Linda Geist
Your Show-Me Garden: MU Extension brings you gardening tips from experts around the state.

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Like peacocks, some flowers strut their vibrant colors in fall. Annual flowers that prefer milder temperatures usually outperform their warm-weather friends in the garden at this time of the year.

The lower temperatures from late summer into fall let plants convert more of the sugar they make into plant pigments, said University of Missouri Extension horticulture specialist David Trinklein. This makes for a more vibrant display of color.

For those gardens that might have lost a plant or two during the course of the summer, it’s not too late to replace them, Trinklein said. Many nurseries and garden centers feature replacement plants this time of year to fill holes in the landscape.

Choose plants in 4- to 6-inch pots with well-developed root systems for instant color. It’s too late in the growing season for small plants to produce masses of color. “Pass by flowers in small packs,” Trinklein said. They are likely to be root-bound and difficult to establish in the garden.

Dahlias, asters, mums, petunias, pansies, geraniums and wishbone flowers make good choices for fall color, he said.

“Late summer is also a good time to rejuvenate flowers that might be showing the ravages of having endured a long, sometimes brutal summer,” Trinklein said. Some species such as petunia benefit from being trimmed back for renewed vigor. A light shearing encourages new growth, which results in more compact, colorful plants, he added.

Now is also a good time to check the nutritional health of flowers. Heavy-feeding species such as geraniums often benefit from a light fall feeding. The result is greater plant vigor and more robust blooming for the remainder of the growing season.

Finally, late summer is a good time to check for insect, disease and weed problems, Trinklein said. Keeping pest populations under control through the end of this growing season should result in fewer problems next year.

For more gardening tips from MU Extension, go to

Media Contact