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Flowering Plants for Late Summer and Fall

Updated on September 19, 2017

For many parts of the county, late summer and fall bring relief from the unrelenting heat of summer that causes people and plants to wilt and wither. For other parts of the country, it’s one last chance to add color to the garden before the first cold fingers of winter hit. Wherever you happen to live, that final hoorah of gardening gives flower enthusiasts a great chance to take creative license with their yards, take photos, and enjoy the temperate weather of autumn.


Aster is the genus name of over 180 species of flowering plants.  All are commonly known as Aster and are native to Eurasia.  The name comes from a Greek word meaning star and refers to the flower’s shape.  Asters are hardy in all zones.  The flowers resemble daisies.  The are most commonly white, pink or purple.  

An irregular Incurve chrysanthemum.  This flower is about 8 inches across.
An irregular Incurve chrysanthemum. This flower is about 8 inches across.
Historical painting of Chrysanthemum from the New International Encyclopedia 1902.
Historical painting of Chrysanthemum from the New International Encyclopedia 1902.


Commonly also referred to as mums, this family of plants includes 30 species which are native to Asia and northeastern Europe. Mums have been popular in the United States for decades, used in pots in and out of the house. The traditional yellow color fits nicely with fall color, but mums can also be found in white, red, and purple. The blooms vary from pompoms to buttons to daisy-like cultivars.

Mums have many uses besides ornamental. Yellow and white flowers are boiled in Asia to make a sweet drink called Chrysanthemum tea. Medicinally, the tea helps in the recovery from influenza. The leaves can be boiled or steamed and used as greens. Mums are useful in the home to reduce indoor air pollution, according to the NASA Clean Air Study. Additionally, the species Pyrethrum (Chrysanthemum cinerariaefolium) is a good natural insecticide. When the flowers are pulverized, the active ingredient pyrethrins can be extracted from the seeds.

Celosia cristata. Common name Yellow Toreador.
Celosia cristata. Common name Yellow Toreador.
Celosia spicata.
Celosia spicata.

Cockscomb (Celosia)

Also known as woolflower, this is a small family of edible and ornamental plants that may originally have come from Africa, though that claim has been disputed. The flower can be pompom-like or a feathery spike of bright color. It is a popular garden plant because the blooms can last up to ten weeks.

Like many other plants, Celosia has other uses besides ornamental. Celosia argentea is widely used as a nutritious leafy vegetable. It grows wild in northern South America, tropical regions of Africa, the West Indies and South and East Asia. Medicinally, Celosia is used in treating intestinal worms, blood ailments, mouth sores, and eye problems. The seeds are used to treat chest complaints, and the flowers to treat diarrhea.

The different colors found in Coleus.
The different colors found in Coleus.

Coleus (Solenostemon)

One of the easiest plants to grow, coleus is a perennial native to tropical regions of Africa, Asia, Australia, the East Indies, the Malay Archipelago, and the Phillipines. Though coleus does have flowers, it is used more frequently for its brightly colored leaves that are often bi-colored and can be different shades of green, red, purple, maroon, pink, and yellow. Coleus flowers grow on a spike above the plant and are tiny purple or white flowers. In northern regions, the plant is often an annual rather than a perennial.

Echinacea purpurea 'Maxima'
Echinacea purpurea 'Maxima'
A bee on an Echinacea purpurea head
A bee on an Echinacea purpurea head

Coneflower (Echinacea)

Yes, the popular healing herb is also a popular ornamental plant.  Echinacea refers to nine species of flowering herb plants which are commonly called purple coneflowers (though they also have yellow flowers).  Coneflowers get their name from the distinctive cone shape their flower petals form – they tend to point downwards – and the cone shaped center of the flower.  Some species are used for medicinal purposes while others are used in the garden for their color and long-lasting blooms.  In the garden coneflowers are easy to maintain and multiply rapidly.  Some species, when appropriate, are also used in prairie restoration.

Medicinally, Echinacea is believed to be an immunostimulator.  It was used by Native Americans to treat the symptoms of the common cold such as cough, sore throat and as an analgesic, and in the 18th and 19th centuries it was used as an overall antimicrobial and to treat snake bites, anthrax, and pain relief.

Dusty Miller (Senecio cineraria)

Dusty Miller is the common name of four different plants that have physical similarities – Senecio cineraria, Centaurea cineraria, Lychnis coronaria, and Spyridium parvifolium. Senecio is the one found most often in the United States. It is a sun-loving plant with gray-green leaves and small yellow or white flowers. The flowers are frequently pinched off by gardeners because the ornamental value of the plant is in its foliage. Though Dusty Miller may seem a little drab at first, the gray color of the foliage creates a lovely contrast against green plants and bright flowers.

A field of lavender.
A field of lavender.

