Can you feel it? Windows open in the morning, a sweet scent in the air? Fall is rolling in. Our first true cool front is expected after this weekend and you can bet all our workers at Rainbow Gardens are looking forward to the cooler temperatures.

Know what else is looking forward to cooler days? All our fall annuals! The nursery is bursting with fall annual color and the atmosphere is very celebratory. After this excruciatingly hot summer, we are ready to make a cool change, how about you? Let’s take a quick look at some of our favorite fall annual color.

Snapdragons are great fall annuals

Fall Annuals for Cool Weather Times

Snapdragons: Snapdragons are such a cheerful way to switch over to fall annual color. They come in a variety of colors and sizes so you can easily fit them somewhere in your landscape. Whether planted in the ground or in pots, this fall annual color brightens up any spot.

Dwarf varieties grow to heights of about 9 inches, perfect for front borders. Intermediate snapdragons grow about 15″-18″ tall. These look great planted in masses or in the middle of dwarf and rocket varieties. Rocket snapdragons are the tallest of the bunch, reaching heights of 30″-36″. Best for backs of garden plots, may need to be staked if in an area that gets a little windy.

Snapdragons are quite cold hardy if kept well watered. They go dormant through winter and pop back to life come springtime.

Dianthus are biennials

Dianthus: Dianthus are actually biennials or short lived perennials, but we tend to grow them as annuals here because they prefer the cooler temperatures (not at all what our summers give us). If you are going to try to push them through the summer, they will need some shade in the afternoon. If grown in pots you can move them around as the sun strength changes throughout the year.

You will find these sweet fall ‘annuals’ in shades of white, pink, magenta, red and bicolor. On average they grow about 6″-12″ tall and wide, but you can usually find a few taller varieties as well.

Pansies and Violas are cold hardy fall annuals

Pansies and Violas (Johnny Jump Ups): These fall annual favorites really need the cooler weather in order to thrive. In fact, these beauties will see you all the way through winter and quite a ways into spring. They grow an average of 4″-10″ with a similar spread.

Pansies have a larger flower than Violas, but otherwise they are very similar. If you find them getting leggy throughout the season, pinch them way back and they will fill in bushier and with more blooms.

A huge range of colors are available in both of these annuals. You can also find them solid, splotched, or whiskered (my favorite). When cool temperatures are here, a spot with sunshine is perfect for these brilliantly hued annuals.

Lobelia are annuals that like cool weather like fall.

Alyssum and Lobelia: I grouped these fall annuals together because they thrive in mld cool temperatures, but they most likely won’t take you all the way through the winter if it is a cold one. Frost will most likely damage them. They are however a perfect ‘bridge’ from fall into winter and will bring you joy while you have them.

These are both low-growing annuals (about 6″ tall). Alyssum grows in a somewhat carpet or mat-like form, while lobelia tends to  take on a spilling, or trailing form. These habits make them great fall annuals to add to mixed containers or front edges of annual beds.

You will generally find alyssum in crystal white or hues of purple, while lobelia offers one of the truest blues I’ve only ever seen in a delphinium. I’m talking electric blue! Sometimes it is hard to find lobelia, but it is worth taking a look to see if we have it in our fall annual section each time you visit.


It would be a disservice if I didn’t also mention, at least by name, cyclamen (a favorite cold-loving annual for the shade), and petunias and calibrachoas (which are more bridging annual to enjoy until it gets too cold). But I also want to give a shout out to many of our favorite perennials that get a second life once fall rolls around.

Salivas and sages are bursting with colorful blooms along with lantana, cupheas (batfaced is a fave), coneflowers, and of course, tis the season for mums!

I sure hope you are enticed to come see all of our fall offerings here at Rainbow Gardens. Fall is for planting and we’re here for it!

~The Happy Gardener, Lisa Mulroy