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Fall Perennials That Will Give Your Cottage Garden the Wow Factor

Are you looking for fall perennials that will give your cottage garden the “wow factor”? Follow along as I share some of my favorite autumn perennial plants to grow in your flower garden beds this season.

As the bright summer colors start to fade and the earthy tones of autumn take over, I always appreciate the beauty and charm that fall perennials add to the cottage garden.

In this post, I’ll share some of the best fall perennials that will transform your cottage garden into a tapestry of seasonal beauty during the fall months.

fall perennials for cottage garden

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orange dahlias in cottage garden

Fall perennials are perennial plants that are known for their ability to bloom and thrive during the autumn season. These plants add color and interest to gardens when many other plants are beginning to fade as the weather cools down.

Autumn perennial plants come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes, and they are an excellent choice for gardeners looking to extend the beauty of their gardens into the later part of the year.

fall perennials for cottage garden

Fall perennials are valuable to a cottage garden for several reasons, including enhancing its visual appearance, supporting local wildlife, and allowing you to make the most of your outdoor space throughout the autumn season.

Extended Seasonal Interest

Fall perennials extend the visual appeal of your cottage garden well into the autumn months when many other plants are starting to decline. This keeps your garden looking lively and beautiful, allowing you to enjoy it for a more extended period.

Color and Vibrancy

Fall perennials add a burst of color to your garden just when the landscape may be turning drab and monochromatic. Their vibrant blooms in various shades of red, orange, yellow, and purple bring warmth and cheer to your outdoor space.

Pollinator Attraction

Many fall perennials are excellent sources of nectar for pollinators such as bees and butterflies. By including these plants in your cottage garden, you not only support local wildlife but also create a more biodiverse and ecologically friendly environment.

Seasonal Transition

Fall perennials act as a bridge between the seasons, helping to smoothly transition your garden from summer to autumn. They can soften the stark changes in the garden as summer blooms fade, creating a more harmonious and gradual shift.

Cottage Garden Aesthetics

Cottage gardens are known for their casual, romantic, and slightly wild appearance. Fall perennials fit seamlessly into this style, adding a touch of rustic charm and natural beauty that complements the overall cottage garden aesthetic.

Low Maintenance

Many fall perennials are low-maintenance plants and require minimal care once established. This makes them ideal for cottage gardens, which are often a more relaxed and informal gardening style.

Seasonal Variety

Growing fall perennials adds variety to your garden’s appearance throughout the year. This diversity in plant life ensures that there’s always something interesting and beautiful to see as the seasons change.

Embracing the Season

Celebrate the changing seasons by adding fall perennials to your cottage garden allowing you to fully embrace and appreciate the unique beauty of autumn.

fall perennials for cottage garden

There are many fall perennials you can choose from for your fall garden. Your local nursery or garden center most likely has them in stock this time of year.

Here are some of my favorite fall cottage garden flowers I’m growing this season.

This fall perennial takes on several different looks throughout the year but looks the most stunning in the fall.

Sedums have succulent-like leaves and upright stems, which can provide interesting textural contrast to other cottage garden plants. This contrast adds depth and structure to the garden.

Planting Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ in a cottage garden for fall provides low-maintenance beauty, supports pollinators, and contributes to the seasonal transition and overall charm of your garden.

fall perennials for cottage garden

Provides Winter Interest

Even after the growing season ends, the dried seed heads of Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ can provide some visual interest in your garden during the winter months, especially when covered with a dusting of frost or snow.

Hardiness Zones3-9
FeaturesLow-maintenance | deer-resistant | drought-tolerant | disease-resistant once established | attracts pollinators
When to PlantPlant in the spring after the threat of frost and before the summer heat.
sedum autumn joy

The Life of Autumn Joy

Flowers shift colors as they develop from buds to open blooms.

