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10 Best Annual Flowers That Bloom in Fall

These beautiful annuals flower in autumn, adding a burst of color to your garden landscape

Lennie Larkin
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Rudbeckia

(Rudbeckia hirta)

While the standard Black Eyed Susan is classic for the fall garden, it’s worth digging through fall seed catalogs and searching at your local nursery for more uncommon rudbeckia varieties. We love the muddy rich tones of ‘Sahara’, and the whimsical grab-bag of ‘Chim Chiminee’.

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Chrysanthemum

(Chrysanthemum indicum)

Mums, often grown as annuals, are classified according to their shape. Whether you choose an ‘irregular incurve’, ‘football’, or ‘quill’ type, you can’t go wrong for the fall garden. Pro tip: When your plants are about 12” tall, pinch out the top center 3” to encourage low branching and multiple, manageable-sized flowers.

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Sunflower

(Helianthus annuus)

For sunflowers to match the changing of the season in fall, Joanna of Bluma Farm recommends ‘Strawberry Blonde’, a dark-centered variety that fades from creamy yellow tips to a muddy red base. It’s always worth trying out a late summer planting of sunflowers in hopes of a delayed first frost for the season.

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Dahlia

(Dahlia sp.)

Many gardeners out there will attest to having healthier, more robust dahlias in the fall than in the summer. Plant dahlias fairly close together, with only 12-18” between plants, if you plan to cut lots of stems for fall bouquet making. For more of a landscaping plant, leave 2-3’ between each dahlia.

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Zinnia

(Zinnia elegans)

There seems to be a zinnia out there for everyone. There’s the broody, dusky pink ‘Queen Red Lime’, the bright and happy ‘Uproar Rose’, and the simple, understated ‘Zinderella’ series. For fall colors, we love ‘Jazzy Mix’ and ‘Zowie’. Remember to stay on top of your deadheading for continuous blooms up until frost.

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Lisianthus

(Eustoma grandiflora)

Though it may seem counterintuitive, lisianthus is a great fall flower. At Sonoma County’s B-Side Farm, lisianthus gets planted in March, first blooms in July, and then is quickly cut to the ground and fed with organic fertilizer to encourage a second flush in fall. In a lucky year, it may flower right up until frost.

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Marigold

(Tagetes erecta)

While we all love the classic bright orange Day of the Dead marigold, there are some more unusual varieties out there that add a more subtle touch to the fall garden. ‘Tangerine Gem’ is a dainty bloom on a narrow stem that has a wildflower feel, while ‘Strawberry Blonde’ features a range of muted oranges and yellows.

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Strawflower

(Bracteantha bracteata)

Fresh or dried, the loud, crinkly heads of strawflowers lend themselves to all kinds of fall projects. If your plan is to cut stems for drying, then try to get to them before the flower heads have fully opened. Simply hang upside down in small bunches and go crazy with autumn wreath-making.

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Aster

(Callistephus chinensis)

When looking at certain varieties of annual asters, you’d swear they were actually mums or long-lived peonies. For a lush, soft pink variety to stand out in the fall garden, choose ‘Tower Chamois’. Set against autumn’s reds and browns, these asters will add some pillowy brightness to a changing landscape.

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Celosia

(Celosia argentea)

There’s enough variety in the celosia family to fill a fall garden in entirety and never get bored! Cockscomb types feature huge, dense flower heads while plumosa and spicata varieties are more slender and graceful. Plant a big mix and watch the yard fill with fiery fall color.

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