Fall is time for mums, pansies, kale and cabbage

Fall officially arrived last week and we have been blessed with at least a little rain in the last two weeks. We could definitely use several more nice rains.

This is the time to plant hardy mums, pansies, ornamental kale and cabbage for fall color. Fall garden mums recently had a name change by taxonomists from chrysanthemums to Dendranthema x grandiflora but they are still the same plant that does best in full sun planted in well drained soils. These colorful perennials make mounds of color and should be planted on 18” to 24” centers to create a spectacular display. They will make great color in container gardens as well but should be transplanted into a ground bed before a hard freeze to help insure they will overwinter to create a show again next fall as they bloom naturally with shorter day lengths. Mulching them with a layer of hulls or bark helps more tender varieties to survive the winter for a repeat performance next year. Select from the vast smorgasboard of colors and flower styles to make a “fall color” statement in your yard.

Pansies are one of my favorite flowers because they show their pretty flowers or interesting and colorful “faces” not just in fall but all through the winter. It is always inspiring to see their cute faces poking through snow or ice and still providing a dash of color and hope. Pansies and their related violas have been painted and written about since early Greek civilizations. Tough alpine varieties were discovered by the French, who called them the French word pensee which means thought or remembrance. Over time that name evolved into pansy just as the wild pansy has evolved and enjoyed breeding work to become the pansy we know today. Over the last 50 years, breeders in Japan, Germany and the United States have introduced hundreds of new varieties in most all colors. They can be of a single color or may feature 2 or 3 colors on different petals to create really interesting “faces” to charm us. They thrive in cool weather and when planted in a sunny area, in the fall, will usually grow and flower until the heat of late spring wears them out. Choose stocky plants with dark or bright green foliage and plant in a sunny, well drained area about 6” to 10” apart depending on how thick you want them. It is always good to add organic matter to the soil when you plant and pansies will benefit from a slow release fertilizer applied at transplant or soon thereafter.

Don’t forget to water your hardy mums, pansies and other fall plant material after planting and regularly whenever we are not enjoying regular rains from above.

If you plan to plant a tall fescue lawn or overseed your bermuda lawn with tall fescue for a green winter lawn you need to sow your seed now or in the next few weeks. Visit your local nursery or garden center to select the best variety for your yard while you are picking out your mums and pansies.

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