MASTER GARDENERS: Renew your garden with fall flowers

Greg Stevens

I think we get so busy planting vegetables in the summer that sometimes we forget about flowers. In West Texas flower color seems to fade in the summer. Now that our temperatures have gone down especially at night it is a good time to plan for your fall flowers.

If you are going to buy flowers at the nursery, be sure that you buy the ones that have buds, or are not flowering at all yet, not the ones that are already flowering. If they are already in full bloom, it is difficult to get them established so that they will grow additional flowers. I know they are hard to pass up, but you’ll be rewarded later.

Here are some of the flowers that grow well in the West Texas in the fall:

Zinnias are my all-time favorite flower. My (Debbie) grandparents built a house in 1939 in Midland on the corner of “A” Street and Michigan which still stands today. My grandmother lived there until 2000. When I was very young, she gave me a packet of zinnia seeds which I planted in a bed on the side of her house. When I was there several weeks later, they had all come up and were beautiful. I never plant zinnias that I don’t think of her and that house and all the memories that were made there. Never underestimate the power of giving your kids and grandkids a hand shovel and a packet of seeds!

Marigolds come in shades of yellow and gold and will bloom up until first frost. Orange marigolds are the traditional flower for Dia de los Muertos celebrations, November 1 and 2. And, according to old garden lore, marigolds are said to help deter tomato pests, so plant some seeds alongside your fall tomato transplants.

Frostweed is a late fall bloomer that attracts butterflies and pollinators. (Courtesy Photo)

Firebush is pretty in the summer but in the fall its leaves turn a deep red color, and the flowering is spectacular. Look for the Florida native Firebush, Hamelia patens var. patens as its leaves and flowers have that characteristic red color.

In your native garden looks for plants whose blooms will welcome migrating Monarchs or fall butterflies and pollinators. We wrote about Fall Aster, Symphotrichum oblongifolium, on 4/17/2021 and Gregg’s Mistflower, Concliniium greggii, on 5/23/2021, on the PBMG blog. Check that out.

Round out that list with two late fall, white bloomers: Shrubby Boneset, Ageratina havanensis, and Frostweed, Verbesina virginica. Both are butterfly and pollinator magnets attracting bees, beetles, and a wide variety of butterflies. Frostweed even “blooms” after the first frost as its stems exude water that freezes into interesting ice crystal shapes hence its name.

For more information, call the AgriLife office at 498-4071 in Odessa or at 686-4700 in Midland or visit aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu or westtexasgardening.org.

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