Flowers for Fall

I used to think that there were flower gardeners and there were vegetable gardeners.  Now, I don’t like to appear biased against flowers (even though veggies are my preferred garden variety), so I was happy to get this question in at Ask Gardenerd this week:

“Just got done reading your newsletter for recommended Fall veggies and
herbs. What kinds of annual flowers do you recommend for warmer
climates in the Fall (I am in zone 8/9, Rancho Cucamonga) that can be
companion planted with these crops? Thanks!”

My favorite flowers to recommend are also beneficial insectaries, meaning they attract beneficial insects to your garden.  So not only do you get to enjoy the beauty and fragrance of flowers, you get to enjoy the work they’re doing for you. Here are a few of my top choices for beneficial flowers that grow well during fall in Zone 8/9:

Alyssum – attracts hoverflies, lacewings, and Tachnid flies
Cosmos – attracts hoverflies, lacewings and parasitic wasps
Nasturtiums – puts off a smell that wards off aphids
Yarrow – attracts hoverflies, parasitic wasps and ladybugs (this is a perennial, so if you’re seeking only annuals, you may want to leave this out)

Other good companion plants are edible flowers like Pansies and Violas.  You can also let your parsley and cilantro go to seed and enjoy the flowers they produce. They also attract beneficial insects.  According to Louise Riotte, author of Carrots Love Tomatoes, good companion plants for Brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, etc) are herbs like dill, chamomile, sage, peppermint, and rosemary.  Be sure to plant mint in a pot all by itself – it will take over your garden if you don’t keep it in check.

As far as other flowers for fall, you can’t go wrong with bulbs like paperwhite narcissus.  Mine start poking their heads out of the ground in October (contrary to what most bulbs are supposed to do – which is wait until spring) and their fragrance fills the air through Thanksgiving.   Hyacinth behaves similarly in our warmer climate.  In fact, I have a whole bed of bulbs planted that come up in this order:

Paperwhites – October
Hyacinth – November
Gladiolus – January
Irises – March / April

I invite all you members of the Gardenerd Community to post your favorite annual flowers that do well in fall.  This list is just the very tip of the iceberg.  Share your favorites with us here.

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