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Planting colorful plants for Fall

Garden Master Jim Duthie gives us some ideas on which plants will keep a splash of color in our yards and gardens for a few more weeks.

BOISE, Idaho — Fall has finally arrived in Idaho and soon cooler days and frosty nights will be a regularity. While we start to see some fall colors showing up around us, your home landscapes may start to look a bit drab now that the growing season is coming to an end.

Today on ‘You Can Grow It’, Garden Master Jim Duthie reminds us of what makes the leaves change colors this time of year, and gives us some ideas on which plants will keep a splash of color in our yards and gardens for a few more weeks.

Fall colors are showing up all around the Treasure Valley as the days get shorter and the temperatures start to cool off. A great place to sample nature’s colorful show is at Kathryn Albertson park in Boise.

As the days grow shorter, the trees know that colder weather is on the way. Leaves stop producing chlorophyll, the chemical that helps convert water into sugars that nourish the trees. All of the other colors that were hidden by the green chlorophyll start to emerge – reds, yellows, oranges, golds and browns, providing, at least for a few weeks, an explosion of nature’s brilliant artwork.

“Fall weather is right around the corner, and it won’t be long before we start seeing some freezing temperatures on a regular basis," Jim said. "But you can keep a lot of nice color in your yard through the fall with some hardy plants, like mums, dahlias, and even flowering kale.”

Mums are a great fall plant because there is such a variety of bright colors you can choose from to dress up your yard and garden as the summer foliage and blossoms start to fade away.

Mums, short for chrysanthemums, love the cooler weather and will continue to bloom even through the first light frosts of fall. They are inexpensive, and since they are perennials, if the winter weather isn’t too severe, they will bloom again next year.

They are especially attractive when grouped in an assortment of colors, either in the ground or in containers, along with some other fall plants, like flowering kale and cabbage, and a few pansies. All of these plants will do well until the first real hard freezes force them into dormancy.

Kale and flowering cabbage not only add a touch of color, but offer a different texture, as well, from the typical stems, leaves and blossoms of most flowering plants. Add some decorative grasses and you have a container display that can’t be beaten.

Colorful flowering kale, with trailing silver falls dichondra; it requires very little water and will tolerate a light frost or two before the hard freezes set in.

Dahlias resemble their cousins, the mums, but are a bit larger and showier. They are a little more tender than the mums, so once the really cold weather hits, it is time to lift the tubers and store them through the winter for replanting in the spring.

Speaking of spring, now is a great time to plant flowering bulbs

“I’m pulling a lot of my annuals right now, putting in my bulbs and then planting my mums and my cabbages and kale on top with my pansies," Erin Monnie with Edwards Greenhouse said, "and those will usually make it through the winter, and then after that in early spring, the tulips come up, my pansies and violas come back, and we’re right back into spring again.”

That will also protect your bulbs from being dug up by hungry squirrels.

“I like to do my bulbs in groupings, and so here we have some that are actually just mixtures," Monnie said, "because sometimes it can be really hard to choose from the wide selection of bulbs.”

Now is also a good time to plant flowering bulbs, like tulips and daffodils. Be sure to follow the planting instructions on the bulb packages.

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