Summer and spring are not the only seasons in which vibrant foliage can flourish in the south. New Orleans' "autumn" weather may not feel much like fall, but that doesn't mean you can't add fall hues to your garden. Many plants thrive here throughout the seasons because of Louisiana's subtropical climate. There are plenty of plant options for transitioning into fall to keep gardens colorful all year long.
Chrysanthemums, or mums, which come in many colors, including yellow, orange and white, are wonderful late-season additions to a home garden.
"Mums bloom once and die," says Elizabeth Larroux of Urban Roots Garden Center, "so they are perfect for adding color for Halloween." They'll bloom just in time for the witching hour if planted early this month. The petals of yellow mums can be used to make tea, which is great on chilly fall nights.
Crotons are the perfect fall perennial because of their red, yellow, orange and black leaves. These plants can live indoors or outdoors, but require plenty of sunlight.
Blooming marigolds add golden tones to a garden and repel insects such as mosquitoes. As a part of the sunflower family, marigolds require full sun. They are staples in vegetable gardens, since they deter garden pests such as Mexican bean beetles, squash bugs, tomato hornworm caterpillars and whiteflies.
Gaillardia flowers are burnt orange, red and yellow. They are blanket flowers that often are used as border plants in gardens. They are strong flowers that can grow in varying weather conditions but need full sun.
"Gaillardia can (withstand) a light freeze and (keep) blooming," says Christopher Boozer of American Aquatic Gardens.
Cajun hibiscus also blooms in fall and will continue to flower through winter and spring. The flowers typically are larger and more flamboyant that other hibiscus varieties.
There are nonfloral options for fall gardens, such as ornamental peppers. The small peppers can be red, purple, orange, yellow, black or white, interspersed with glossy green leaves. They are edible and come in a range of spice levels. They usually fruit from mid-spring until fall, but in New Orleans peppers are perennials and grow inside or outside. The peppers do not require a lot of care: Outside, they only need to be watered if there is less than half an inch of rain per week.
With its deep green leaves and purple stalks, ornamental cabbage is attractive, yet unassuming. It is a good neutral for gardens, needing full sun and cool (not cold) temperatures. It thrives in the Louisiana fall. Ornamental cabbage can be used as a border plant and is commonly mixed with mums.
Other low-maintenance fall plants are herbs such as dill, cilantro, fennel and rosemary. Herbs can be grown all year round indoors or out, with access to sunlight and water. Many herbs can be grown in just a glass of water, but they also can be grown in garden soil.
In New Orleans, colorful gardens don't have to end with summer.