Oklahoma County Cooperative Extension Service

Fall Color

FALL COLOR-by Ray Ridlen, Extension Educator, Ag/Hort

Every season has beauty, none more than fall in Oklahoma.  A drive through the country side reveals natural changes in the landscape.  Oaks, elms, maples, and sumac, all blend together to create a fall bouquet.  Trees provide shades of red, orange, yellow, and burgundy.  Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a forest in their backyard.  We can bring that fall color into our yard by having the right plantings.  Gardeners should plan for beauty in all four seasons.  One of the great pleasures of fall is the kaleidoscope of fall color available to us.

We can plant small trees that bring in color.  Chinese Pistache, Red Oak, Ginkgo, Shumard Oak, Sugar Maple, Japanese Maple and so many others will bring fall color to your yard.  Even the smallest yard can be beatified in the fall with shrubs.  Some shrubs are noted for their fall color.  Burning bush, Nandina (Heavenly Bamboo), Mexican Bush Sage, and even Crape Myrtle add color in the fall.  

Perhaps the easiest and quickest way to obtain fall color is through perennials.  One of the most common fall flowers is the hardy chrysanthemum.  Varieties in hues of red, yellow, orange, and rust are perfect for the fall landscape.  Because they are hardy, plants will survive from year to year.  Plants can also be divided in spring to multiply, mums benefit from frequent division.  Autumn Joy sedum is another plant widely used for its fall flowers.  Flower heads begin to form in July and resemble broccoli.  The sedum begins to change to light pink color in August, then slowly turns a deeper magenta, eventually changing to a dark, rust-red in late fall. 

Aster's brilliant flowers brighten the fall garden when little else is blooming. Indeed, "aster," the Latin word for "star," aptly describes the starry flower heads. Another common name is Michaelmas daisy.  Like garden mums, asters flower in response to the shortening days of fall, giving gardeners a carpet of daisy-like flowers.  Asters are a rich source of nectar, and because they flower at the height of monarch butterfly migration season, they are a frequent way station for these insects. The flowers are also bee magnets, so individuals with bee sensitivities should plant asters away from the garden path.  Asters come in all shapes and sizes.  Some grow as tall as four feet. 

This is the time of year to introduce pansies to your beds.  These tough little annuals give color in the fall and survive the winter to bless us again in the spring.  They come in a large variety of colors.  Look for them now at garden centers.  In our zone (6/7) it is not too late to plant some perennials.  You take a chance but there are bargains to be had.  At the end of the season you can find big discounts on plants that have passed their peak.  Most sellers knock down prices when their perennials go out of bloom, and lower them even more when the plants start looking down and out.  Go to the bargain area and see if there is one worth taking a chance on.  Plants that look pitiful or even near death are still worth a shot.  If it’s wilted, generally sad looking or has yellow or dying foliage, but he price is right, grab it.  It may be a good buy as long as there is still some green and it is not diseased.  Some plants you could plant in the fall that will give you color next year are:  Aster, Astilbe, Bee balm, bleeding heart, Columbine, Goldenrod, Lilies, Phlox, and Sedums. 

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The following workshops will be held at the OSU Extension Center, 930 North Portland, OKC, unless otherwise specified. They are free and open to the public. Questions–call 713-1125.


 Third Thursday Gardening - ‘Winterizing – Putting your Garden to Bed’

 Thursday, Oct. 16th, 6:00 – 7:00 p.m.



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