Published on 09/09/04

Choose bright fall color for beds and containers

By Faith Peppers
University of Georgia

As the curtain falls on the summer show of garden blooms, it's time to gear up for the fall preview. Several hardy annual varieties weather Georgia winters to keep landscapes colorful until spring arrives.

While pansies (Viola X wittrockiana) are by far the most popular hardy annual grown in Georgia, many other excellent choices fit Georgia growing conditions.

Paul Thomas, a horticulture professor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, offers these hardy plants for fall landscapes and containers:

Alyssum. Lobularia maritima (sweet Alyssum). A low-growing (4 to 8 inches), spreading plant, Alyssum blooms from late spring until frost. Colors range from white to rose to purple. Sow in fall.

Baby's breath. Gypsophila elegans. White, rose and purple varieties are available. Plants form round clumps 1 to 2 feet high. Plants bloom only about six weeks. Successive plantings are necessary to ensure season-long flowers. Don't confuse this with G. paniculata (perennial baby's breath).

Candytuft. Iberis umbellata. Several colors are available besides the familiar white. Plants form a mat-like habit. Annual candytuft is not as commonly used as I. sempervirens (perennial candytuft).

Calendula. Calendula officinalis (pot marigold). Varieties range from 1 to 2 feet tall. Yellow and gold predominate in the color range. A half-hardy annual, Calendula performs poorly under hot conditions but is good for early- and late-season color.

Cornflower. Centaurea cyanus (bachelor's button) is naturalized in much of Georgia. Farmers consider it a weed. Because of its short bloom season, its best in the cut-flower garden or naturalized areas. C. montana (perennial bachelor's button) may be more useful in the landscape.

Cosmos. Cosmos sulphureus and C. bipinnatus. Ranging from 1 to 4 feet tall, Cosmos are among the easiest annuals to grow. Taller varieties tend to fall over and may need staking. C. sulphureus varieties are mostly yellow and gold and C. bipinnatus white to pink to crimson.

Larkspur. Delphinium and Consolida species and hybrids. Larkspur is an old garden favorite for providing tall, spiky effects. They're often used as cut flowers. The perennial Delphiniums usually do poorly in the Southeast, but the Larkspur types do well.

Pansy. Most are planted in the fall and produce some flowers in fall and winter, followed by peak flowering in spring. Established plants can be transplanted in early spring. Nearly all colors are available. The smaller-flowered multiflora types are generally best for landscapes.

Poppy. Eschsholzia californica (California poppy), Papaver nudicale (Iceland poppy) and P. rhoeas (Shirley poppy). These poppies are excellent annuals for naturalizing. Seeds are usually sown in late fall or early spring for early blooms. Many colors are available.

Snapdragon. Anthirrhinum majus. Many varieties and colors are available, ranging from 6 to 36 inches tall. The taller ones require staking. They're grown mostly as cut flowers.

Sweet pea. Lathyrus odoratus. Sweet pea is grown mainly for its fragrant, colorful flowers, which make good cut flowers. Bush and climbing types are available. The climbers can be used on fences and trellises. Sweet pea grows best under cool conditions.

For complete information on growing fall annuals, contact your county Extension Service agent. Request the publication, "Flowering Annuals for Georgia Gardens." Or get it on-line (

(Faith Peppers is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

Faith Peppers is the director of public affairs with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.