David W. Marshall
Agriculture & Natural Resources Program Leader
UF-IFAS Leon County Extension
As we move into cooler weather, we find that fall has its own seasonal colors. Fall color in our deciduous trees is typically in November. Though we don't have the striking color that can be found further north, we still find that some of our trees are quite showy in the fall. And we are fortunate in that we can plant a variety of cool-season annuals now. All photos taken by David W. Marshall.
The hickory is one of our most reliable trees for fall color. Its leaves turn a bright gold every fall. Actually, there are several species of hickory that are native to north Florida. Most hickories grow slowly to become rather large trees. The falling nuts can be a little messy, so you probably don't want to plant a hickory directly over your house or where you'll be parking. Plant it further out in your landscape so that you can enjoy its fall color.
The Chinese pistache is a medium-sized tree that also provides great fall color, though typically a little later in the fall. Chinese pistache is adaptable to a wide range of soil types and is drought tolerant once established, so it makes a very good landscape tree.
Cassia bicapsularis (also known as Senna bicapsularis), goes by common names such as winter cassia or Christmas senna because it blooms in late fall to winter. Plant it in full sun and it will grow to a height of eight feet or so with an equal spread and be covered with the bright golden yellow flowers at a time when not much else is blooming in the garden. Winter freezes may kill it back, sometimes even to the ground, but it will come back in the spring. This plant is sometimes confused with Senna pendula, which is considered to be an invasive plant further south in Florida. But C. bicapsularis is not considered a problem in north Florida.
When the weather cools down, it's time to plant pansies. They're available in a wide range of colors, some with "faces", some in solid colors. Just plant them in full sun and plant enough of them to make a showy planting. Fertilize monthly, and don't forget to water when we're not receiving rain.
It's not too late to plant petunias either. Petunias prefer the cool weather. They will make it through winter just fine. If you don't have a sunny spot in the garden, they also make great container plants for that sunny spot on the patio.
An underused cool-season annual is diascia. Both diascia and nemesia, a very similar plant, are best planted in the fall. They will flower some now but will provide the most color in early spring. They will take full sun to filtered sun.
'Flambe' chrysocephalum, the yellow-flowered plant in the center of the photo, is considered a warm-season annual in cooler parts of the country, supposedly going from spring until the first hard winter freeze. But this planting in the Leon County Extension demonstration garden was planted in the fall. It served as a great background planting for blue pansies. Then when the pansies came out, we put in orange crossandra and croton. But the chrysocephalum suffered so badly in the heat and humidity of June and July that we finally took it out. We will probably be planting more this fall, though, to serve again as the background for the pansies.