Fall is a special and magical time of the year for outdoor activities.  Casual outdoor activities with your family like a visit to the pumpkin patch or apple orchard, or a crisp fall hike are a great way to enjoy the season.  One of our favorite outdoor activities is planting flower bulbs, trees, shrubs and bare root perennials.  Perhaps the cooler temperatures make outdoor activities such as planting bulbs or trees more appealing. The appeal could be in the scent of leaves and morning dew on the grass permeating the atmosphere.  Enjoying time outdoors in Fall and the work you put in this fall can reap big rewards for the following spring and summer months if you plan your plantings correctly.

Planting your fall planted bulbs with bare root perennials can help ease the work for planting the following spring. Peonies, Poppies, Daylilies and Tall Garden Phlox are 4 of our favorite bare root perennials to plant in fall for the following spring and summer season.

Peonies fill in garden spaces and sometimes act a bit shrub like even though their foliage does die back in winter like most herbaceous perennials.  When peonies are planted correctly 1-2” below the soil surface  in a mostly sunny area, they are long lived spring blooming perennials which can last for 75 or more years.

Oriental Poppies are true garden gems with their large, showy, vibrant and papery blooms. Poppies bloom in mid to late spring with your allium, and late blooming tulips. Similar to your fall planted bulbs, poppies will go dormant a few weeks after blooming once summer temperature arrive and will re-appear the following spring. To ensure success with your oriental poppy roots dig the planting hole about 1-2” deep, spreading the roots out under the ground, and cover the root portion with soil. The crown of the plant and any sprouts should be at or above ground level. Poppies require good drainage, especially over the winter months. It is important that you amend your soil to ensure good drainage. Provide a layer of natural mulch to protect the roots from fluctuating temperatures and moisture, which can be detrimental to the survival of the poppy roots upon establishment.

Bare root daylilies are a great perennial to start with if you are new to gardening with bare roots; they are very forgiving and easy to grow. Daylily roots can be planted in the fall or spring months, and will perform well planted in either planting season. By planting in the fall months the daylilies will be a bit more established in spring when they are prepared to grow. Fall planting will yield a happier and more floriferous plant for their first growing season.  Daylilies should be planted with their roots 1-2” below the soil surface.  Spread the roots out upon planting to encourage a strong and health root system which is the foundation of any healthy plant. The crown and any sprouts should be just above the soil surface. Plant daylilies in a full sun area, and prepare for a bounty of mid-summer blooms the following season.

Late summer can be a slower time for blooms in the garden, as many perennials have put on a show mid-summer and are now preparing to rest. Tall garden phlox are a wonderful full sun perennial that can help extend the bloom season a bit past mid-summer.  Tall garden phlox have clusters of bright and showy flowers, often in pink, purple and shades of white. Growing 36” or more, tall garden phlox are great back of the border plants, and do well planted in groups of 3-5.  Plant your tall garden phlox 1-2” below the soil surface spreading the roots out, with the crown of the plant at or slightly above ground level.

Now that you know a little more about some of our favorite perennials for planting in fall we would like to offer some tips on how to incorporate them into your fall bulb plantings.  Peonies are a mainstay in spring perennial garden, since peonies tend to live a long time you will want to plant them in a spot where they will not need to be moved. The lush and dark green foliage of peonies make for an excellent backdrop for late blooming tulips such as Parrot Tulips, Single Late Tulips and Lily Flowering Tulips.  Peonies bloom a bit later than the tulips, which make tulips and peonies a great combination to extend the interest and bloom season.   A classic combination with peony plants is bearded iris. Plant bearded iris behind the more appealing peony foliage you can cover the bearded iris foliage and enjoy the blooms of bearded iris and peony at the same time, since they are both late spring blooming perennials. We love this classic combination of Winterfest Bearded Iris with Plena Rosea Peony:

Dormancy is a universal trait among spring blooming bulbs; they must go to sleep after blooming to gather energy for the next season’s blooms. Poppies are a spring blooming perennial that also goes dormant after blooming, you will want to cover their dying foliage with other perennials that bloom in summer. Daylilies are a great choice of summer blooming perennial to plant in front of your poppies to cover the void they will leave when dormant in summer.  Poppies even though they do go dormant they bloom later in spring and are a nice companion plant for daffodils who bloom several weeks prior to the poppies, therefore the poppies can be used to cover the fading daffodil foliage, and the daylilies then can be used to cover the fading poppy foliage in summer.  If your garden has a warm color scheme we suggest a bright combination early spring, late spring and mid-summer blooms: 15 Loveday Daffodil, 3 Pinnacle Oriental Poppy and 3 Brookwood Lee Causey Daylilies.

Filling the void after all the exciting blooms of spring and mid-summer can be a bit thought provoking. There are many great choices for late summer blooming perennials, false sunflower, Joe pye weed, toad lily, and turtle head are good choices for late summer blooms, as well as tall garden phlox. Tall garden phlox when planted in fall will help fill in some of the spaces left by your tall spring blooming bulbs like allium, single late tulips, Dutch iris and bearded iris. If you are like me and have an affinity for violet to keep your violet themed garden blooming all season plant the following in your violet bed or border space:  30 Purple Prince Single Early Tulips (planted 5 per clump), 30 Violet Beauty Single Early Tulips (planted 5 per clump) , 5 Gladiator Allium, 5 Wild horses Daylily and 3 Amethyst Tall Phlox.

Having a plan goes a long way not only in life but in the garden. By planning and preparing your spring and summer gardens of bulbs and perennials this fall, you can save a lot of work the following year plus enjoy a bounty of blooms for a much longer time. As with all fall plantings, water only after the initial planting, prepare your soil to make sure you have adequate drainage, natural mulch makes a big impact on the health and happiness of your fall planted bulbs and perennials. Now, get out there and enjoy the crisp autumn air at the pumpkin patch, apple orchard or in your own private at home garden oasis.