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Flowers that Bloom in Late Summer

by Dawn
butterfly weed with caterpillars

25 Plants with Late Summer Blooms for your Garden

Summer is beginning to wind down (WAAAAA!!!!!), but that doesn’t mean your garden needs to become drab and boring. There are many different plants that are just getting started in late summer (or have been blooming all along and just keep going, much like the Energizer bunny!)

As a bonus, many of these plants are important for the bees and butterflies, particularly monarchs that will soon be making their long journey south.

Because this post will get much too long if I try to give you detailed info on all 25 plants, I’m going to talk about eight of them in detail, and then I’ll give you a list of the rest.

However, if you’d like some more info, I’ve created a cheat sheet on all 25, including hardiness zones, light and soil requirements, and other pertinent information. Sign up here to receive access to my free resource library (you’ll get the password in an email) with the cheat sheet and lots of other useful info, plus a short and sweet weekly newsletter to keep you informed of happenings around the blog.

Let’s get started, shall we?

Goldenrod (Solidago spp.)

Goldenrod is a star in the fall garden. Its bright yellow blooms are beautiful and they attract bees and butterflies like crazy!

NOTE: Goldenrod does NOT cause allergy problems in those with hay fever. Ragweed, which blooms at the same time and looks very similar, is the actual culprit. Because goldenrod is pollinated by insects, and not the wind, it does not (and cannot) produce allergy problems.

goldenrod

Goldenrod is incredibly easy to grow and enjoys full sun. Different varieties can grow in Zones 3 through 10. It can get anywhere from 1 1/2 to 4 feet tall. Some prefer drier soil while some like it wet. It blooms in very late summer to fall, usually September and October.

Because goldenrod can be invasive, I’d suggest checking out this post from Garden Gate magazine that gives detailed information on different varieties that won’t take over your garden. I particularly like the dwarf goldenrod, the size is good for a smaller garden, and it grows in average garden soil.

Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium spp.)

To me, Joe Pye weed looks like a pinkish-purple goldenrod. It’s an attractive plant that does get quite large, as much as 6 to 7 feet tall depending on variety.

joe pye weed

A member of the Aster family, Joe Pye weed is extremely attractive to bees and butterflies and grows in rich, moist soil in Zones 4 through 10. I’ve seen it most often on the edges of the woods, so I think a bit of dappled shade will do it some good.

Joe Pye weed blooms July through September, and as with goldenrod, there are multiple varieties available. One of the easiest to grow, Eupatorium purpureum, is also one of the largest, topping out at 7 feet or so.

If you’d prefer a shorter variety, Eupatorium dubium ‘Little Joe’, is an option. Still not a small plant at 3 to 4 feet tall, it’s a bit more of a manageable size than E. purpureum.

In my opinion, quite a worthwhile plant as it’s so valuable for pollinators. As a bonus, it’s really pretty!

Canna lilies (Canna indica)

If you’ve been around awhile, you may remember my post on Iris, Cannas & Elephant Ears. If not, why not head on over and read it now?

I love cannas because they’re so easy to grow and their flowers are gorgeous.

canna lily

Here in the North (Zone 6b), they bloom late in the summer and afford the pollinators (particularly the hummingbirds) lots of wonderful nectar. They do bloom earlier in the south, so wouldn’t necessarily be considered late summer or fall bloomers there.

Cannas are heavy feeders and thus prefer soil with lots of organic matter, although I have to admit I kind of plant and forget mine and they do well year after year. They also prefer moisture and some will even grow in pots in shallow water.

Full sun is preferred in the North, whereas some afternoon shade in the South will keep the blooms from bleaching and fading.

Cannas are not small plants, with some reaching 6 to 7 feet tall, so be sure you have room for them before you plant. The nice thing is that they’re quite showy on their own, so you don’t need a huge clump of them to make an impact. A few interspersed here and there in your garden is all you really need if you have limited space.

