The seasonal color change for fall can be tricky as the weather in Southern California can be very unpredictable. Temperature variations can be from the mid 30’s to over 100 degrees, strong, dry, Santa Ana winds, damp fog, unseasonable showers, and rain.
There are no perfect annual flowers that will take all of these weather anomalies, but your best chances are some of the following:
- Alyssum- mostly white but can use lavender as a border accent in front of other annuals. Can be invasive as it will re-seed.
- Begonia- hardy annual in colors of red, white and pink with green or brown leaves. Is tolerant of insects and can last 3-4 months.
- Calendula- colors in the yellow to orange range, can be difficult to grow in extreme weather conditions, and needs dead-heading.
- Cyclamen- plant later in the fall for the red and white color for a Christmas flavor in the landscape. Hardy and expensive.
- Flowering Kale- Great foliage color of white to purple and can last 4-5 months if you remove the center spike. Nice/other color.
- Pansy- Probably the most used color in the fall. Colors range from white to dark purple, yellow, red, and variations of colors.
- Iceland poppy- white, yellow to orange annual with light green foliage and single flower stalks to 18″ high. Goes 2-3 months.
- Primrose- Multi colors of a low growing annual. Temperature variations and rain can be a problem. Needs good well drained soil.
- Snapdragon- Multi colors of large (12-18″) and dwarf (8-10″). Can last up to 4 months with regular dead-heading.
- Stock- Light grey green foliage with flowers stalks 12″-18″ in white to purple. Are fragrant to some people. Need dead-heading.
- Viola- Like Pansy’s but smaller. Good border to other color. Can last 4-5 months with proper care.
These are the most common annual plants for the Fall color change out. Poinsettia’s are used for Christmas color but are short lived. Some use Dianthus or Carnations but they can be short lived.
Soil preparation with additives are crucial for optimal seasonal color establishment and growth. It is recommended to replace the soil in annual planting beds once a year. With constant multiple color changes, fungus spores will increase and cause the plant to decline more rapidly. Using fungicides with each color change is good, but over time the soil just wears out. Fertilization is important with each change, and the use of a slow release fertilizer like Osmocote is recommended. The incorporation of snail bait is necessary with each change of color for good growth. Rototilling the soil to a minimum depth of 6-8 inches before planting is also recommended. Make sure the irrigation system is in good working order and on a separate system than other zones. Dead-heading (removing old flowers) on a regular basis is necessary for the plants long life and aesthetics in the color bed. Most color comes in 4 inch pots and the spacing will vary depending on the species and can be from 4-8 inches. Make sure the color is planted a little higher than the existing soil, as color planted too deep will decline very quickly. The use of herbicides to kill weed seeds in the beds, if applied, should be put down 4-6 weeks after planting as the herbicide will stunt the growth of most annuals.
Following these guidelines will ensure the success of your seasonal color!