Carol Michel is a freelance writer with a degree in horticulture from Purdue University. She blogs about gardening regularly at

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Flowers that bridge the gap between summer and fall
by Carol Michel    

August is a tough month in many gardens. The blooms of June and July are fading and the asters and mums, traditionally associated with autumn, are not yet flowering. Depending on the year, August can be hot and dry and even the hardiest blooms can appear to be faded, like an old house dress hung out week after week to dry in the sun.

Many gardeners are tempted to avoid the whole month of August, hunkering down inside, waiting for cooler temperatures to arrive. But August doesn’t have to be this way. It can be a time of new blooms of its own that will bridge the gap between summer and fall, giving the gardener something to enjoy while looking forward to cooler temperatures. 


Five flowers that have good August blooms in my garden include:

Verbena bonariensis
Though it is only hardy to Zone 7, Verbena bonariensis, tall verbena, comes up from self-sown seed in a variety of locations in my garden. If I like the location it has chosen, I let it grow, otherwise they are easy to pull out, even when mature.

It is tall, airy, and can sneak up around plants that have stopped flowering, adding a bit of purplish-pink color to the garden. If you want to be sure to have tall verbena bloom each August, purchase seeds to sow in the spring.

Verbena bonariensis self-sows but is easily pulled where not wanted.

Helenium ‘Helbro’
Sold under the trade name ‘Mardi Gras’, the daisy-like blooms  of this Helenium range in color from yellow to red with dark centers. They actually begin blooming earlier in the summer but are still going strong by mid-August. Helenium prefers moist soils and will top out at two to three feet. To encourage more branching, it can be cut back by about half in May before flower buds form.

Helenium ‘Mardi Gras’ brings early fall colors to the garden.

Lycoris squamigera
It’s always a big surprise to come across the naked stems of Lycorisin August, topped with big trumpet like pink blossoms. Because the foliage comes up in the spring and dies back well before the bloom stalks appear, people call these resurrection lilies, surprise lilies or naked ladies.

They are easy to grow, preferring not to be disturbed once planted. They are often passed from one gardener to another by digging up the bulbs in the fall and immediately replanting them. I’ve also successfully transplanted Lycoris in the spring by digging and dividing the plants when the leaves are present.

Lycoris is an easy plant to pass along to others.

Eupatorium ‘Little Joe’
If you are looking for a little height amongst those flowers that bloom in August, try this smaller Joe-Pye Weed. It tops out at 3 to 4 feet with mauve colored flowers, attracting many pollinators. It prefers slighty moist soil, full sun, and a little bit of room to grow.

Eupatorium ‘Little Joe’ adds height and bloom in August.


Phlox paniculata ‘David’ 
Though it might start blooming toward the end of July, this phlox will continue to bloom well into August.

Its white flowers glow at night. It also prefers moist, well drained soils, full sun, and a little space to allow for good air circulation, which helps to prevent powdery mildew, a fungal disease that appears as white powdery spots on the leaves.

White blooming Phlox paniculata ‘David’ is a good white flower for late summer.

In addition to these blooms, I enjoy fresh blooms in early August on annual flowers including sunflowers, zinnias and marigolds by waiting until later in May to direct sow the seeds. This year, due to plentiful spring rains where I garden, I waited until May 31st to sow these annual flower seeds which delayed their blooms until early August.

For more than four years, I’ve kept track of what is blooming in my garden on the 15th of every month. This helps me see where I have gaps in the parade of blooms that grow through spring, summer, and fall. When I first started to do this, there was a noticeable gap in August, but by planting these perennials and annuals, I’ve managed to add new flowers to my garden in a month that can often just be a time to wait it out until fall.


Posted: 08/29/11   RSS | Print


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