When the leaves start to fall and your once bright summer perennials come to the end of their natural lives, it can be tricky to keep your garden looking bright and welcoming. You may be asking yourself, do any flowers bloom in autumn?
The answer is a resounding yes, there are many flowering plants that will keep your garden in colour well into the colder months.
Here’s our pick of the best flowers for an autumn garden that will flower from September onwards:
What flowers can I plant in autumn and winter?
There are plenty of plants that will flower throughout the colder months. If you time the planting right, you can have a seamless display of blooms through every season.
Star flowering plants for autumn include pansies, dahlias and crocosmia. The winter-flowering clematis will provide interest at the end of the year along with Christmas roses and delicate snowdrops.
Here’s our pick of the prettiest flowering plants to grace your autumn and winter garden:
Dahlias deserve a place in every garden. With over 40 species and thousands of cultivars of jewel-coloured, intricate blooms to choose from, you can enjoy these resplendent flowers well into autumn.
Dahlias need a fair bit of space (allow 40cm between plants) and the tubers can be sown directly into the ground from late April after the last frost has passed. You can also start them in pots inside from February onwards. You’ll need to pinch out the top leaves of the main shoot, leaving the top pair of leaves. As the tuber sprouts more shoots, remove all but 5 from the tuber, it sounds a little extreme but fewer stems mean stronger stems.
Make sure you stake the plants as they grow as a strong gust of wind can easily snap a dahlia stem. Each dahlia tuber can produce hundreds of flowers and as they are the perfect cut flower, you can create endless brilliant bouquets.
We couldn’t compile a list of autumn-flowering plants without mentioning the humble pansy. These cheery little plants are ideal for filling gaps in borders and adding vibrant colour and interest to pots or hanging baskets.
Pansies can flower throughout winter and even into spring but it’s worth planting them in early autumn as it gives the roots time to toughen up. Pansies planted out from November onwards may not survive the frost.
There are hundreds of varieties of pansies to choose from in a full spectrum of colours. They’re one of the easiest and most reliable plants to care for and sure to brighten even the bleakest winter day.
Sedums are a fantastic plant to include in a garden border. Their unusual foliage provides interest from spring and colourful pink flowers appear from August, lasting well into late autumn. Once the flowers die back, you can leave the dried flower heads on the plant until spring.
Sedum is extremely easy to care for and will grow in pots or the ground. There are hundreds of varieties to choose from, including creeping and upright plants.
With its spiky leaves and stalks of fiery coloured flowers, crocosmia is an elegant addition to an autumn garden. Crocosmia bulbs should be planted in early spring for flowering in mid-summer to autumn. Although crocosmia won’t flower for the first year or so, it’s well worth the wait. They will add glorious colour to your garden when other summer flowers have faded.
Once crocosmia get’s going, it’s a vigorous spreader so it will need to be supported and kept in check by thinning out if necessary. Once the flowers have died back, leave the foliage in place as it provides the energy for next year’s blooms.
These sweet, brightly coloured star-shaped flowers are perfect for brightening up an autumn garden. You can plant asters in spring for autumn flowering and, if you’re lucky, they may self-seed and return the following year.
Asters come in a range of colours and are ideal in pots or placed in borders.
6. Autumn crocuses
Despite their name, these flowers belong to the lily family. When planted in summer, they’ll flower in September and October. They’re happiest in partial shade and like well-drained soil. Autumn crocuses will flower year after year, providing welcome, reliable colour for your autumn garden.
Note: these plants are toxic so may not be suitable for a family garden.
7. Winter-flowering clematis
Clematis are often thought of as summer plants but several varieties will flower through winter and into spring. Try the evergreen Clematis cirrhosa ‘freckles’ (pictured) and the gorgeous pink-flowered Clematis Markham’s pink for a show of winter flowers.
These climbers reach a height and spread of around 4 x 1 metres so will need the support of a trellis if they don’t have a wall or other plant to ramble over.
One of my favourites, these beautiful little flowers provide a welcome burst of colour throughout the cooler months and they flower for ages! These plants are tuberous and rest during the summer months so resist the temptation to chuck them on the compost heap when they look a little tired.
Also known as black-eyed Susans, these beautiful flowers will be in bloom from August to October. With their showy golden colour, they’ll add a welcome splash of colour to your autumn borders.
Snowdrops typically flower at the end of winter and into spring but in a mild winter, you may spot a keen bloomer as early as December. A sighting of a snowdrop often signifies the end of winter and they’re a beautiful addition to any garden.
Snowdrop bulbs are best planted with their green leaves intact in the spring, but you can also plant them as bare bulbs in October or November. They aren’t fussy about location and you can pop a few into your lawn for a cheery display. Snowdrops also make pretty cut flowers, simply arrange a few stems in a jam-jar as a simple decoration.
11. Winter honeysuckle
The winter honeysuckle is a striking winter-flowering plant. It flowers from December to March on almost leafless branches, creating a blossom-like effect. Introduced from China, the creamy-white flowers smell divine. Its name, Lonicera fragrantissima, means ‘sweetest honeysuckle’ and the heady scent will be welcome in the depths of winter.
Make sure you choose a trellis for your honeysuckle if you intend to keep this vining plant tamed.
Heather is often overlooked in favour of showier plants but it provides a welcome blanket of colour throughout winter and offers essential nutrients for bees and other pollinators. This alone makes it worth adding to your winter garden!
There are many varieties to choose from for winter colour, try Erica carnea Corinna for hot pink flowers or Erica darleyensis f. aureifolia ‘Tweety’ which has striking orange foliage with contrasting magenta flowers in winter.
As heathers are evergreen, they provide changing colour all year round. They’re easy to grow and care for and an easy way to bring colour into your autumn and winter garden.
If you’re looking for an easy-to-grow winter-flowering shrub, a viburnum is a great choice. Viburnum × bodnantense ‘Dawn’ produces clusters of small pink blooms on bare branches throughout winter.
Winter-flowering viburnum will bloom anytime from November to March, sometimes all the way through! These plants won’t flower until they’re 4-6 years old.
Viburnum nudum flowers in the summer but is followed by beautiful pink berries that turn purple, providing an unusual burst of colour.
14. Christmas rose
Helleborus niger, the Christmas rose, is an evergreen plant that produces large white flowers from late winter into spring. It’s not actually related to the rose family, instead, it belongs to the buttercups.
You can plant Christmas roses at any time but they like damp soil and lots of organic matter so add plenty of well-rotted compost when planting and top up each year for best results. I’ll definitely be adding some of these to my garden this winter and look forward to waking up to a garden in bloom on Christmas day.