  • They start to produce green broccoli-like buds in mid-summer
  • Gradually open into dusty-pink flower heads
  • Flower clusters turn to a rose-red color in late summer to early fall
  • Turns to a bronze-red color
  • Foliage dies back in the cold winter regions but still provides much-needed interest
fall perennials for cottage garden

With their bright yellow petals and tall stems, black-eyed Susans give a much-needed pop of color to a late summer/early fall garden.

Their cheerful blooms add a splash of color and visual interest to your garden when many other plants are starting to fade.

After the black-eyed Susan flowers have faded, the seedheads can provide winter interest in the garden. Additionally, birds are attracted to the seeds, offering another layer of wildlife interaction in your garden.

Hardiness Zones3-9
Featuresattract pollinators | low-maintenance plant | drought tolerant | long-lasting blooms
When to PlantIn the spring after all danger has passed or in the fall. Do not plant in the hot summer.
fall perennials for cottage garden

It’s not a secret that dahlias are my favorite fall perennial in the cottage garden.

These stunning flowers take a while to finally produce a bloom or two, usually by the end of July but are definitely worth the wait. Dahlias will continue producing until the first hard frost of the season and do such a beautiful job brightening up the fall garden.

Hardiness Zones6-11
Featuresthey come in every color you can think of | bloom in fall until the first hard frost of the season | make the most gorgeous cut flowers | the more you cut, the more they produce blooms.
When to PlantPlant tubers in full sun in late spring after danger of frost.
fall perennials for cottage garden

Growing asters in a cottage garden for fall enhances the visual appearance, attracts pollinators, and is a low-maintenance style perennial.

These daisy-like flowers bloom in late summer and fall. Asters bloom in a rainbow of colors, including purple, blue, white, and pink flowers. And late-season pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds love them.

Hardiness Zones3-8
Featuresattract pollinators to the garden | low-maintenance | divide root clumps every three years or so for propagation
When to PlantSpring and fall are best to allow the plant to get established before severe hot or cold weather. In the North, plant anytime up to early fall to allow the roots to get established before winter.
fall perennials for cottage garden

Mums are the classic cottage garden fall perennial with colors ranging from pastel to bright bold hues. For longer-lasting blooms, choose mums with flower buds that are just beginning to open.

To overwinter plants as perennials in colder zones, get the mums into the ground as early as possible in fall. Mulch well after the ground freezes.

Hardiness Zones4-9
Featuresattract butterflies | last for up to two weeks in a flower bouquet | versatile growth
When to Plantplant in early spring or fall at least six weeks before the first hard frost.
fall perennials for cottage garden

Coneflowers typically bloom from late spring through summer, and their vibrant flowers often continue into the fall, depending on the variety and local climate.

These flowers add a pop of color to your garden, making them an excellent choice for the transition from summer to fall.

Hardiness Zones4-9
Featureslow maintenance | attract pollinators | disease resistent
When to PlantIn the spring after any danger of frost. You can also plant in early fall with at least six weeks to establish roots before the first hard frost.
fall perennials for cottage garden

Excellent for marking the transition from summer to fall in your cottage garden, Japanese anemones have delicate paper-like flowers. These come in pink or white flowers, with yellow stamens in the center.

Japanese anemone’s graceful blooms and timeless appeal can enhance the beauty and seasonal interest of your cottage garden as it transitions from summer to fall.

fall garden perennials Japanese Anemone
Hardiness Zones4-8
Featureslow-maintenance | attract pollinators | drought-tolerent
When to PlantAfter the danger of frost in spring until early fall.
fall perennials for cottage garden

While tickseed primarily blooms in late spring and summer, many varieties produce a second flush of flowers in the fall, extending their blooming season.

These daisy-like flowers add a burst of color and vibrancy to your cottage garden as summer transitions into autumn.

The common name for this perennial actually comes from the appearance of the seeds, which look like little ticks. Tickseed is available as an annual or perennial, and there are hundreds of species, as well as many cultivated hybrids.

