What’s Blooming in Mid-Fall?

Hygrangea 'Limelight', Aster cordifolius, Rudbeckia triloba‘Limelight’ hydrangea, native blue wood aster, and native brown-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia triloba) shine through October.

For me, fall has three seasons, early, middle, and late, and they do not conform to the calendar definition of fall.  Early fall plants perform in September, a month that is technically summer until the equinox.  Mid-fall plants peak in October, and late fall plants grace November.  As far as I am concerned, December is winter no matter what the calendar says.  The first post in this series covered September bloomers, for details click here.  This post features perennials and shrubs that make a daily walk through my garden worthwhile in October, even as the weather cools.  The next post will feature plants for November.

Nursery News:  Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to carolyn@carolynsshadegardens.com.  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.


Hydrangea 'Limelight'As the weather cools in October, ‘Limelight’ hydrangea’s flowers take on this lovely pink hue.


Anemone x 'Honorine Joubert'Some of my other favorite Japanese anemones like ‘September Charm’ and ‘Pamina’ may extend into October, but ‘Honorine Joubert’ is the queen, blooming throughout the month.  It also has the best habit and most flowers of any Japanese anemone that I grow.


Callicarpa 'Early Amethyst'Berries are very important in October, and none is more eye-catching than beautyberry, here ‘Early Amethyst’, an Asian variety.


Callicarpa 'Early Amethyst'The unusual purple berries are elegantly set off by the lime green leaves.  When the leaves drop in November, the berries persist.


Callicarpa americanaI actually prefer the cluster form and color of native callicarpa berries, but Callicarpa americana may have hardiness issues in our zone.  I lost two of my three established plants last winter.  The third is huge and vigorous though.


Persicaria 'Purple Dragon'My ‘Red Dragon’ fleece flower bloomed beautifully this year, and the purple leaves still look great in October.


Cyclamen hederifolium at ChanticleerOctober is the month for fall-blooming hardy cyclamen and the wonderful leaves remain gorgeous all winter (photo taken at Chanticleer).


Cyclamen hederifolium 'Alba'‘Album’ is a white-blooming form of hardy cyclamen.


Tricyrtis 'Sinonome'‘Sinonome’ toad-lily is another outstanding October plant and continues full strength until the first frost.  This photo was taken October 23, and plenty of unopened buds remain.


Tricyrtis 'Sinonome'A close up of ‘Sinonome’s orchid like flowers.


TricyrtisAnother toad-lily with a beautiful habit blooming in October at Welkinweir Estate Garden in Pottstown.  There was no sign, but it may be Tricyrtis hirta ‘Variegata’.


Amsonia hubrichtii at ChanticleerNative threadleaf bluestar shines again in October when it turns this gorgeous yellow-orange, here at Chanticleer.


Cimicifuga Scott Arboretum Fall 2014Cimicifuga’s (actaea) soaring, beautifully scented candelabras are dramatic in October, here at the Scott Arboretum.


Aster tartaricusTartarian aster takes over when all the other asters except native blue wood aster (see first photo) are done.


Ceratostigma plumbaginoides & Corydalis luteaYellow corydalis blooms all season and continues on into November, while the blue flowers of autumn leadwort start in June and peak in September and October.


Mid-October marks the start of the snowdrop and camellia season, two plants that carry me through the depths of winter and into spring.  Although the variety broadens considerably in November, I want to show you the snowdrops and camellias that start the show:


Galanthus reginae-olgae, Lamium 'Shell Pink'The fall-blooming snowdrop species, Galanthus reginae-olgae, sometimes called Queen Olga’s snowdrop because it was named for the Queen of Greece, always blooms by October 15.  Shown here with my favorite lamium, ‘Shell Pink’, which flowers all season.


Galanthus reginae-olgae 'Tilebarn Jamie'Galanthus reginae-olgae ‘Tilebarn Jamie’ is an improvement on the straight species with bigger, rounded flowers and two flower stems per plant.


Camellia x 'Snow Flurry'I am so thrilled that this spring, I finally found ‘Snow Flurry’ fall-blooming camellia to plant in my garden.  It starts the camellia season off with a glorious show in mid-October.


Camellia 'Lu Shan Snow'‘Lu Shan Snow’ is my oldest camellia and starts the third week of October.


Camellia x 'Long Island Pink'‘Long Island Pink’ is another early fall-blooming camellia starting in mid-October.  I planted it last fall, and it sailed through our terrible winter to produce a large crop of flowers this fall.



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Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a local retail nursery in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, U.S., zone 7a. The only plants that we mail order are snowdrops and miniature hostas and only within the US.

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28 Responses to “What’s Blooming in Mid-Fall?”

  1. I think the people who have been successfully working with camellia cold hardiness need to get a medal of some kind. It is not an issue here, but I am so glad their zone limits are being expanded.

