By Dr. Gary Bachman
The Meridian Star
Even though we’re still in a very warm August, now is the time to start thinking about fall color.
Planting fall-flowering annuals can enhance your landscape’s ability to offer color right through spring. Garden centers will soon be offering some good choices of fall bedding plants, so make plans now for what you want your landscape to look like.
Telstar dianthus is one of my favorite cool-season plants. Like most members of the dianthus family, the flowers have a delicately floral fragrance. Blooms have a fringed margin and are available in single, double and semi-double petal arrangements.
Flower colors include carmine rose, pink and white. These colors are from the same color palette as the spring-blooming landscape pinks and summer varieties like the Mississippi Medallion-winner Purple Bouquet and Amazon dianthus. That means they will provide seasonal continuity for your landscape.
Telstar dianthus grows 8 to 10 inches tall and should be spaced about 8 inches apart. You need proper spacing to have beautiful and fully massed landscape beds.
Brightly colored pansies are another choice for fall color, and you may have already spotted them in garden centers. These plants are a great choice for winter gardens. They can be described as tough and cold tolerant, and they provide nonstop flowering.
Pansies have a 4- to 10-inch-tall mounding growth habit. There are many, many different cultivars and selections offering a veritable rainbow of colors. Older selections have multicolored flowers in yellow, purple, blue and white. These flowers seem to have “faces” made from color blotches. These faces seem to give the pansies personalities from playful to jovial.
Matrix pansies have been outstanding landscape plants for several years in Mississippi. The Coastal Sunrise plants are absolutely loaded with large, colorful flowers held high above the plant. They make a terrific landscape display as the plants branch quickly, increasing the enormous amount of flowers produced.
Violas, commonly called Johnny Jump Ups, are related to the pansy and are a good choice for cooler weather. These tough plants grow well in landscapes or containers. I think violas are hardier than pansies, as their flowering tolerates colder temperatures and they bloom right through the winter holidays and well into the spring season.
It is quite common for violas to become perennial in the home garden because they are prolific reseeding plants. Garden centers will have wide selections available in an endless variety of colors, so you should be able to find ones you like.
For the best performance, be sure to plant your bedding plants before cold weather sets in. This allows the root system to establish itself before it gets cold. Current flowers will be lost in freezing temperatures, but the show will continue with the return of moderate temperatures.
Add 1 pound of slow-release fertilizer and a good layer of mulch to keep the plants well fed and comfortable during the lower temperatures of winter. They will be ready to continue blooming on into the spring.
• Dr. Gary Bachman is an assistant Extension research professor of horticulture at the Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi.