Gardening 101: Fall color, finally

NORTH TEXAS ( — Fall is starting to arrive—slowly. 

And for gardeners like me, it can’t come soon enough. I don’t do my best garden work when it’s 100-plus degrees under a relentless sun. Fall arrives and I start working my dirt again. 

The little bit of cooler weather and modest rain has helped perk up many of my plants. No color is more disliked by gardeners than brown. 

Thankfully, after a summer on the struggle bus, color is creeping back into my flower beds.

I can hardly blame anyone for running out and getting some color to put in. As soon as the summer heat breaks, I put some annual color in my few selected spots (I’m rather modest in my annuals use: a spot by the front door, another by the side gate.) There is a great perennial that you can put in your beds that come to colorful life in the fall season—mums. 

You can buy mums that bloom early in the fall, ones that bloom in the middle of the fall and others that bloom later in the season. If you can work all three evenly through your landscape bed, you can have good color display into early winter. 

When you water your mums, make sure to water just the ground at their feet. You can get longer blooms if you keep water off the plant as much as possible. Mums like sunny locations and need to be fed regularly. If your mums like their spot, they divide easily if you want to fill out your bed as time goes on.

If you had Celosia over the summer, it might have looked a little overwhelmed by the summer heat. In the cooler (and usually wetter) fall, they tend to come back to life. These are great pollinator magnets and give off impressive color. You’ll lose them in the first good frost, and around here, that is usually around Thanksgiving. They also like full sun and proper watering.

I’m waiting till those 90-degree days leave us and then I put in my pansies. I just love these annuals. They have a rainbow of color selection. You can get them in a solid color or buy “blotched” faces that intensify the color. Some even have dual-color blooms that can mix your palette in your landscape. They can handle a deep freeze. 

Two winters ago, my garden got down to -2 degrees but my pansies were under five inches of light snow. A week later, they were back in full color. If you don’t have that blanket of snow, I’d suggest covering them when it starts getting into low 20s. It is not that uncommon that with just a little attention and protection, they go all the way to spring.

Great easy color for a weary landscape coming out of another harsh summer. Proof that no matter how hard the heat in North Texas gets, it always leaves. Eventually.