool weather landscape, there is an endless amount of options to brighten your autumn garden. Bonus – bring the beauty indoors this season … many are great for cut-flower blooms to enhance your fall décor or highlight your holiday table!

The following is a list of some of the many plants that thrive in North Carolina’s crisp autumn air, and provide lovely botanical interest, whether from blooms, leaves, or fruit.


Angelonia: Spikes of fragrant flowers in lavender, white, pink-and-white, or purple-and-white from spring until frost. Grows to 2’ to 3’. Trailing form also available. Plant in sun to light shade.

Begonia: Popular bedding plants with white, pink, or red flowers from spring to frost. Grows to 6” to 10”. Plant in sun to light shade.

Lantana: Spreading shrub-like plant with profuse orange, yellow, pink, or combo blooms from summer until frost. This is actually a tender perennial that generally can’t overwinter here. “Ms. Huff” and “Ham ‘n Eggs” varieties often overwinter and can be grown as perennials. Grows to 2’ to 5’. Plant in sun.

Lobelia: Compact or trailing plants great for borders or containers. Bright blue flowers bloom from spring through frost. Plant in sun to light shade.

Marigold: Globe-shaped flowers in orange and yellow from early summer to frost. Grows to 6” to 18”, depending on hybrid. Plant in sun.

Nemesia: Very fragrant blue, white, yellow, crimson, pink, or bi-color flowers resembling baby snapdragons that fade a bit in summer, but come back strong for a fall show. Grows to 6” to 8”. Plant in sun to light shade.

Nippon Daisy: Large bright white daisy flowers with gold centers. Grows to 2’. Plant in sun.

Pansies: Pretty flowers in fall or spring, in a variety of colors and combinations. Grows to 6” to 8”. Plant in full to part sun.


Dwarf Plumbago: Intensely blue flowers from July until first frost. Bronzy green to dark green foliage turns reddish in fall. Grows to 6” – 12”. Plan in sun to light shade.

Garden Mums: Fall-blooming flowers in an array of shapes and colors. Grows to 1’ to 4’, depending on cultivar. Plant in sun. (Pinch foliage monthly spring though mid-July for fall blooms.)

Fall Asters: Pink, purple, or white daisy-like flowers. Grows to 1’ to 12’, depending on cultivar. Plant in sun.

Goldenrod: Small yellow flowers in large, branching clusters. Grows to 3’ to 7’. Plant in sun to light shade.

Japanese Anemone: White or pink autumn flowers on graceful, branching stems. Grows to 4’ to 5’. Plant in part shade.

Ornamental Grasses: Such as Pennisetum, Miscanthus, Cortaderia, Panicum, Muhlenbergia, etc. Perennial and annual plants, some sporting attractive plumes from summer through the next spring in a variety of colors. Prune back old leaves and plumes before new spring growth. Grows to 1’ to 7’, depending on species. Generally, plant in sun. Sedges, such as Carex, are for shade.

Sedum / Stonecrop: Pink, coppery, or salmon-colored flowers in dense, dome-shaped clusters in late summer to autumn. Grows to 11/2’ to 2’. Plant in sun.

Swamp Sunflower: Tall masses of bright gold sunflowers. Grows to 5’ to 7’. Plant in sun.

Sweet Autumn Clematis: Vigorous vine with billowy masses of creamy, white, fragrant flowers. Grows to about 20’ or more. Plant in sun to light shade.


Beautyberry: Light lavender flowers in summer, followed by violet-pink autumn fruits. A white-berried form is also available. Yellowish to purplish fall foliage. Grows to 3’ to 8’. Plant in sun to light shade.

Camellia: Entrancing evergreen shrubs for fall, with prolific amounts of beautiful pink, white, red, or lilac blooms. Grows to 6’ to 8’. Form is suited to growing on an espalier or lattice. The tea camellia also blooms in fall with lovely pearl-like buds that open to 1” to 2” pink or white flowers. Plant in part sun to shade.

Deciduous Holly / Winterberry: Abundant crops of bright red berries from early fall through winter. Must have male and female plants for fruit to set. Grows to 6’ to 10’. Plant in sun to light shade.

Encore Azalea: Popular evergreen azaleas in an array of colors such as coral, pink, magenta, brick red, and white. Blooms in spring and fall. Grow to 4’ to 6’.

Firethorn: Evergreen shrub good for hedges and espaliers with clusters of orange-red fruits in fall that persist through winter. “Teton” cultivar has citrine-yellow berries. Grows to 8’ to 12’. “Red Elf” cultivar grows to 3’ to 4’. Prefers sun, but will tolerate part shade.

– Fothergilla: Beautiful fall foliage is yellow to orange to scarlet in fall, even on the same leaf. White, fringe-like fragrant flowers provide interest in spring. Grows to 6’ to 10’. Plant in part shade.

Heavenly Bamboo: Evergreen shrub with autumn and winter foliage that ranges from bright red to rich plum. Low maintenance plants. Grows to 1’ to 8’. Plant in sun for best foliage color (though plants will grow well in shade).

Oakleaf Hydrangea: Fall foliage ranges from red to coppery orange-brown or even deep burgundy. Fragrant panicles of long-lasting white flowers starting in May and persisting through early fall.

Redtwig Dogwood: Deciduous shrub with brilliant red foliage and bright red winter twigs. Great in combination with ornamental grasses. Grows to 7’ to 9’. Plant in sun to light shade.

Viburnum: A large family of shrubs with autumn interest in the following varieties:

Viburnum plicatum – burgundy fall foliage, white spring flowers, grows to 8’ to 10’, plant in light shade; many cultivars available, some with showy flowers.

Compactum – Brilliant, cranberry-like berries in September and October. Attractive lobed leaves. Grows to 4’ to 6’. Plant in sun for best fruit set or part shade.

Virginia Sweetspire: Deciduous shrubs with burgundy-red to deep merlot fall leaf color. Grows to 3’ to 5’. Plant in sun to light shade.

Witchhazel: Deciduous shrubs with fall color ranging from bright yellow to satisfying red-oranges and gold. Sports funky fringe-like flowers in late winter, some very fragrant, in yellow, brick red, or copper. Grows to 6’ to 25’. Plant in sun to part shade.