Use fall weather to plant attractive shrubs for color

Published 1:54 pm Thursday, September 30, 2021

By Gary R. Bachman
MSU Extension Service

When we get into the fall of the year, many gardeners get tunnel vision and only look for cool-season color. I will soon write about some of my favorite annual color for the season, but today I want to remind home gardeners that fall is for planting

Fall is a great time to plan for and then plant colorful shrubs for next year and beyond. I’ve already seen a variety of flowering shrubs in garden centers.

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Let’s take a look at a couple of my favorites.

Hamelia patens, also commonly called firebush, is a tough plant for our summer and fall seasons. This is a vigorously growing plant that is native to Florida and suited for many of our Mississippi garden spaces.

The attractive evergreen foliage is arranged in combinations of three. The flowers are displayed in groups of three to seven whorled clusters of gorgeous reddish-orange blooms. The tubular flowers are produced all summer and well into the fall.

A fantastic newer selection is Lime Sizzler hamelia. This is a vigorous but compact-growing plant that reaches about 3 to 4 feet tall and wide. The foliage is a variegated mixture of chartreuse yellow and lime green highlighted by bright-red veins.

The flowers of Lime Sizzler are arranged in whorled clusters of gorgeous, hot reddish-orange flowers. The tubular flowers are produced all summer and into the fall. For the best flower production and foliage color, plant Lime sizzler in full sun.

Though hamelia selections tolerate pruning, I don’t recommend it during the summer growing season, as this will remove and reduce the current season’s flower development. I recommend pruning in late winter before the spring growth begins.

Known botanically as Galphimia glauca, Golden thryallis is another must-have favorite that starts flowering early in the summer. The flowers are a bright, cheery yellow and are arranged in clusters up to 6 inches long at the ends of branches.

The rusty reddish-brown branches add attractiveness to Golden thryallis. The light-green leaves are oblong shaped and about 1 to 2 inches long. Plant in the full sun for best flowering performance.

Golden thryallis is very pruning tolerant, so don’t be afraid to shape the plant. I love growing it as a container plant.

Golden thryallis is native to Mexico and Central America, and it is evergreen in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 9B to 11. In coastal Mississippi, temperatures in the mid to low 20s will most likely kill the plant back to the ground. In north Mississippi, prune it to the ground after the first frost and mulch heavily with pine straw, even using a whole bale for winter protection.

In our Mississippi landscapes, where the plant is exposed to regular cold in the winter, we can fully expect to enjoy the plant to reach 3 to 4 foot tall and 2 to 2 1/2 feet wide.

You can’t go wrong adding any of these bright and colorful plants to your landscape. See you at the garden center this weekend.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Gary Bachman is an Extension and research professor of horticulture at the Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi. He is also the host of the popular Southern Gardening television and radio programs. Contact him at Locate Southern Gardening products online at]