Autumn color extends the season visually which, in turn, extends the season financially. As customers ask about their choices, this trend has become more important. Businesses now seek perennials for commercial plantings, fall programs, landscape projects, and garden center sales. Many perennials showcase their best work in flower and foliage at this time.
Autumn bloom used to be considered a limitation—now it’s considered a strength.
This perennial has two seasons of interest. In the spring, it has a lightly blue star flower, but in the autumn the foliage turns a spectacular shade of gold. An important detail: only the hubrechtii species has this golden trait. Other Amsonia species stay green in the fall.
This well-known groundcover has a less famous trait: bronze foliage in the fall. As the light blue blossoms start to trail off, the foliage turns color in preparation for the colder season. A good all-season underplanting that adds enhanced color around shrubs and trees as well as over bulb gardens.
Helenium is one of the unsung heroes making the transition from summer to autumn. Established plants tolerate the heat, humidity, and dry spells found at the end of summer yet keep on blooming through early fall. Flowers stay firmly attached to their stems even if watering cycles are skipped. Very durable.
Another choice to move from late summer into early autumn is Heliopsis. It looks like a miniature Sunflower, or perhaps an over-achieving Coreopsis, but is covered heavily in blooms during the color drought of August. Native to the eastern half of North America, it doesn’t mind the conditions—even the clay soils.
A standout performer during the heart of autumn perennial sales, the genera is the staple of many shade programs. Foliage finishes quickly and stays in color for the full season. Some varieties even have maple-like leaves or harvest-style colors to complement harvest themes.
Black-Eyed Susan is the backbone of many autumn programs, so we sell a wide variety. We have tall specimens like 'Herbstonne', mounded versions like 'American Gold Rush', and highly colorful selections such as 'Prairie Gold' and 'Cherry Brandy'. For purists there is the traditional 'Goldsturm', too.
For our cover, we selected Heucherella 'Pumpkin Spice' to represent Autumn Perennials. One of the innovative cultivars introduced by Walter's Gardens in 2022, this hybrid has the maple leaf shape of a Tiarella with the rich golden tones of Heuchera and an additional overlay of Tiarella veins of mahogany red. The villosa breeding from the Heuchera also means 'Pumpkin Spice' stays golden throughout the entire season with overwintering capabilities in the South. Like other Heucherellas, we find its performance is best in semi-shaded areas.
New to the market and released by Emerald Coast is 'Butterscotch', an Amsonia that turns gold in the fall. That’s putting it mildly, however, as the hubrechtii basics in this cultivar move the quality bar up a notch: the gold is more vibrant, the foliage color lasts longer, the red stems are brighter and more consistent, and the plant is more vigorous. Yes, 'Butterscotch' is the same—it's just better. This significant improvement is the reason why we put it on the back cover of our catalog for 2023.