Plant Fall Annuals in August

If you’ve ever lived in the North, or if you’ve visited there during the summer, you may have noticed how much more intense flower colors are there than they are here in July and August. All you have to do to realize that is to look at your pink or red roses. Many types fade so much in the summer that they look more like three-day-old newsprint.

How can you, too, have those brilliant shades in your Texas garden? By growing those plants in the fall. When flowers are produced at cooler fall temperatures, they’ll be several shades darker. Plus, many of the plants will avoid problems they face in late spring and summer. Read on ….


• Marigolds. Plant 4-inch potted transplants in mid-August, and they’ll reward you with rich shades of yellow and orange right up to frost. That’s an even longer bloom time than chrysanthemums, which is what prompted Texas A&M to refer to them as "Marimums" when they were named Texas Super Star plants almost 20 years ago. Actually, that selection was from the ‘Discovery’ marigold series, but it applies to any type you might want to try. The secret to make it all happen? Buy plants that are in bud, but not yet in bloom.


• Zinnias. These are probably the most dramatically different plants in a fall garden. Colors are richer, and plants are healthier (no powdery mildew like they face in May and June). Again, buy plants in bud, but not yet in full bloom. Once they’re in flower, they’re reluctant to establish and thrive.


• Celosia. You haven’t seen this plant at its best until you’ve seen it in autumn. Stick with red shades, and watch their foliage turn almost as brilliant as the flowers themselves. The old-fashioned, re-seeding cockscomb is spectacular.

Firebush in the background takes on lovely fall shades of rusty red.

• Firebush. You grew it in spring and summer, but you really want to have it in fall. Its leaves turn deep, coppery-red, and its flowers ramp up. All the hummingbirds in town will find it. Buy it in 1-gallon pots if you still can find it.

Copper plants

• Copper plants. These are pretty in the summer, but it’s as if you spilled rusty-red paint on their leaves come fall. It’s amazing what 60-degree nights will do for them. You’ll find them in garden centers in gallon containers. They’ll handle the heat of August plantings just fine.

Joseph’s coat in front of caladiums and coleus.

• Joseph’s coat. This was your grandmom’s "root-’em-and-grow-’em" passalong plant. Actually, there are several varieties, all noted for the brilliant colors their leaves turn when it gets cool. Nice plants for the flower bed border.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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