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FALL BLOOMS

East Texas gardeners can enjoy beautiful flowering plants throughout the fall. An abundance of' fall blooming annuals and perennials are available.

Chrysanthemums are probably the most popular selection for early fall color. Garden mums can be grown as annuals or perennials. Cut back faded blooms for continuous color.

Marigolds are often overlooked but do very well during the season. Spider mite problems are greatly reduced when they are planted in late summer or early fall. Other annuals appropriate for the fall garden include pansies, dianthus, violas, ornamental cabbage, snapdragons and dusty miller. If the winter is fairly mild, many fall plantings will provide a vigorous display of blooms in early spring.

Perennials will provide color this fall and for many seasons to come. Autumn asters (lavender) are an excellent choice for a border. Goldenrod makes a lovely companion plant. Other plants to consider are hardy ageratum, Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha) and sedum 'Autumn Joy'.

Mary Ann Rogers, Smith County Master Gardener
Texas AgriLife Extension Service


THINK AHEAD TO FALL

Spring is never a gardening challenge in East Texas. Our acid soil, plentiful spring moisture, and moderate temperatures join to produce a flurry of blossoms from flowering shrubs and spring-blooming bulbs. But facing a Texas summer can be brutal, and high temperatures and rare rainfall can leave the fall colorless. However, selecting water-thrifty plants can give years of maintenance-free fall blooms along with the mums and asters. Plant them in early spring in order to have well-established plants by the time summer’s heat arrives.

Several staples are readily available in garden centers. Salvia leucantha, or Mexican bush sage, is a dependable fall bloomer. Spikes up to three feet reward gardeners with plenty of purple in August-September. The lantanas are another popular choice. L. montevidensis, the trailing purple one, is a Texas native. Lantana camera is a shrub form that yields pink and yellow mixed in the same bloom head. An occasional pruning of the lantanas to stimulate branching is the only care needed. The re-seeding annual petunia ‘Laura Bush’ is not only winter hardy but evergreen as well. It then performs through the hottest summer with single purple blooms.

Other Texas natives are more difficult to obtain. Eupatorium coelestinum, sometimes called wild ageratum for its fluffy blue flowers, provides a wonderful sky-blue color early to late fall. Two golden-colored perennials of the marigold family are hard-working fall bloomers. Tagetes lucida, the Mexican mint marigold, has the scent of anise. And the T. lemonii, ‘Copper Canyon daisy,’ is still bloomining at Thanksgiving.

Scherel Carver, Smith County Master Gardener
Texas AgriLife Extension Service


FALL BLOOMING BULBS

So much garden activity emphasizes spring bloom that we sometimes forget to also prepare for our fall-blooming plants. There are several beautiful bulb and perennial selections that are well suited to our area, but planting must be done in the spring.

Some good bulb selections are spider lilies, belladonna lilies and oxblood lilies. These are old-fashioned flowers that can't always be found in nurseries so it might be necessary to seek out a gardening friend who will share some bulbs with you. Smith Co. Master Gardeners also offer some of these at their annual Fall Bulb Sale. These bulbs may not bloom the first year but over time they will multiply nicely and you can share yours with someone else.

Another pretty fall bloomer is the obedient plant. This is a very hardy perennial that can be found in most nurseries now as transplants. It grows in sun or partial shade and has leafy spikes 15 to 24 inches tall. The upper third or so is covered in clusters of white or lavender blooms beginning in August and continuing well into the fall. They make really beautiful cut arrangements but be careful - the bees love them and the butterflies do, too. Be sure to leave plenty for them.

Obedient plants multiply rapidly and will be very dense if not thinned out, which makes them great to share with friends.

Patricia Massad, Smith County Master Gardener
Texas AgriLife Extension Service


FALL BLOOMING MUMS

We all enjoy the colorful mums in the fall. They replace the summer flowers that have finished blooming and bring prospects of cooler weather. Many do not realize they are an easy perennial to grow that comes back every year. There are a few guidelines to help us have better plants and flowers.

First, when buying mums, select tight, almost totally closed buds that are showing only a tiny bit of color so that your selection is assured. Try to find plants of uniform size if you intend to use several in one bed to keep display uniform. As with most flowering plants, give them adequate fertilizer and water. Mums will continue to bloom after a light frost but the foliage and the flowers will begin to show some browning around the edges. After the mums have finished blooming and the foliage turns brown, it's best to cut dead stems to the ground in late winter and let new leaves sprout from underground roots.

As they begin to grow next season, it is advisable to keep the tips pruned back so that they will not bloom again in the spring. A spring bloom is not advisable if you wish to achieve the best flowering fall mums. If left to grow, they will have long, floppy stems with small, sparse flowers. In mid-spring, prune again, cutting away any new flower buds and leave only about 8 inches of new growth. In mid-summer some additional pinching of soft tips can be done to insure uniform growth. Do not prune again after the end of July as they will be setting buds for the fall. To have bigger blooms in the fall, some the buds can be removed. You will have fewer but larger flowers.

The mums will reward you with an amazing display.

Pat Massad, Smith County Master Gardener
Texas AgriLife Extension Service


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Gardening Tips For Northeast Texas Index