  2. Carolyn, Thank you for this lovely post. We, too, have enjoyed a very LONG Fall season… what with our first real frost happening this past week. I want to ask you about Honorine Jobert Japanese anemone. I had an anemone in my flower garden until a year ago. I had to rebuild the bed. They don’t seem to transplant well… at least not for me. However, this pink variety became very “vigorous,” encroaching on many other plants. Does your featured variety spread, also?

    • SG, We still have not had a real frost although one is coming this week. My Honorine Joubert has not done that but I haven’t had it long enough or in enough quantity to really know. Japanese anemones often spread like crazy. Some of the pinks are closer to the species and spread more quickly. They are hard to transplant because they don’t have much of a root system, just some woody stalks. Carolyn

  3. You have quite a few beautiful blooming plants in the fall, and the foliage on some is spectacular! I have a non-hardy Cyclamen that I brought inside recently. It goes dormant in the summer and springs back to life in the fall. One of these days, I’m going to add Amsonia to my garden. I’ve been noticing it at the arboretums and on blogs this fall–it’s beautiful! I don’t know why I didn’t notice it much before. Sometimes plants appeal to us more at different stages of life, I guess. Great post!

  4. So many beauties Carolyn. Some of the plants in your garden have passed in mine. I guess because I am colder? Will you be offering Tilebarn Jamie this year in your snowdrop offerings for 2015? I was also on Facebook and there were a few snowdrops for fall posted in the American snowdrop group. I am traveling but have to search my garden because I know I bought Reginae-olgae and I think potter’s prelude from you but I had not seen them. Your cyclamen look beautiful. Is that first photo one plant?

  5. Are you selling snowdrops now? Thank you, Shauna

  6. Carolyn, your seasons line up pretty much the same as ours. Very interesting plants you show us. Plenty Snowdrops in this neighbourhood, never seen the Autumn flowering ones though.

  7. debsgarden Says:

    I am quite taken by your ‘Lu Shan Snow’, and I love how your Red Dragon persicaria is sited to drape over the rock wall. Fall has so much to offer! I truly love this season, and I hate to see it ending. Our temps here are going to dip into the 20’s in a couple of days and will probably put an end to the gorgeous fall colors we have now.

    • Deb, WE are headed into the 20s on Friday night, and I am sad. ‘Lu Shan Snow’s’ flowers are beautiful. It is a tree form and has lovely cinnamon colored bark. This is the first time that Red Dragon has draped and it may be the first time it has bloomed. I have had it for years and was quite pleased. Carolyn

  8. You had so much coming into bloom in your October garden, Carolyn. Mine finishes so much earlier than yours. Fall blooming snowdrops are new to me. I must put them on my wish list. P. x

  9. Your opening sentence pretty much sums up how I feel about all seasons. In our area, all four seasons can be broken down into vastly differing beginnings to end. Sometimes, even the seasons get confused having what should be one acting like another. That or having what is how one should begin present as how it usually ends.

  10. HI Carolyn

    Not raking all of the leaves is very appealing to me. What happens in the spring- do you end up raking most of the leaves then, or have some composted ?

    • Hedy, Any leaves that are on the lawn get mowed into the lawn during the final fall mowing or the first spring mowing. You can mow up to 18″ into the lawn, and it is actually good for it so there is never a need to remove leaves from the lawn unless you want to grind them for mulch for your beds. The only beds that I clean out are immediately around the house for a more refined look. I do this in the fall and mulch then with ground leaves. I do not touch them again until the following fall. The beds that are not cleaned out keep their leaves in the spring. I never clean them out—the whole leaves are the mulch. Carolyn

  11. I love beautyberry. It’s such an unusual looking plant, but so pretty. I’ve seen a pink berried variety before too that I really like (one of these years!) I had no idea that there were snowdrops that bloom in fall! Beautiful! I am very interested in your next post – not too much blooms here in November! We’ve already had freezing temperatures and snow, though, as I’m in zone 6a, so winter is already settling in.

  12. I see purple and white as the main bloom colors in your fall garden, Carolyn! Japanese anemone is new in my garden, and I love it! Many people warn me about their ability to spread. Is it a concern in your garden?
    Stay warm!

    • Tatyana, I have heard this many times too. Unfortunately, Japanese anemones do not spread aggressively in my garden although I wish they would. I think you are safe if you stick with the more refined cultivars like Honorine Joubert, Whirlwind, Margarete, and Pamina. They are also pretty easy to dig up since they don’t have much of a root system. Carolyn

  13. It’s amazing since I cut down so much of the garden, I found a small Beautyberry, Limelight hydrangea and one toad-lily…now they need to have better homes so they can thrive…and look at all the other fabulous blooms for fall in your garden!

  14. Your work just shows how much you can do with shade! It’s lovely, cheers.

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