Remember that if you garden north of Zone 7b, you’ll need to lift your canna tubers in the fall after the first hard frost and store them in a basement or other cool place. In the South, you can leave them in the ground all year.

Cannas come in lots of different colors, although all in the yellow-orange-red family. Check out this site for an idea of the vast variety you have to choose from.

Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla)

chamomile flower
My chamomile is all wound in with my marigolds
so don’t be confused by the marigold leaves!

I’m sure you’re familiar with chamomile for its herbal and medicinal uses, but it’s also a wonderful plant for late summer blooms.

You’re not likely to see bumblebees, butterflies or even honeybees on chamomile as the blooms are so small. If you look closely though, you will see lots of tiny little pollinators flitting among its delicate white and yellow flowers. I love to plant a few flowers like this as they’re so good for these tiny beneficials.

You’ll need to treat German chamomile as an annual unless growing it indoors in a pot. However, it will reseed readily so you’ll most likely have some new plants the following year.

Roman chamomile will spread and form a groundcover. Be sure you know which type you’ve planted so you know what to expect.

Making Chamomile Tea

I’ve never tried to make fresh chamomile tea, but if you’d like to do it, it’s apparently as simple as harvesting about 4 Tbsp of chamomile flowers. Place these with a sprig of mint (if desired) into a teabag of your choice and pour 8 oz of boiling water over the bag. Let steep for about 5 minutes, and that’s it! (I got the recipe from this website).

In my research, I also came across the recommendation that you should keep your tea covered while steeping as many of the beneficial properties of the tea are lost in the steam.

Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) and Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)

You may have read my post many moons ago about milkweed and butterfly weed. If not, you can find it here.

Although you may notice common milkweed blooming around the beginning of July, its relatives, Swamp milkweed and Butterfly weed, have longer bloom times and will continue to benefit the bees and butterflies right through August.

swamp milkweed
Swamp milkweed – an unfortunate name
for such a pretty plant, don’t you think?

Both swamp milkweed and butterfly weed are hosts for monarch butterflies, so having a generous supply available for them throughout the season is a great way to aid these very important (and beautiful!) pollinators. But, their abundant blooms later in August are particularly beneficial because migrating monarchs use them as a nectar source to give them the energy for their long trip.

Unlike its common cousin, swamp milkweed doesn’t spread aggressively. It will seed quite prolifically, but as milkweeds go, it’s fairly well-mannered. Its bright pink blossoms are particularly attractive, and it will grow happily in full sun in Zones 3a to 8b. It attains a final height of 2 to 4 feet.

The sap of swamp milkweed isn’t as plentiful as is that of common milkweed, although it is STILL TOXIC. Use care when handling the plant and be sure to wash your hands. If sap gets into your eyes, get to an Emergency Room immediately. As well, should your pet ingest milkweed, call your vet ASAP.

NOTE: I’ve found from personal experience that it’s difficult to start swamp milkweed (and the other milkweeds as well) from seed. It must be cold stratified for at least 30 days, but even with stratification, germination rates are poor. It’s much easier to order plants when you’re planting for the first time. You’ll need to find a supplier who can ship to your state as there are regulations on milkweed.

butterfly weed with monarch

Butterfly weed is another common milkweed relative the butterflies love. It’s also a host plant for monarch caterpillars, and the butterflies use it as a nectar source to fuel up for their long migrations.

The flowers of butterfly weed are absolutely gorgeous, and will range in color from yellow all the way through deep orange. I’ve got all different color variations in my garden, although the original stock was just orange.

Butterfly weed is a good choice for my more southerly friends, as it will flourish in Zones 4 through 10 in full sun. It’s a bit smaller than some of the other milkweeds, attaining a height of about 1 to 2 feet.

It doesn’t contain the milky sap of its milkweed cousins, although parts of the plant are still poisonous if eaten in large amounts (although I can’t imagine actually doing that!).

Butterfly weed isn’t invasive, although, as with the others in this family, it will reseed everywhere. Still, if you find you have seedlings coming up where you don’t want them, it’s a simple matter to either pull or transplant them to a more desirable location.

