Planting flowers strategically throughout the year is vital for a successful flower business. Simply planting once and expecting continuous harvests is not a feasible approach. To ensure a long and profitable season, flower growers must constantly be looking ahead, planning for new crops. Even though summer flowers have just been planted, it’s already time to start thinking about fall crops. Summer’s scorching heat, pesky pests, and relentless weeds will take a toll on the first few plantings, leaving you longing for fresh flowers to bring to market by September.
While perennials may have their uses, there are few that bloom in September and October in most regions of the United States. Many of the so-called “fall perennials” like Physostegia, Sedum, and Solidago actually bloom in August in frost-free climates. By the time September arrives, most perennials will have already finished blooming. That’s why, in most parts of the country, annuals are the key to fall flower crops.
For a longer selling season, wise flower growers typically plant annuals as late as 90 days before the expected first frost. In some instances, they even plant later, taking a gamble on the weather. Surprisingly, some years yield unexpected results. Though some plants may get frozen, others miraculously manage to bloom, even if it’s just for one flush, before the hard frost hits. These last blooms of the season are seen as a bonus, making them truly special and valuable.
We reached out to four experienced flower growers from different areas of the United States to discover what they are currently planting for fall. Their recommendations, combined with our own selection of fall bloomers, provide an extensive list of flowers that could thrive in your area.
Agrostemma: Joan seeds this variety late, after the heat of summer has subsided, in hopes of a delayed first frost. The silky, speckled blooms come in lilac or white and require 90 to 100 days to mature in cool weather.
Artemisia annua: Sweet Annie, which blooms 90 days after planting, has a new organic variety from Johnny’s Selected Seeds that blooms later than others.
Asclepias ‘Silky’ series: Plant these in mid-July or earlier for good production until frost. The vibrant red varieties, combined with Silky Gold, offer beautiful fall colors.
Asters: Joan recommends the late-blooming annual varieties, Callistephus chinensis, for a late crop. ‘Matsumoto’ typically blooms in 90 days.
Bachelor Buttons: Suitable for cool northern areas like Maine, but less likely to thrive in hot climates.
Bells of Ireland: Recommended by Joan for fall planting in Oregon. Blooms in 90-110 days and prefers cool weather.
Calendula: Similar to Bachelor Buttons, this flower also prefers short days. Johnny’s ‘Indian Prince’ variety offers great fall color.
Caryopteris incana: This woody shrub’s tender cousin is a great late-blooming cut flower. The deep blue flowers, with some pinks and whites, cover 3-foot stems from September until frost.
Celosia: Chief and Chief Persimmon are popular choices for their heat resistance. Hi-Z blooms quickly and has striking purple foliage.
Cerinthe major: With fleshy, bluish-green leaves and small purple flowers, this odd-looking plant can be used in mixed bouquets. It thrives in fall’s cooler temperatures.
Cosmos: Versailles is especially suited for fall, blooming in 60-90 days under short days.
Marigold: ‘Gold Coin’ is the ideal cut flower variety for fall, requiring short days to bloom.
Salvia: ‘Victoria’ and ‘Blue Bedder’ are popular blue annual salvia varieties that thrive in the cool autumn days.
Salvia leucantha: A good choice for areas with a later first frost, this plant has long stems of fuzzy purple flowers. It requires short days to bloom, typically around September 15.
Saponaria: Another cool-weather filler that sometimes blooms for Joan in Oregon before frost.
Sunflowers: Elite Sun is ready in eight weeks, while Sunbright Supreme is ready in ten weeks. Plant these for a stunning fall display.
Zinnia: Keep planting zinnias until August, as they grow rapidly in hot summer days. Be mindful of powdery mildew in September as temperatures drop. Regularly spraying plants with a baking soda and horticultural oil mixture can help prevent this disease.
These annuals should provide an abundant supply of flowers for September and October bouquets. We also received additional suggestions from our correspondents:
- Asi-Florum lilies: Some varieties bloom in just 8-10 weeks, making them a quick return on investment.
- Liatris: This flower blooms in about 60 days during the summer, and planting can continue until early August.
- Bittersweet: Though caution is advised due to its weed-like tendencies, some growers incorporate Bittersweet into their fall arrangements.
- Salvia leucantha: Despite its rush to bloom before frost, many flower growers still rely on this plant for late-season blooms.
- Monkshood, blue scabiosa fama, delphinium, helenium, and various amaranths and cutting grasses are other fall favorites.
There are also a couple of new varieties worth trying:
- Rudbeckia ‘Prairie Sun’: Similar to ‘Indian Summer’ but with a green center and lighter yellow petal tips. Hardy in Zones 4-9.
- Pennisetum glaucum ‘Purple Majesty’: An ornamental millet with dark purple foliage and stems, reaching heights of 36 to 60 inches.
By incorporating these late-blooming annuals and perennials into your fall flower garden, you can extend your season and delight customers with fresh and beautiful blooms well into autumn. To source high-quality flower seeds, consider checking out Ames Farm Center, a trusted supplier of a wide range of flower seeds and accessories.