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Succession Planting For Season-Long Color

Part Of The American Meadows Meadowscaping Learning Center

Many gardeners work long hours in the spring months, feverishly planting a variety of bulbs, wildflowers, and perennials for spectacular summer color. But packing all of your planting into several weeks per year isn’t always the most relaxing — or beneficial to your landscape. That's where succession planting comes in!

Yes, you can plant in summer! Succession planting refers to the simple practice of adding wildflowers, bulbs, perennials, and vegetables to your garden in a staggered timeframe throughout the season. The result is a continual display of color, well-timed harvests, and abundant resources to support local wildlife. As you’ll see in the comprehensive list below, planting isn’t just for spring. See what you can plant now!

 Cosmos and ZInnias and a swallowtail Butterfly

Summer Planting: Annual Wildflowers

It's not too late to plant annual wildflowers in summer. If you didn’t get around to planting seeds in spring, or if you want to create a continual supply of fresh blooms for pollinators and for cut flower bouquets, quick-blooming annual wildflowers are a great choice. You can plant easy-to-grow annual wildflowers such as Zinnias, Cosmos, and Sunflowers well into July - just remember to water regularly to support seedlings in the heat of summer.  

Learn More: Annuals vs Perennials

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Colchicum Flowers

Late Summer Planting: Fall-Flowering Bulbs

Though August can be one of the hottest months of the season, it is the perfect time for an easy planting project. The tiny bulbs of Fall-Flowering Crocus, Colchicum, and Saffron Crocus are easy to plant in flower pots or to tuck into the front border of the garden.  These bulbs bloom just weeks after planting, offering up a finale of colorful fall flowers. Saffron is especially fun to grow, since you can harvest the stigmas for a culinary spice!

Learn More: All About Fall Flowering Crocus & Colchicum

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Blue, White, and Yellow Bearded Irises

Late Summer Planting: Bearded Irises

Bearded Irises can be planted in spring, and in late summer.  August is the perfect time to plant Bearded Iris because plants are typically dormant during the extreme heat. When a plant is dormant, it's in a suspended state and not actively growing, so this prevents transplant shock. Fall's cool soil temperatures will encourage healthy root growth and encourage a beautiful blooming show the following spring. 

Learn More: Bearded Iris Care

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Red Clover

Summer & Fall Planting: Cover Crops

Cover crops are an easy way to add nutrients to your soil. They can improve your lawn, cover bare soil before tilling and planting a wildflower meadow, or improve your vegetable garden. 

Taller cover crops such as clovers, buckwheat, and vetch can be grown among wildflowers in large pastures. Low-growing cover crops like Dutch White Clover can be overseeded into your lawn to give it a health boost.

If seeding in summer, be sure to water regularly to encourage good germination in the heat.

Learn More: How To Choose Cover Crops For The Home Garden

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Lupines and Daisies Blooming in a meadow

Fall Planting: Wildflower Seeds

Fall is a popular time to plant perennial wildflower seeds! This mimics the pattern that mother nature follows of setting seed in fall. Fall sowing seeds is all about timing.

In areas with freezing winters (the Northeast, Midwest, and parts of the West), sow seeds after several killing frosts. The seeds will lay dormant and have a head start on spring growth.

In areas with warm winters, (the Southeast, Southwest, parts of the West), sow seeds at the beginning of your rainy season. This gives seedlings the water they need and allows them to establish during the coolest part of the year.

Learn More: How To Grow Wildflowers

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Tulips and Daffodils blooming in spring

Fall Planting: Flower Bulbs

Some of our favorite spring-blooming flowers, like Daffodils and Tulips, must be planted in the fall. These bulbs require 3-4 months of near-freezing temperatures to grow and bloom in your garden because they are native to colder regions and need this cold period for proper flower buds to form.

Add your favorite bulbs to your garden or plant directly into your lawn, and wait for a spectacular spring show of color!

Learn More: How To Encourage Your Tulips To Come Back

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Echinacea, Aslcepias, Bee Balm in a garden

Fall Planting: Perennials

Fall is another great time plant perennials! Fall's warm soil and cooling air temperatures provide the perfect conditions for healthy root systems to grow. Then as soon as the ground thaws in spring, long before the soil can be worked and any new plants can be put in, your new plants will continue to grow. Plus, it's easy to see how your new plants will fit into your garden in fall when your perennials are all at their full size for the season.

Learn More: Why Every Garden Needs Native Plants

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