For all you southerners out there, you can make your fall landscape more colorful and functional by the right annual plants in your garden. Fall annuals in the south can turn into perennials if properly cared for due to the milder winters we have. However, you need to be aware that planting southern fall annuals might be different in various parts of the south.
You may assume by looking at the plant zones is all you need. However, to plant southern fall annuals, the plant zones only inform you on the lowest cold temperature in winter, which is only a small part of growing plants. There are other things to consider like heat, exposure to sunlight, if your drainage is good, how much rainfall there is, the soil type, and of course the soil PH.
The best thing to do is to go by your local nursery and ask them questions on what would be the proper fall annual to plant for your zone and soil type. Then select a variety of species of plants and color. With a variety of fall annual coloring, you can even have butterflies year round too.
In the south, many pollinators live throughout not only the fall but the winter, so a well-planned garden will also benefit the environment. Many species thrive well, even prefer, the colder months and they can be added for your fall garden at a low cost.
I prefer to buy the small annuals established and not to fiddle around by starting with a seed. It’s just easier that way and worth the extra cost which might be around $3- 4 per annual. Here are popular fall annuals that you feel are hardy through the winter:
The beautiful, velvety pansy comes in just about any color you can envision. Vibrant purples, gleaming yellows, bright whites, and sedate blues are only a few of the limitless color choices this special little flower has to offer. They are great for borders because they are low growing plants. Pansies do need more preparation and care than the other plants. They thrive in moist soil, full sun, and an enrich compost of soil.
Wildflowers are so easy to plant and care for. It’s always best to get native wildflowers because they will adapt the best to your area. Many wildflowers do not need soil improvements, love the sun, and low watering, once they’re established. Tilling your soil can also provide habitat for species like the Bluebonnet and Snow-on-the-Mountain. Annual and biennial wildflowers need to be allowed to re-seed to produce a strong growth for the next year.
Marigolds are the perfect fall annual for any southern garden. They love the sun. They come in the fall colors of yellows, oranges, reds, dark reds, and white, ranging in height from ground-huggers to 16 inches. They just about growing in any soil type, however, if your soil is very sandy it’s best to add some peat or inexpensive potting soil to hold the moisture in. I will actually take the old buds and break them open; push them into the grown for future marigolds to bloom. They love the sun but can be grown in the shade too. They can thrive with low watering.
With herbs, you need to have a fairly loose soil so the roots have room to spread. Most herbs prefer the sun but some can be grown with some shade, too. If your soil is too sandy, just incorporate inexpensive topsoil to keep moisture in. Once your herbs get established, there is little watering that is needed. One of my favorites is parsley because I can grow it large enough to have a Tabouleh salad which is made mostly from parsley. It’s a cheaper alternative and healthier than some of the more expensive salads you find in the produce section.
I have found with our Florida hot sun and drought, geraniums have to be one of the best to stand up to these conditions. They do love the sun but can have some shade. All you need is to make sure the roots have room to grow by tilling the area and adds some topsoil to the hole. Once you establish the plant with watering it for the first week daily, you won’t need to water but once a week and it can be longer than that depending on climate conditions.
Petunias is another great fall annual for the south I love. They come in many various colors and just like the Geraniums, the conditions to establish it and care for it are the same.
Snapdragons actually do better in the fall than the southern summers. They are self-sowing annual plants. Snapdragons prefer full sun, regular water, and rich, well-drained soil.
Another delightful fall annual is the Pink Cosmos which comes in pink, white, maroon, and pink with deep pink flares. Cosmos can grow several feet. If you did want to germinate them, it’s easy to do. Like most of the plants listed here, the soil set up is the same with mixing in some topsoil. Just press the seeds into the soil and do not cover them with dirt. They do prefer the sun. They are drought tolerant so you have to be careful not to overwater them. It’s always best as with most annuals to cut the dead heads of the blooms off to encourage growth.
Zinnias are just like Marigolds as far as the multi-color choices for your fall annual garden. The planting and care for zinnias are also identical to marigolds. Zinnias are very easy to manage and do not need a lot of water.
Begonias are wonderful additions for a fall annual garden. There are several hundred species in the world. However, in most southern areas, they do better in the shade and in moist soil. As with the Pansies, a good compost of soil will enrich their growth.
In the south, planting fall annuals can be equal if not more spectacular than spring or summer as well as beneficial to the habitat. And as mentioned above, most annuals can be like a perennial with proper care.