autumn blooms

Autumn in Bloom – Autumn Flowering

Autumn is often called the second spring because there are so many garden flowers in bloom at this time.

Not only is autumn weather stable and pleasantly mild in most parts of the country, the garden is all abloom as well. Little wonder, then, that this time of the year is regarded as the second spring. While winter is fast approaching, many plants are emblazoned in a final flush of autumn flowers and blooms before dormancy sets in. These are some of the plants to consider for turning your garden into an autumn floral spectacle.


Many summer-flowering annuals bloom through into autumn, making a vivid display of every possible hue. As winter approaches most of these plants are replaced with winter- and spring-flowering alternatives. The lesson is to allow summer flowers to last as long as possible and not be tempted to remove and replace them too early in the cool season. Enjoy the impact of large sunflowers with their golden blooms, zinnias in a wide array of shapes, colours and sizes, and asters are rewarding and make for excellent cut flowers. Remember to plant out these annuals in the garden in late spring or early summer in order to enjoy an autumn display. Other flowering annuals to consider for a spectacular autumn display include cosmos, salvias, torenias, browallias and portulacas.


So many different herbaceous perennials bloom at their best in autumn, filling the landscape with drifts and swathes of colour. The real value of true perennials is that they provide consistent blooming at the same time year after year. These are but a few examples of reliable autumn flowers that last for an extended period. Gaura lindheimeri has masses of small white flowers on wiry stems. Pink and deep rose forms are also true showstoppers in the garden. Anemone hupehensis and A. japonica hybrids, commonly known as wind anemeones, stand proud and tall in the autumn sunshine – white and pink forms with single or double flowers abound. Rudbeckia and Echinacea, closely related and commonly known as coneflowers, have dramatic, brightly coloured daisy flowers with an exaggerated or enlarged centre. A wide range of colours is available these days. Indigenous Kniphofia species and hybrids, which are fondly known as pokers or redhot pokers where the colour is relevant, are splendid in borders or cultivated grasslands. The list goes on and on – spend this autumn identifying perennials in and around your area that can be added to your garden.


Woody shrubs in a wide range of sizes and types form the foundation for most gardens, no matter the size. The additional value that autumn blooms bring to landscape is significant. Fortunately there is no shortage of autumn-flowering shrubs, as well as many spring-flowering plants that have an additional flush of blooms as temperatures cool down. These are a few autumn favourites – Camellia sasanqua hybrids are top of the list, with showy single and double blooms lasting for a good couple months. Many shrubby Bougainvillea hybrids burst into bloom as climatic conditions cool down and precipitation dries up. The Chinese snowball (Viburnum macrocephalum) always has a strong autumn presence. On the indigenous scene the following shrubs feature prominently: Karomia speciosa (wild parasol flower), Hypoestes aristata (ribbon bush), Leonotis leonurus (wild dagga) and Plectranthus ecklonii (large spurflower). Again, keep your eyes well focused on searching for autumn flowering shrubs to extend the floral display in your garden.


Ornamental grasses are at their prime during autumn. In full bloom the clumps are soft and stately, lending a sense of movement to the landscape. Grasses contrast superbly with many flowering perennials and this combination is being used more and more in gardens. Some of the most popular grasses are indigenous, while others originate from around the globe. Check out some of these different types: Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’, Pennisetum ‘Vertigo’ and P. ‘Fireworks’, Muhlenbergia capillaris, commonly called pink muhly. Explore the vast potential that ornamental grasses bring to the landscape – they are easy to grow and richly rewarding.


In the warmer climates, autumn-flowering trees are common, as opposed to the cooler regions where colourful foliage dominates the autumn garden scene. Here are some of the flowering trees that are on display in suburbia during April and May – Tibouchina granulosa in pink and purple variants, Senna or Cassia species and hybrids with masses of yellow blooms, Ipomoea arborescens (tree morning glory) with large white flowers, and Ceiba speciosa (formerly Chorisia speciosa and commonly called the kapok tree), with spectacular multicoloured blooms.

When you’re selecting plants for your garden, always make provision for autumn flowers. So much emphasis is placed on spring- and summer-flowering plants that autumn is often overlooked or forgotten. The weather at this time is beautiful and makes the garden a highly desirable place to spend quality outdoor time. Hooray for autumn! Make the most of it!

The Gardener