Easy-care autumn flowers
Bring an extra hit of color to your yard with these easy-care autumn flowers. Bonus: They attract birds and butterflies!
Filling a woven wicker basket with a plastic pot of marigolds creates a lovely display that’s sure to liven up a patio, says Melinda Myers, author of Small Space Gardening. “The gold and orange petals look great with the browns of the wicker.” And it’s the seeds—not the flowers or the scent—of these hardy stunners that attract sparrows, finches and even butterflies, she says. Marigolds prefer full sun but will tolerate light shade. For best results, plant them in moist, welldraining soil and water regularly.
Sunflower seeds are a favorite snack of birds—cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches and red-bellied woodpeckers are all likely to fly by for a nibble. Planting the blooms in a galvanized tub makes for a striking display, says Myers. “The simplicity of a washtub complements the vibrant sunflowers.” And a staggered planting strategy helps fill in the bare space that the stems of towering sunflowers would otherwise create: Here, medium-height sunflowers and creeping zinnias add splashes of yellow, framing the tallest blooms. Place in a spot that gets full sun and let the soil dry out between waterings.
Vibrant star-shaped asters—and their tasty seeds—will have goldfinches, towhees and indigo buntings flocking to your yard. To make the display just as appealing to human visitors, Myers recommends planting asters in a container that’s in the same color family as the blossoms—a strategy that creates visual interest while retaining a sense of unity. And the cooler tones are soothing, she explains. Also smart: placing the blooms in slightly rounded containers to complement the flowers’ domed shape. Adds Myers, “These plants need full sun to light shade and they should be watered thoroughly and often enough to keep the soil slightly moist.”
Wrens, titmice, juncos and chickadees love snacking on Joe-pye weed seeds; they also like to use the puffy flowers to build warm nests as the weather begins to cool. “This is a big plant—it grows 5 to 7 feet tall,” notes Myers. “The large blossoms demand attention, so the plant can really hold its own in a fall garden.” (If you want to make a smaller statement, she recommends looking for the newer compact varieties of the flower.) When planted near an entryway, Joe-pye weed greets guests with a burst of color and a welcoming vanilla fragrance. Myers advises placing the easy-care flowers in full sun to partial shade and keeping the soil moist.