How Fall Can Be About More Than Pansies

Bellis Speedster (Benary)
English daises such as Bellis Speedster (Benary) love the cool weather, overwinter in much of the country, and provide excellent color.

There are so many silly dogmas to be smashed that sometimes I don’t know where to start. Toads cause warts. Black cats are bad luck. Avoid Friday the 13th, and only pansies and mums make money in the fall.

I am not sure where some of these beliefs and superstitions arose, nor can I believe that anyone in this industry still adheres to the last one. People have been writing about enhancing fall sales since forever, so why am I reinventing the wheel?

Perhaps because the more I plant shop, the more frustrated I get. So much is predicated on impulse. It seems we truly believe that nobody cares about cultivars, and we have given up hope that people will get smarter and actually ask for certain plants.

That is frustrating to be sure, at least for me. Fall is upon us. What are we going to do about it? We can shove more pansies, violas, and mums down consumers’ throats, or we can help guide the focus of their impulses.

Here are a few focusable plants for the fall shoulder, fall sales, and spring shoulder seasons.

Shoulder Sales In The Fall

  • Cosmos. It seems that they have almost disappeared from standard bedding mixes. They have great colors and diversity of heights.
  • Annual Rudbeckia. They often poop out by mid-summer, so having refresher pots in late summer helps people take their color into late fall.
  • Celosia. The “brain” forms can get ratty by late summer. These work well in containers and in the ground and give a color boost when color is needed.
  • Love In-A-Mist (Nigella). We keep selling these as summer annuals, if we sell them at all. However, they tolerate lots of heat and cold and will go well into the fall with renewed plantings.
  • Calendula. Try using this as a shoulder plant in late summer. It tolerates cool temperatures much better than heat and will be beautiful all fall.
  • Cool-Season Veggies. Duh. Let’s feed the masses. Grow them, and they will eat.

Fall Sales

  • Pansies, violas, mums — check, check, check. Ok, what else?
  • Bedding Dianthus (actually hybrids). These are no-brainers. They look good going through the fall, stay green all winter, if not under snow, and will pop out in the spring, thriving well into the summer.
  • Snapdragons. Ditto, although they do not have the same winter hardiness as dianthus. The breeding has provided earlier flowering in the spring and more heat tolerance. The standard upright forms are better than dwarf varieties for fall sales.
  • English Daisies (Bellis). This is another plant that was in favor 10 years ago that has all but disappeared. English daisies love the cool weather, overwinter in much of the country, and provide excellent color.

Shoulder Sales In Late Winter, Early Spring

  • Nasturtiums. Grandma’s favorite — why have they disappeared? It’s likely for the same reason other plants like larkspur and lupines have left us. They have a small window and without a doubt are more difficult to schedule. But everyone loves nasturtiums, they will move. They also can take some frost if grown cool.
  • Lupines. They are probably too expensive and too difficult to schedule for much of the country, but with the new breeding I saw at California Spring Trials, I believe there is a much brighter future for shoulder sales and perhaps even fall sales of lupines. They may never be a big item, but they are poised for better things.
  • Hybrid Bedding Primula. No matter how many people try to tell me about the heat tolerance of primroses, I still see them decline as temperatures heat up. As spring shoulder plants, they can be beautiful for months. They generally are not sufficiently cold tolerant to come through winters unblemished.

These are but a few ideas. Add these to your perennials for the fall and veggies in the spring, and you will soon have a Bacchus-like potpourri for sales all year.

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