Hardiness Zones2-11
Featuresattracts pollinators | low maintenance
When to Plantspring to early fall
coneflower and black-eyed Susans

Caring for perennials in the fall cottage garden is essential to ensure their health and vitality through the winter months and into the next growing season. Here are some tips on how to care for perennials in the fall.

Cut Back Spent Foliage and Flowers

As your perennials finish blooming in late summer or early fall, trim back the spent flower stalks and remove any dead or yellowing foliage. This helps prevent diseases and makes the garden look neater.

Divide and Transplant

Early fall is an excellent time to divide and transplant perennials that have become overcrowded or outgrown their space. This promotes better growth and rejuvenates the plants.

Continue Watering

Continue to water your fall perennials as needed, especially if there’s a dry spell. Proper hydration is crucial for them to establish strong root systems before winter.

Reduce your watering frequency as the weather cools. Perennials need less water in the fall, but it’s still important to ensure they receive adequate moisture, especially for those planted recently.

fall perennials for cottage garden

Apply a Layer of Mulch

Apply a layer of mulch around the base of your perennials to help conserve soil moisture and insulate the roots from temperature fluctuations.

Use a few inches of organic mulch, like wood chips, fallen leaves, or straw, but avoid piling it up against the plant stems.

Fertilize Your Fall Perennials

In early fall, you can apply a balanced, slow-release fertilizer to your perennials to provide them with essential nutrients for the coming season. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the specific fertilizer you’re using.

Protect from Frost

Keep an eye on the weather forecast and be prepared to protect your perennials if frost is expected. Covering them with blankets, burlap, or frost cloth can help prevent damage.

Remove Weeds

Fall is an excellent time to tackle any weeds that have popped up in your garden. Weeds can compete with perennials for nutrients and water.

Disease and Pest Management

Inspect your perennials for signs of disease or pest infestations. Address any issues promptly with appropriate treatments or pruning of affected areas.

Leave Some Seedheads

While you should deadhead spent flowers, consider leaving some seedheads on certain perennials to provide food for birds during the winter months.

Consider Fall Planting

If you’re looking to add new perennials to your garden, fall is a great time to plant. The cooler temperatures and moist soil conditions allow the plants to establish roots before winter.

Plant Spring-Blooming Bulbs

Fall is the time to plant your spring bulbs, such as tulips, and daffodils.

Bulb planting in the fall is one of the easiest ways to ensure a colorful and stunning spring flower garden. You’re basically laying the groundwork in the fall season for your spring garden.

Plan for Spring

Use the fall season to plan for next spring. Take notes on what worked well and what didn’t in your garden, and consider any changes or additions you’d like to make.

By providing proper care for your perennials in the fall, you’ll help them prepare for winter dormancy and set the stage for a healthy and vibrant garden in the following growing season.

fall perennials for cottage garden

Common Questions About Late-Blooming Perennials

What Perennials Should Not Be Cut Back in the Fall?

While many perennials benefit from having their spent foliage and flower stalks trimmed back in the fall, some should not be cut back until spring or should be left largely untouched for various reasons. Here are some perennials that you should generally avoid cutting back in the fall:

