Purples, oranges, reds and yellows, the colors of fall are reminiscent of the beautiful deciduous hardwood trees and their leaf drop in the fall. While we do experience these colors in Central Florida, it is not the same scale or the time of year as our northern neighbors. But you can paint a fall landscape by using tropical plants, annuals, perennials, natives and vegetables.
For a long-lived burst of soft orange, try the easy-to-find Petra croton. Crotons are tropical plants that need protection from the intense, afternoon summer sun. A good location is a morning sun, afternoon shade exposure; the more sun exposure, the more intense the orange. Know that crotons are borderline for our area for cold-hardiness, they can be damaged if not killed by a hard frost or freeze.
Another fabulous shade loving tropical is Hawaiian ti, also called cordyline. When planted next to orange, the bright pink and maroon of Hawaiian ti reads as a fall red. It requires the same conditions as the Petra croton, a little sun to bring out the color, but protection from intense sun.
For a full sun, long lasting fall color combination, plant an orange firecracker plant with reddish-purple Gulf muhly grass and aloe vera. The soft textures of Gulf muhly and the firecracker plant are enhanced when grown next to the coarse, large-leafed texture of aloe vera. Aloe vera also produces spikes of coral blooms in time for fall. All three of these plants tolerate full sun and prefer well-drained soil. This plant combination is drought tolerant, although the firecracker plant will be the first to suffer if drought is severe.
Incorporating veggies into the garden gives that fall harvest feel. Beans and peas grown on trellises perform nicely and add height to the garden. It is easy to pop in a small trellis or garden obelisk to add structure and a place for beans to grow.
One of my favorite veggies for fall color is eggplant. Typical eggplant varieties produce dark purple fruit, but some varieties develop midnight purple stems. Look for seeds for Japanese oblong and Chinese long purple. The flowers of eggplant are also a pretty, soft purple, adding another hint of color to the yard.
Use annuals for bright seasonal color to create statements and demand attention. Buy flats of yellow to orange marigolds to provide a mounding habit and plant with Blackie sweet potato vine to run as a groundcover or creep down the side of a pot. Incorporate red alternanthera as another mounding plant and add Amistad salvia for its dark stems and purple flowers. This color combination will instantly bring the fall into the yard.
For more tips on colors and textures in the landscape, check out our Homeowner Landscape Design program series. The program will be held Oct. 26, Nov. 2 and Nov. 9 from 9 to 11:30 a.m. at the Lake County Extension Center, 1951 Woodlea Road in Tavares. Topics include principles of design, functionality, color and texture, plant selection and more. Registration is $50 and includes a pattern book, drawing template, pencil and tracing paper.
Brooke Moffis is the residential horticulture agent of the UF/IFAS Lake County Extension office. Email her at email@example.com.