Panicle Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata)

Hydrangea paniculata is more a tree or shrub than a flower, but I’ve noticed mine is absolutely covered with bees and butterflies when it blooms. I have the tree form, but some also grow as multi-stemmed shrubs.

panicle hydrangea
My panicle hydrangea is just starting to open.
It will just get prettier as autumn rolls around, turning
light pink, then a lovely shade of deep pink before
fading to tan.

Hydrangeas as a rule prefer partial shade and rich, moist soil. They thrive in hardiness zones 3 through 8.

The advantage of panicle hydrangeas over other types for those of us in colder climates is that they bloom on new wood.

If there’s a particularly rough winter, Hydrangea macrophylla (the more “common” hydrangea you see with pink or blue flowers) often won’t bloom the following year because the buds were set before the cold weather, and the cold killed them. This isn’t a problem with panicle hydrangeas as they bloom late in the summer on that spring’s new growth.

The flowers are typically white, in cone-shaped clusters, and mature to a deeper and deeper pink as fall progresses, finally ending up brown. They look lovely in dried flower arrangements and last for months that way.

Sweet Pepperbush or Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia)

sweet pepper shrub
Image credit to Nikki at https://www.gwingal.com/

Summersweet is a bee and butterfly magnet! As a bonus for us, it’s a lovely bush that blooms with fragrant, white clusters of flowers in late summer even in the shade.

Summersweet can be grown in Zones 3 through 9, and will typically get about 3 to 6 feet tall, but gets at least as wide as it is tall, so be sure to give it some space.

Although, as mentioned, it can grow in light shade, it will also do well in full sun as long as the soil is kept moist. Because it’s native to woodlands and swamplands, it does require more moisture than other bushes, but if you have the appropriate spot for it, it will flourish and bloom beautifully.

Now I’d like to give you a list of additional flowers and plants you might want to consider for late summer bloom. As mentioned before, signing up here will get you a FREE printable cheat sheet of growing conditions for all of the plants mentioned today, as well as other goodies and information.

Additional Fall-Blooming Plants

purple coneflower
Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
  1. Montauk (Nippon) daisy (Nipponanthemum nipponicum)
  2. Aster (any species)
  3. Coleus (Plectranthus scutellarioides)
  4. Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)
  5. Cleome (Cleome hassleriana)
  6. Mexican creeping zinnia (Sanvitalia procumbens)
  7. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
  8. Trumpet vine, trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans)
  9. Tickseed (Coreopsis spp)
  10. Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
  11. Blanketflower (Gaillardia x grandiflora)
  12. Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
  13. Bee balm (Monarda fistulosa)
  14. Fall phlox (Phlox paniculata)
  15. Orange coneflower (Rudbeckia fulgida)
  16. Tall ironweed (Vernonia gigantea)
  17. Camellia (Camellia sasanqua)

I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s post and that it’s been helpful when planning your late summer and fall-flowering garden. There are several pinnable images below. Please pin to your Flowers or Gardening board for future reference.

As always, thanks for reading, smile and have a crazy organic day!

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4 comments

Nikki Gwin 08/13/2019 - 7:36 pm

I was going to offer you a picture of the Sweet Pepper Shrub, but luckily I looked for it first…. and I can’t find it. It must not have turned out good and I guess I deleted it.
Anyway, you make me want to go shopping.
🙂 gwingal

Reply
Dawn 08/17/2019 - 10:24 am

I know, right? I mean, what’s better than a day at the garden center? (Other than a day in our own gardens!)

Reply
Sarita 08/13/2019 - 12:15 am

So pretty! We’re just entering our “fast fall” now and the leaves are starting to change colour. And our Roman chamomile (pineappleweed) is growing like crazy. We’re trying to harvest what we can between the rain storms. Hope you enjoy your beautiful late summer blooms!

Reply
Dawn 08/17/2019 - 10:24 am

Your seasons (other than winter) seem so short! I can’t even imagine.

Reply

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