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Color Gardening for the Fall

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One of the benefits of living in Florida is the ability to grow a colorful garden year-round.

One of the benefits of living in Florida is the ability to grow a colorful garden year-round. Annuals can add a bright pop to the landscape when used selectively. Instead of landscaping exclusively with these short-lived plants, use them as accents in plantings and containers to add some extra excitement. Our annual plants are very seasonal and usually will not last for a full year. The annual plants we can grow in the fall, winter, and early spring are very different from those grown in the heat of the summer. As we head into the fall, here are some tips and flower picks for successful annual plantings.

Know Your Site Conditions
Sun or shade, sandy soil or potting mix, you need to match your plants to your garden site for best growth. When looking at the tags at a garden center, shade means less than four hours of sun, partial shade means less than six hours of sun, and full sun means six or more hours of sun. Plants will be more susceptible to disease and pests if grown in the wrong conditions. Is there a source of water nearby? If not, consider how much hand watering you are willing to do and pick drought tolerant flowers if the answer is ‘very little’.

Our soils here in Seminole County are often made up of sand… and more sand. If you are not going to amend the soil with compost, consider adding mulch to your flower beds. Mulch will help to hold on to water, keep down weed pressure, and over time it breaks down to add organic material to the soil. If you opt for putting annuals in containers, make sure the container has a drainage hole and is large enough for the mature plants, and use a potting mix which is light and fluffy, not one which feels dense or coarse.

Whether you buy them from a garden center in containers or purchase seeds, your annuals will need some form of nutrients. Our sandy soils do a poor job of holding on to fertilizer, so it is a good idea to purchase a slow release fertilizer that will provide nutrients to your annuals over the course of several months, as opposed to a liquid quick release fertilizer that will be gone with the next rain event. Your slow release fertilizer should be mixed into the top six inches of the soil before planting.

General Care
Make sure you water your annuals as needed, which may be multiple times a week or just once, depending on rainfall and the drought tolerance of the plant. Most annuals benefit from deadheading, which just means you should remove spent flowers to encourage more blooms. Keep an eye out for opportunistic pests by checking your plants at least once a week for damage or abnormalities. An insect infestation or fungal disease caught early is much easier to control.

Flowers for Fall
Flower selection for fall, and when to plant, depends entirely on the weather. If temperatures are still regularly above 85 degrees each day, it is too early to plant most fall flowering annuals. Typically, we see falling temperatures sometime in October, which means if you are starting from seed you should be starting most of your fall annuals in September. 

Some of my favorites for the fall are as follows: Alyssum is a small, white, purple, or pink flowered plant that works well as a filler in containers or trailing over their edge. Snapdragons can be dwarf or full-sized and make for both a great cut flower and a thrilling backdrop for other plants. Finally, as a pretty filler in a container, consider violas, which are the smaller cousin to pansies and usually do better in our hotter southern weather. You can find more information on what annuals to grow at

UF/IFAS Extension 
Seminole County Extension is a federal, state and local partnership that provides research-based information from the University of Florida to the citizens of Seminole County. We hope that you will contact us for solutions to any questions you may have in the areas of agriculture, lawns and gardens, nutrition and wellness, financial management, natural resources, livestock, community development, and 4-H youth development.

Kaydie McCormick is a UF/IFAS residential horticulture agent and Master Gardener coordinator. She can be reached at or 407-665-5558. 



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