How to brighten your landscape this fall

Men laying new hardwood flooring

What do you think of when you hear the word “autumn”? For most, the image of a countryside radiant with orange-, yellow- and red-leafed trees comes to mind. Whether on the trees or in our home decor, these warm tones are synonymous with the fall season, perhaps to continue the glow of summer as the cool weather fast approaches. And, as the leaves begin to fall from the trees on and around your home’s yard, your landscape’s spring and summer colors wilt away, leaving you in need of some fall plantings to keep your home’s exterior bright and in tune with the season.

“Fall is a great time to landscape,” says Patricia L. Collins, director of gardens at Callaway Gardens. “Most plants are not growing vigorously, the days are cooler and extensive watering is not usually a problem. We also tend to get more rain in late fall and winter. This gives the plants time to have active root growth while the tops of the plants are not putting on new growth. This establishes the plants, and they are ready for the following spring and summer seasons.”

By the budget

Landscaping projects can range from small and inexpensive to large, intensive and costly, depending on what you need and want to achieve. As outlined by Jennifer Hoxsie, a member of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD), the following is a breakdown of the landscaping projects that have the most impact for each of four cost totals:

$200—Create a fall display of annuals with mums, pansies, ornamental cabbage and kale, ornamental peppers and grasses in planters or beds.

$500—To protect your plants from dropping temperatures, spread mulch throughout their beds. Make sure they are completely weeded first. For this amount, you can have the mulch delivered and spread it yourself.

$1,000—Have all of your trees and shrubs professionally pruned for health and vigor. “A trained professional knows how to identify and address girdling roots, crossing branches, airflow and how and when to prune different species,” Hoxsie says.

$2,500—Have all of your trees and shrubs professionally pruned, have all of the perennials and groundcover deadheaded and trimmed and have all of the planting beds professionally weeded, edged and mulched to give the site a fresh, clean look.

Taskmaster to-do’s

Just like regular household chores, planting and maintenance take time. To ensure your green thumb’s time is maximized this fall—not only for fall color, but for color next spring, as well—it is best to create a schedule of tasks to keep your garden healthy and ready for winter.

Shane LeBlanc, president of Selective Designs, offers the following outline:

Daily: Control the amount of moisture each plant receives so it does not drown. Make sure your yard is draining properly as the water table comes up in the winter. Proper drainage ensures growth for the plants.

Monthly: Pruning, only once, in the late winter months will ensure new growth for spring. Pruning done at the wrong time, such as at the end of summer or early fall, creates a risk for frost, and new growth stimulated will be too tender and won’t survive frost damage.

One time only (this season): Place pre-emergent in your landscape shrubbery beds, not in the grass. This kills all weed seeds that established over the summer months. Also, properly plan for any hardscapes or pools you would like for the following year during these fall months. You will need time for the installation of these projects, and you will want your pool to be ready as soon as summer arrives.

Britany Miller, director of marketing and sales at Miller Landscape, says a moisture meter is an important tool to ensure the success of a fall landscape job. “Continuing to water throughout the winter pushes air through the soil, while mulching your beds correctly will also ensure healthy, returning plants,” she says. Be sure to check your soil biweekly to ensure it is at a 15-percent moisture level

Choosing your pro

Armed with the schedule of work ahead of you for your fall landscape, you may find great relief in the assistance a professional can provide—especially an experienced, knowledgeable one who can guide you through making the right choices for your yard. After all, you are working with living, breathing exterior decor, and mistakes sometimes aren’t identified to the untrained eye until it is too late to save the plants. “Qualified landscape professionals will help you choose the right plant for the right place in your garden,” Collins says. “They will also know how to plant particular plants—such as not planting azaleas and rhododendrons too deeply because they are shallow-rooted.”

Collins lists the following ways to find a reputable landscaper in town:

  • Go to highly regarded garden centers and nurseries and see who they recommend and who they have on staff.
  • Ask friends and neighbors who they have used.
  • Always ask for references. Who have they worked for? Check with their former and present clients.
  • Contact the Georgia Green Industry Association at for a listing of landscape professionals. Also, beginning gardeners might consider joining organizations such as the Georgia Perennial Plant Association and Georgia Native Plant Society to network and learn from, and about, some local landscape professionals.

With these tips and tasks at hand, your landscape will be glorious with fall color all season and in good shape for next spring!

Expert Tip

“For any successful garden, I would encourage beginners to start small. Begin with a small space and make sure you have prepared the soil properly,” says Patricia L. Collins, director of gardens at Callaway Gardens. “See how much time it takes to weed, water and maintain. With a little success, the beginner can then branch out to a larger area, and become a seasoned and successful gardener.”

For more garden tips from the experts at Callaway, visit to register for one of their many workshops. Pre-registration is required.


Top Fall Plants

Perk up your yard with these fall flowers and foliage

Arrowwood viburnum_5588119ARROWWOOD VIBURNUM (Viburnum Dentatum)
This shrub has several seasons of interest and can be used as a hedge, in shrub beds and mixed borders. It provides a red color in the fall, creamy spring flowers and blue fruit that birds love in the summer. Plant it in full sun to partial shade.



aster_15227446ASTER (Aster)
A perennial flower with a fall bloom or an annual flower in a fall container, Asters come in just about any color—red, pink, orange and yellow are the most common. Plant these in full sun and moist, well-drained soil.



Offering pink flowers on leafless stems, this perennial bulb is great for groundcover plantings or mixed with annuals or perennials for fall bloom. Plant it in full sun to partial shade, in moist, rich soil.



With newer varieties hardier and lower maintenance, chrysanthemums are a great choice for borders as a perennial or in fall containers as an annual. Like asters, these flowers come in almost any color and should be planted in areas of full sun.


JUNEBERRY_19592431JUNEBERRY (Amelanchier)
A blend between a large shrub and a small tree, this low-maintenance plant takes several years to fully establish itself, then ensures gorgeous fall colors of yellow, orange and brick red. It also provides colors in the other three seasons, along with edible fruit. You can plant it in areas of full sun or partial shade, and in moist, well-drained soil.


Ornamental cabbage_17796982ORNAMENTAL CABBAGE AND KALE (Brassica Oleracea)
An annual in most areas, it is possible for this plant to overwinter in milder regions. Offering green, decorative leaves with white, pink and/or purple coloring, you can use ornamental cabbage and kale in containers or to fill voids in flower beds—it looks great when planted with mums, asters and pansies. Plant it in full sun and in moist, well-drained soil.


Pansies_57598627PANSY (Viola x Wittrockiana)
Blooming best when in full sun, pansies provide great fall color in an array of bold shades, including deep purples and blues, golden yellows and more. Plant these annuals in containers, mixed with perennials or to fill bare spots in annual gardens.


Once established, this perennial vine needs yearly pruning, but provides a great vertical accent on a trellis, over an arbor or on a fence, or as a backdrop for a flower border. The vine offers tiny, white, fragrant flowers, and thrives in full sun to light shade and in moist, well-drained soil


TOAD LILY_51678844TOAD LILY (Tricrytis)
While challenging to establish, once these perennial flowers take root, they provide a gorgeous purple bloom with little flowers that look like miniature orchids. Their bloom is subtle, but eye-catching when sited correctly—in a fall garden or a border. Plant them in partial shade with organic, moist, well-drained soil


witchhazel_50280673WITCHHAZEL (Hamamelis Virginiana)
This low-maintenance shrub is best suited to border natural areas and mixed beds, providing yellow flowers. You can plant it in areas of both full sun and some shade, in well-drained to dry soil.



—Melinda Myers, author and gardening expert, Melinda Myers LLC

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