We have been focusing on lawn problems for the past several months and this month I want to talk about adding fall color to your landscape.

The Changing Weather

Fall is my favorite time of the year because it is so refreshing to get a break from the long hot days of summer. This summer wasn’t as hot and dry as what we have seen in the past but hot and very humid. Usually we are dealing with dead bedding plants due to heat and drought. For the second summer in a row we have seen many people lose their bedding plants due to excessive moisture and poor drainage, especially after the deluge we saw in early September. Any of your bedding plants that survived our hot wet summer are as refreshed as you are that the weather is changing. With this change of weather, we get an opportunity to freshen up our flower beds with some plants that will tolerate much cooler temperatures.

Amend The Soil

It will be too hot to plant pansies and snapdragons until the end of October but now is a good time to do proper bed prep. Most bedding plants like organically rich well-draining soil. Heavy clay soils stay too wet and harbor moisture loving diseases. These pathogens when combined with other stress factors like abnormally high temperatures will find it easy to attack the root system and cause premature death, especially snapdragons. By adding compost to heavy clay soils you do two things, compost will add billions of beneficial microbes to your soil as well as enhance drainage by keeping clay particles from sticking together. Also keep in mind that if you have heavy clay soils that don’t drain well you will have to raise your beds preferably about 12”. Just adding good soil in a hole of clay will give you a bowl of spongy wet soil that doesn’t drain.

If your soil appears to be rich but will not grow plants well, it would be advisable to get a comprehensive soil test done before guessing what to add. Adding too much of the wrong thing like phosphorous can cause your soil to lock up much needed nutrients and render it useless for several years. Too much nitrogen can give you very fast growing massive plants without very many flowers or none at all.

Less Watering in Winter

One of the nice things about cool season color is that it normally requires almost no extra water once it is established. Because of the short cool days of the winter, water demands are not that high. During normal winters, there is usually enough rain to satisfy the water needs of most cool season plants here.

What and When to Plant

These are annuals that we have found will grow well in a normal mild southeast Texas winter. Some of these will take very cold weather without any damage at all.

Alyssum-is a mild winter annual that grows 5” tall x 8” wide. Needs at least 6 hours of full sun, small fragrant flowers, great border plant, comes in white, purple, pink. Low growing. Deer Resistant. Wait until October to plant.

Cabbage and Kale- are very cold hardy that can take temps in the teens, needs at least 6 hours of full sun, deer will not eat this stuff, starts off green but cold weather makes it change colors. Center of plants will turn red, pink, white or purple.

Calendula-takes temperatures into the low twenties, blooms with quarter sized flowers in orange or yellow. Grows to about 12” tall and wide. Deer do not like these.

Cyclamen-are the only cool weather plant we sell that will do OK in the shade. These are always a little more expensive than the others because of the time it takes to grow them. They make beautiful flowers that come in the following colors: red, pink, rose, purple, and white. BEWARE, deer think these are candy!!

Dianthus-are great bedding plants that will last for several years. Will grow in hot or cold weather. 8-10” tall and wide. Multiple colors to choose from. Deer resistant.

Dusty Miller-is a silvery gray foliage plant. Grows to about 12” tall x 6” wide. Deer resistant.

Lobelia-6” tall mild season annual with shades of blue flowers. Will grow in light shade. Deer resistant. Will suffer major freeze damage in the mid to low twenties.

Pansies-DEER LOVE THESE. Mainstay of Texas winter flower beds. Come in all colors. Grows 8-10” tall and wide. Grow these in as much sun as possible. Wait until the last week of October or the first week of November to plant. When planted during hot weather, plants do not start off well. Will take very cold weather and bloom all winter.

Petunias-have been around forever and most people think of them as a warm season annual but they have shown to work well during our normal mild winters. The deer won’t eat them and they are tough. Temps in the 20’s for short duration only does minor damage. Plant in as much sun as possible with more than 8 hours of full sun, starting as soon as you can find them for sale in the fall.

Snapdragons-these come in dwarf, medium and tall. We only sell the dwarf that grow 8” tall x 8” wide and the medium that grows 18” tall x 8” wide. Deer do not like these but will pull them up sometimes to taste the flowers but will then spit them out. Grow these in as much sun as possible for best blooms. These bloom heaviest in the fall and spring when the days are warmer and longer. When planted during hot weather snapdragons many times will get root rot. The pathogens that cause root rot thrive in warm moist soils. Once the soil cools down we no longer see this problem. We advise to wait til later in October to plant snapdragons. If you plant them before that, monitor soil moisture. They will not freeze.

Violas-these are mini-pansies. Come in all colors. Much more heat tolerant than pansies. Bloom with smaller flowers but much more profusely than pansies. Have a semi-trailing habit. Deer Love these.

Things to do in October

*If you have had problems in the past with brown patch then pretreat your lawn, especially those places that had the disease last year, with Nitro Phos Brown Patch Control or Eagle Turf fungicide. Most fungicides work much better as a preventative than as a curative.

*Fertilize your lawn with Nitro Phos Fall Special or if you want to go organic, use Microlife 6-2-4 or Microlife Brown Patch, this is an organic product that is loaded with inoculants that will help your grass resist brown patch. DO NOT USE FERTILIZERS WITH A HIGH NITROGEN CONTENT!

*Think about changing the schedule on your irrigation system. Water demands on grass and plants will go down with shorter cooler days and nights. Less water will save money and lessen disease problems.

*Many cool season bedding plants will start showing up in the big box stores. DO NOT BUY PANSIES until the end of October or the first of November.

*If you have been putting off any major landscape projects, now is the time to start them. Trees, shrubs and perennials do much better the following summer when planted in the fall.

For great gardening products and information, come by the Growers Outlet and visit with any member of our team to get the help you need or go to our website at We have the products and knowledge to help you have the prettiest yard on the block.