April showers may bring May flowers, but experienced gardeners know that growing beautiful flowers is not limited to spring. Master Gardener Carol Rosser said now is the time to plant fall perennials.
Testing one's soil is the first step to take before putting out fall plants, Rosser said. Once test results are known, start digging.
"Go 6 to 10 inches and make the necessary amendments -- adding lime, fertilizer, whatever is called for in the analysis," she said. "Sometimes it is good to add bagged soil if native soil is too hard. Ideal soil for planting is well drained but moist."
Ideally, though, soil should have been tested for fall planting, she said. "It might be better to use bagged soil."
Among favorite fall perennials are Christmas rose and pansies.
The Christmas rose is a hardy plant, she said, though it requires a lot of watering in the summer. Pansies, she said, bloom faithfully all winter and die in the spring once the weather turns hot.
When preparing dirt for planting, the hole should be large enough to spread out the roots without folding them over. Then place the crown of the plant just below the surface soil level. Fill the hole with dirt and water thoroughly. Do not let the plant stand in water, but do cut off dead blooms, she said.
One idea she is eager to try came from a bulletin she picked up at the Catoosa County Agriculture Office.
It recommended buying bags of potting soil and putting them where flowers are wanted.
"Lay the bag flat and cut drainage slits on one side, and then flip it over," she said. "Then cut out a rectangle, leaving about 2 to 3 inches of plastic all around to keep the soil from washing out. Just plant into it."
The concept makes sense for her planting projects, she said, because her dirt "is like concrete."
Rosser recommends the following perennials for fall planting.
1) Sedum: Comes in white and various shades of pink. Is very drought-resistant and will come back for many years without special care. Does well in sun or semi-shade.
2) Chrysanthemum: Available in many colors. Ideal for a bed with small plants. Some get so large they need to be staked to keep them from falling all over everything else. Does well in full sun.
3) Russian sage: Showy with bright green leaves and purple flowers. A mounding plant, it tends to spread around. Does well in full sun.
4) Bearded tongue: Another mounding plant, it needs to be cut back after flowering. Does well in sun or semi-shade.
5) Lantana: Though mostly considered an annual in local hardiness zones, it will come back year after year if properly mulched. Lantanas like full sun, come in different colors and are beautiful from spring through fall.
Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...