Lavender (Lavandula)

Lavenders include 39 species native to Asia, Northern Africa, the Mediterranean, and Southern Europe.  They include annuals, herbs, and shrubs.  Lavender is a lovely and fragrant plant that is grown in gardens worldwide.  The flowers and buds are used in potpourri, and flower spikes are common in dried flower arrangements.

Lavender is an ornamental plant with some of the most alternative uses among ornamentals.  In culinary uses, it is used for enhancing the flavor and sweetness of food.  Monofloral honey is produced in the Mediterranean from a sweet nectar produced by the flowers.  The flowers are also used in cake decorating when candied.  For most cooking, however, it is the buds that are dried and used as an herb.

Medicinally, English lavender yields an essential oil that is widely used in balms, salves, perfumes and cosmetics.  The essential oil also has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties.  It was used during World War II to disinfect the floors and walls of hospitals.  According to folk medicine, in various forms lavender can be used to heal insect bites, repel insects, aid sleep and relaxation, combat acne, and soothe headaches.

Mexican Heather (Cuphea hyssopifolia)

This plant features small white or purple flowers and is native to Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras.  It spreads easily and can take over a garden in a matter of a few months.  Ornamentally it is used as a border plant.  

Moss Rose (Portulaca)

Not really a rose, but still a beauty, Portulaca makes an excellent border plant. It requires little maintenance and loves full sun. It is a short plant that spreads easily by itself. The flowers can be red, pink, yellow, orange or white. Portulaca is native to Argentina, southern Brazil and Uruguay, though it was used extensively in 1800s gardens in subtropical regions of Asia. It can be found growing in the cracks between rocks and bricks of older architecture, particularly in the Balkans. In Bangladesh, Portulaca is known as “time fuul” or time flower because it has a specific time to bloom. Some cultivars are double blooms. In recent years, Portulaca's reputation as an edible ornamental has grown. Of the two most common varieties, the one with round flowers is favored for use in salads. When choosing Portulaca for a green, the one with yellow flowers is also more mild in flavor.

Yellow pansy.
Yellow pansy.
Bicolor pansy cultivar.
Bicolor pansy cultivar.

Pansy (Viola x wittrockiana)

Pansies are not native to any country. In fact, pansies are really hybridized violas. Pansies are hardy even in frost zones and can survive the winter to bloom again in spring if they are cultivated well. The pansy was originally cultivated in the early 1800s in England, and quickly became popular with gardeners across that country. It is well-known for its smiling face-like flower that comes in bright colors such as red, yellow, purple, orange and white. In August, the bloom bends forward and appears to be deep in thought, giving the pansy its name derived from the French “pensee” meaning thought.

The pansy has been a symbol of free thought, of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and has been used in the literature of the American Secular Union. It has also been used extensively in the arts, such as Pierre-Joseph Redouté painting Bouquet of Pansies, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Pansie, A Fragment, and Georgia O’Keefe’s paintings Pansy and White Pansy.

Sedum glaucophyllum.
Sedum glaucophyllum.
Sedum dendroideum.
Sedum dendroideum.

Stonecrop (Sedum)

The genus Sedum has around 400 species of leaf succulents, found mostly in the Northern hemisphere.  Stonecrops are cultivated for their interesting foliage which adds texture to the garden.  Many species are also extremely hardy, some being cold tolerant while others are heat tolerant.  For thousands of years, the plant’s leaves have been used as an herb and as salad greens.  The leaves of all stonecrops are edible.  Medicinally, biting stonecrop is somewhat toxic.  It has been used to treat epilepsy and skin conditions, and to induce miscarriages in ancient Greek.

When planting or moving plants in late summer and fall, gardeners strive to continue the color of summer in the gardens.  Numerous plants, even many more than those mentioned here, are hardy to the first frost and will provide lots of beautiful color.  Several of these plants are also useful in salads and as herbal medicines, making them functional beauties.

Yellow coneflower
Yellow coneflower
Topped lavender
Topped lavender

How to Plant a Cut Flower Garden

How to Plant a Colorful Garden


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    • cvanthul profile imageAUTHOR

      Cristina Vanthul 

      8 years ago from Florida

      Thank you!

    • Fraser Soul profile image

      Mildred Lucille Fraser 

      9 years ago from Bloomfield, CT

      I loved you hub. It was so informative and just plain beautiful. God bless you!

    • gr82bme profile image


      10 years ago from USA

      Thank you for the great pics.

    • cvanthul profile imageAUTHOR

      Cristina Vanthul 

      10 years ago from Florida

      Thanks, billy! I enjoyed writing this one. I love flowers and color, and learning about their other uses is always interesting.

    • billyaustindillon profile image


      10 years ago

      Beautifully written and presented hub for flowering plants. I have to say I really love the combination of color and scent lavender gives - so many choices here though! Big vote up.


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