  • Ornamental Grasses: Many ornamental grasses provide winter interest with their dried seed heads and graceful arching stems. Leave them standing until late winter or early spring, and then trim them back before new growth starts.
  • Sedum (Stonecrop): The dried flower heads of sedum plants, like Autumn Joy Sedum, can add interest to the winter garden. You can leave them standing, and they may even provide food for overwintering birds.
  • Coneflowers (Echinacea): Coneflower seed heads can be left standing through the fall and winter. They not only provide visual interest but also offer seeds for birds.
  • Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia): Leave the dried seed heads of black-eyed Susans intact through the fall and winter. Birds often feed on the seeds.
  • Butterfly Bush (Buddleia): While you can prune butterfly bushes lightly in the fall, it’s often better to wait until early spring to perform a more substantial pruning to encourage new growth.
  • Yarrow (Achillea): Yarrow can be left standing through the winter, as its seed heads provide visual interest and food for birds.
  • Lavender: Pruning lavender in the fall can lead to winter damage. It’s best to prune lavender in early spring when you see new growth emerging at the base.
  • Lily of the Valley: Allow the foliage of the lily of the valley to die back naturally in the fall. Trimming it too early can weaken the plants.
  • Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis): The foliage of a bleeding heart can die back in the fall, but it’s generally best to leave it until spring when new growth begins.
  • Hellebore (Lenten Rose): Hellebores retain their attractive evergreen foliage through the winter. Prune away any tattered or damaged leaves in the spring.
  • Coral Bells (Heuchera): Coral bells often have semi-evergreen to evergreen foliage that provides winter interest. Wait until spring to remove any dead or damaged leaves.
  • Peonies: While you can cut back the dead foliage of peonies in the fall for cleanliness, it’s not necessary for the plant’s health. The main pruning for peonies should be done in late fall or early spring.
fall perennials for cottage garden

Are There Perennials You Can Plant in the Fall?

Yes, you can plant certain perennials in the fall, and in some regions, it’s an ideal time to do so. Fall planting allows perennials to establish their root systems before winter, giving them a head start for the following growing season. Here are some perennials that you can plant in the fall:

  • Peonies: Fall is the best time to plant peonies. Make sure to plant them with their “eyes” (buds) no more than 2 inches below the soil surface.
  • Coral Bells (Heuchera): These shade-tolerant perennials are great for fall planting. Plant them at the same depth as they were in their nursery pots.
  • Siberian Iris: Fall is an excellent time to plant Siberian iris. They prefer consistently moist soil during their establishment period.
  • Daylilies (Hemerocallis): Fall is a suitable time for planting daylilies, especially if you want them to establish themselves before the next growing season.
  • Salvia: Many salvia varieties can be planted in the fall, but be sure to choose those that are cold-hardy for your region.
  • Hellebore (Lenten Rose): Plant hellebores in the fall for early spring blooms. They are shade-tolerant and thrive in well-drained soil.
  • Hosta: These shade-loving perennials can be planted in the fall. Ensure they have adequate moisture during the establishment period.
  • Astilbe: Fall planting allows astilbe to establish their roots before winter. They appreciate consistently moist soil and partial shade.
  • Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis): Fall is a suitable time for planting bleeding hearts, but they may not bloom until the following spring.
  • Lily of the Valley: These fragrant perennials can be planted in the fall. Plant the pips (rhizomes) just below the soil surface.
  • Lungwort (Pulmonaria): Lungworts thrive in partial to full shade and can be planted in the fall for spring blooms.
  • Bergenia: Bergenia, also known as elephant ear or pig squeak, can be planted in the fall. They have bold foliage and early spring blooms.
  • Autumn Joy Sedum: While established plants are known for their fall blooms, you can also plant sedum in the fall to enjoy their display in future seasons.

Is It Best to Plant Perennials in the Fall?

Planting perennials in the fall can be an excellent choice in many regions, but whether it’s the “best” time depends on various factors, including your local climate and the specific perennial species you want to plant. Here are some considerations to help you determine if fall is the best time for planting perennials:

Advantages of Fall Planting:

  • Establishment Time: Fall planting allows perennials to establish their root systems before the onset of winter. This gives them a head start, making them more resilient and better prepared to handle the challenges of the following growing season.
  • Cooler Temperatures: Fall provides cooler, more moderate temperatures that are less stressful on newly planted perennials. This can reduce transplant shock and improve the chances of successful establishment.
  • Soil Warmth: The soil is still relatively warm in the fall, which encourages root growth even as air temperatures cool down. This is beneficial for root development.
  • Less Watering: Fall typically brings more consistent rainfall, reducing the need for frequent watering. This can make the maintenance of newly planted perennials easier.
  • Spring Blooms: Some perennials planted in the fall may produce blooms in the following spring, enhancing your garden’s early-season beauty.

