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Autumn plants

30+ colourful performers from September to November

blackberry Loch Maree
Stunning colours of blackberry Loch Maree’s leaves

Of all the seasons, autumn is the one most forgotten about – until we’re there, then we wish we had more plants that perform between mid-September and November. Here are my favourites…

If you love a fiery colour palette, Halloween, hearty soups and appreciating weather and plants changing on a daily basis, autumn is for you.

Forget about just flowers – leaves, seed heads and fruit make a perfect tapestry at this time of year.

Here are my star performers of the season. Timing is VERY arbitrary and totally based on the weather – wind, excess wet or dryness, or frost, will all hasten their demise. Enjoy it while you can!

I’ve included plant types: HB (hardy biennial); HP (hardy perennial); HS (hardy shrub); HT (hardy tree); HC (hardy climber); HHP (half-hardy perennial) and height in metres.

Acanthus mollis (bear’s breeches): flowers and seed spikes, huge glossy leaves, mid-Sept-Nov. HP, 1-1.5m.

Acer Trompenburg: the 7-lobed leaves have recurved margins, deep red-purple in spring, greener in summer, and orange-red in autumn, HS/T, 2.5-4m.

Arum marmoratum Italicum (Italian arum): new variegated leaves/berries mid-Sept onwards. HP, 35cm.

Berberis thunbergii atropurpureum (purple barberry): purple leaves turn red, Oct-Nov. HS, 2m.

Blackberry Loch Maree: fabulous leaf colour, red and black berries, Sept-Nov. HC, 2m.

Tropical foliage until frosts

Canna indica (Indian shot): leaves and flowers mid-Sept to the first frost. HHP, 2m+.

Cornus (dogwood): leaf colour Oct; stems through winter. HS/HT, 2-8m (less with pruning).

Cotinus coggygria (smoke bush): leaf colour mid-Sept-Nov. HS, 5m (less with pruning).

Cotoneaster horizontalis: berries until winter. HS, 1m x 2m.

Cynara cardunculus (cardoon): flowers/dried seed heads/huge leaves until winter. HP, 2.5m.

Stunning dried flower heads

Cynara scolymus (globe artichoke): flower heads and leaves mid-Sept-Nov. HP, 2m.

Dahlia: leaves and flowers mid-Sept to the first frost. HHP, 40cm-1.5m.

Dipsacus follonum (native teasel): seed heads mid-Sept-Nov. HB/HP, 1.5-2.5m.

Echinacea (coneflower): flowers mid-Sept-Oct. HP, 1-1.5m.

Euphorbia (hardy herbaceous/shrubby spurge varieties): leaf colour/flowers, depending on variety, mid-Sept-Nov. HP/HS, 15cm-1.5m.

Changing hedge colour

Fagus (beech): leaf colour Oct-Nov. HT, up to 50m (not as a hedge – 3m!)

Fatsia japonica (Japanese Aralia): flowers and leaves mid-Sept-Nov; flowers Nov. HS, 2.5-4m.

Foeniculum vulgare purpureum (bronze fennel): flowers/seed heads/foliage mid-Sept-Nov. HB/HP, 1.8m.

Fuchsia Hawkshead: white flowers mid-Sept-Nov; leaf colour. HS, 0.5-1m.

Hedera (ivy): flowers October-Nov (only upward-growing stems). HC, 30m+ – responds to pruning.

Perennial sunflower

Helianthus Lemon Queen (perennial sunflower): flowers mid-Sept-late Oct; foliage colour. HP, 2m.

Humulus lupulus Aureus (golden hop): leaf colour/hops mid Sept-end Oct. HC, 4-8m.

Jasminum officinale Clotted Cream: (jasmine): leaf colour October. HC (may need winter protection in exposed sites), 3m.

Kniphofia (red-hot poker, torch lily): K. uvaria Nobilis flowers mid-Sept-Oct; foliage evergreen. HP, 1.5m+.

Leucanthemum x superbum Aglaia (Shasta daisy): flowers until Nov. HP, 0.5-1m.

Decorative seed heads

Ligularia The Rocket: seed heads mid-Sept-Oct. HP, 1m.

Malus (crab apple): fruit mid-Sept-Nov; leaf colour. HT, 3m+.

Prunus (flowering cherry): purple varieties leaf colour late Oct-Nov. HT, 2m+.

Pyracantha (firethorn): berries mid-Sept-Nov. HS, 2m+.

Rodgersia: leaf colour mid-Sept-Oct. HP, 1m+.

Rose foliage

Rosa glauca (blue-leaved or red-leaved rose): leaf colour/hips mid-Sept-Nov. HS, 1.5-2.5m.

Rhus typhina (stag’s horn sumach): leaf colour mid-Sept-Oct. HS/HT, 6m.

Rudbeckia (coneflowers): flowers mid-Sept-Oct. HP, 50cm-1m.

Sedum (stonecrop): flowers Sept-Oct; leaf colour Oct-Nov. HP, 5cm-75cm.

Sempervivum (hens and chicks, houseleeks): rosette colour mid-Sept-Nov. HP, up to 10cm.

Spiraea japonica Goldflame: leaf colour mid-Oct-Nov. HS, 75cm.

Stipa gigantea (giant oat grass): seed heads until winter. HP, 2.5m.