There's plenty of flash in a Midwestern autumn. The cool and colorful season actually revives gardens and gardeners; after a long summer, everything looks fresh again. Here are some of my favorite plants for fall:
Our native grasses are at their best in autumn light. Prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepsis, Zones 3-9) turns copper as the season advances; big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii, Zones 2-7) takes on a luminous, rusty hue; and the leaves of northern sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium, Zones 5-9) dance on delicate amber wands. Learn more about big bluestem. Learn more about northern sea oats.
Sedum 'Matrona' (Zones 4-9) has handsome silver- gray leaves, burgundy stems, and flower heads that start with a purple blush and turn mahogany. I love it next to blackberry lily (Belamcanda chinensis, Zones 5-9), which has clusters of shiny black seeds in fall. Get more on sedum! Discover more about blackberry lily.
Heuchera villosa 'Autumn bride' (Zones 5-9) produces great sprays of creamy white flowers in September; I first saw this plant in sweeping flowerbeds along shaded walkways at the Chicago Botanic Garden.
Shrubs contribute mightily to the autumn landscape. Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia, Zones 5-9), vernal witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis, Zones 4-8), American cranberry bush (Viburnum trilobum, Zones 2-7), and Blackhaw viburnum (Viburnum prunifolium, Zones 3-9) have showy fall foliage. Learn more about witch hazel. Learn more about viburnums.