Considerations for Fall Planting:

  • Local Climate: The suitability of fall planting varies by region. In areas with mild and temperate fall and winter conditions, fall planting is often ideal. However, in regions with severe winters, it may be better to plant in spring when the threat of frost has passed.
  • Perennial Species: Certain perennials are more amenable to fall planting than others. Some have specific timing requirements and are better planted in spring. It’s crucial to research the specific needs of the perennials you intend to plant.
  • Soil Preparation: Proper soil preparation is essential for fall planting success. Make sure the soil is well-amended, well-draining, and free of weeds.
  • Mulching: Applying a layer of mulch around newly planted perennials can help insulate the soil and retain moisture. However, be cautious not to mulch too heavily around the base of the plants.
  • Watering: Continue to monitor soil moisture and water as needed during the fall, especially if rainfall is inconsistent.
fall perennials for cottage garden

Is October Too Early to Cut Back Perennials?

In many regions, cutting back perennials in October is an appropriate and timely task. However, the timing for cutting back perennials can vary depending on your specific climate and the types of perennials you have in your garden.

Here are some general guidelines to help you decide whether October is the right time for cutting back your perennials:

  • Frost Date: The first frost date in your region is a critical factor to consider. In regions with early and severe frosts, it’s often best to wait until after the first frost has occurred before cutting back perennials. Frost can help trigger the natural dormancy process in plants.
  • Plant Type: Some perennials benefit from being left standing over the winter to provide food and shelter for wildlife. Examples include ornamental grasses, coneflowers (Echinacea), black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia), and sedums. Leaving these plants uncut until spring can provide visual interest and ecological benefits.
  • Evergreen Perennials: Perennials that maintain foliage throughout the winter, such as certain heucheras and bergenia, usually don’t need to be cut back until spring. Their leaves help protect the crown of the plant.
  • Fall Cleanup: For perennials that die back completely in the fall, like peonies or daylilies, it’s generally safe to cut them back in October once they have gone completely dormant. Be sure to remove dead or yellowing foliage.
  • Maintenance: If you notice any signs of disease or pest infestation on your perennials, it’s a good idea to remove affected foliage or plants promptly, regardless of the time of year.
  • Local Recommendations: Local gardening resources, nurseries, and cooperative extension offices can provide specific guidance for your area. They often have recommendations tailored to your region’s climate and conditions.

Have you found some fall perennials you’d like to plant in your cottage garden?

Not only will your autumn garden spaces look vibrant and beautiful with these flowering plants mixed in with your other shrubs, but the local wildlife will be supported as well.

If you have any questions or additional suggestions, feel free to share them in the comments below. And be sure to share this blog post link with anyone who may find these gardening tips useful.

Until next time,

Happy Fall Gardening!

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7 fall perennials for your cottage garden
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13 Comments

  1. Kim, love all the fall recommendations. I am loving those Japanese Anemones. Those flowers will be added to my list to add into my perennial garden. Your gardens are amazing!

    1. Thank you, Tammy! I am really loving the Japanese Anemones and will have to look for more colors to add to the garden.

  2. Beautiful Kim we planted a few of these flowers last year and I’m loving the Sedum too. It’s so beautiful ?

  3. Your blog is very enjoyable to read with each posting. However the last flower looks like a coneflower. I am not familiar with it as a tickseed. I love coneflowers and the colors are so vibrant. Thank you for sharing your ideas.

    1. Thank you, Helen. I actually forgot to add the picture of the Tickseed and you have reminded me, so thank you! Yes, you are definitely looking at a coneflower.

  4. Kim I love each and every one of these flowers. I wish we lived closer so we could share our stock! I have Japanese anemones but its a different variety than yours. So pretty!

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