Cool Plants for Cool Weather

Cool Season Annuals

Some plants refuse to come in out of the cold...

A perfect October shows up with plenty of crisp, sunny days and cool, clear nights—as summer’s foliage reveals its true colors of gold, orange or blood-red. As most heat-seeking perennials lose their luster, happy-faced pansies begin to strut their stuff. Certain plants love the chill of autumn! Tidy chrysanthemums fill containers with colorful pincushions while snapdragons stand at attention. Ornamental cabbages and kale actually get more colorful as the temperatures dip. And, the cool autumn air revives Creeping Jenny to make a comeback after a hot, dry summer.

So, gardeners, don’t despair when you feel fall’s chilly fingers on your shoulder. Look for annuals and perennials that thrive during this slow slide towards winter. And, don’t forget to include the colorful, grand finale of pumpkins and mutant gourds with their blast of orange, scarlet, mysterious-blue and ghostly white colors. Nature turns super-natural by the end of October but—as you know—in the blink of a witch's eye, the magic of flowering annuals and perennials slowly will vanish until next year.

 

Pansy (Viola x wittrockiana)

The friendly faces of cool season pansies are welcome additions to outdoor containers and garden beds… a perfect way to prolong the gardening season. They also can display a darker side when they pair up in jet black and pumpkin-orange hues… sure to add a sinister element for your Halloween decorations.

‘Icicle’ pansies are winter hardy and should return to bloom again in the spring.

 

Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus)

The spikes of brightly colored flowers bloom profusely in cooler temperatures. These flowers are standouts with a velvet texture and petals in every color, except true blue. They are considered tender perennials but we usually treat them as annuals in our zone 5 gardens. 

 

Ornamental Cabbage and Flowering Kale (Brassica oleracea species)

Both of these plants are very close relatives of edible cabbages and kale. They have been bred for their looks but are not as tasty or tender as the edible varieties. The leaves can be very colorful and have been hybridized to feature rose, pink, white and violet colors that become bolder with cooler temperatures. Luckily, they both cabbage and kale thrive in full sun to partial shade, so you can plant them anywhere--lasting even when the snow starts to cover them.

Ornamental Cabbage: Plants have smooth leaf edges.

Flowering Kale: Plants have serrated or fringed leaf edges.

 

Golden Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia 'Aurea')

This perennial is loved especially for its small, yellow-green leaves. However, it does produce cup-shaped, bright yellow flowers, too. Creeping Jenny or Lysimachia can be treated as a low-growing groundcover in garden beds or as a trailing plant in outdoor containers. The leaf color is brought out to its maximum brightness in full sun but the plant can thrive in partial shade. It can grow quickly or aggressively in certain locations but it is easy to remove. Preferring a medium to wet soil, spring and fall are the best seasons for this plant.