Planning ahead is the mark of success. For the perennial gardener, this means shopping now for plants that will bloom in the early spring.

Why Plant Perennials in the Fall?

Getting your plants in the ground in the fall gives them time to grow roots and get acclimated before winter sets in.  By giving your perennials time to become established, you are giving them a head start!   When the ground warms up, these new plants will grow and bloom much more profusely than plants installed in the spring.

What Perennials Should I Plant in the Fall?

If you’re looking for inspiration and ideas, here are some of the best early-blooming perennials you can introduce to your garden now to get a head start on spring:


Commonly known as "Lenten Rose".  The plants in this family are some of the first to pop out in spring.  Colors from white to yellows to pinks and reds are available for fall planting.  Many species are "evergreen" perennials, meaning they don't disappear over the winter and are surprisingly frost-resistant.  They are highly valued by gardeners for their late-winter/early-spring flowering and are versatile due to their shade tolerance. 





Give your hellebores a shady spot and they should be happy. The only growing conditions they really can't tolerate are soils that are too dry or too wet.


Phlox subulata 

Commonly known as "Creeping Phlox".  This is a great way to carpet your early-spring beds with brilliantly-colored pink, lavender and white flowers with finely-textured evergreen foliage.

While easily grown, this plant is sometimes overlooked when shopping for ground covers. Almost any soil is suitable for growing creeping phlox as long as it is in full sun to partial shade. For best results, however, plant it in a sunny location where soils are moist but well drained. For an eye-popping display of brilliant color next spring, plant this hardy, time-tested ground cover and enjoy the show. 


Commonly known as "Pinks".  Most dianthus varieties bloom pink, red or white with notched petals. The low-growing varieties are great for rock gardens. Pinks are treasured for their blue-green foliage and abundant starry flowers.  They prefer full sun and well-drained soil and don't like wet feet, especially in winter.  

A big plus for Northern Virginia gardeners that plant dianthus is its fragrance-- a distinctly clove-like aroma, making them unappealing to deer. 


Commonly known as "Lungwort".  This plant is a very early- spring-blooming plant with an unfortunate common name. It actually was once used medicinally for lung ailments but today is primarily planted as a flowering perennial.  It's prefers a shady location or if not, at least a moist area.

These beautiful perennials work wonders in shady areas because of their long-lasting and multi-colored blooms, and their silver-patterned foliage.  Pulmonaria is an old-fashioned perennial that is becoming popular again.



Some of the larger, taller varieties known as "Bearded Iris".  Plant iris roots right away.  They are spring bloomers that basically go dormant during the heat of summer.  Late summer to early fall is the best time to plant.  Iris will benefit greatly from becoming established before the end of the growing season.  Always pinch wilted bloom stalks to keep varieties pure from cross pollenation. For future reference, iris clumps should be divided or thinned every 3-4 years to promote strong blooming.  Iris prefers full sun.  


Commonly known as "Columbine" or "Granny's Bonnet".  Columbine is a fantastic choice for gardeners who wish to work with native plants when adding color for early spring.  With beautiful bell-shaped flowers, columbine is an excellent perennial with many colorful varieties. Columbines grows best in full sun and well-drained, amended soil.

Deadhead faded flowers and you can extend the blooming season by as much as six weeks.  After you have your plants established, cut Columbine back to the ground before winter.

We hope you will try planting any or all of these early perennials now for added enjoyment of your spring garden.Stop by Betty's to choose from our large selection of perennials to supplement existing beds or to create new areas of interest that will herald the end of winter and the start of warmer weather. We will be glad to recommend fertilizers to prepare your established beds for winter and for use when planting new perennials.