A closeup shot of beautiful purple pansy flowers in a field

Any way you look at it, it was an unusual growing season. Many of our landscape plants struggled to rebound after winter, so more summer annuals were planted to give color this year. For a time, we had summer rains, and the annuals thrived. Then, it got unbearably hot. Then, it got dry. And then, hotter and drier. Our summer annuals bit the dust, and our gardens now need a spot of color. It’s time for winter annuals to help save the day.

October is a great time to plant fall and winter annuals. While we will still have some warm days, the cooler nights and lower humidity can help the annuals take off. Pansies, in particular, can get leggy if planted too early, so October is prime planting time. But pansies aren’t the only option for long-lasting fall and winter seasonal color.

Regardless of what you are planting or when, fertilize annuals at planting, and follow up throughout the season. Cool-season annuals don’t have to be fertilized quite as often as warm-season plants, because daily watering isn’t necessary in the winter. Water will be critical until they are established and temperatures begin to drop. Make sure you also water before a hard freeze to ensure plants have ample moisture.

PansiesWide range with clear or blotched varieties. Antiques, Cool Wave,
Delta, Majestic Giant, Matrix
Widely available and relatively easy to cultivate.
Available in a variety of sizes. Dislike hot weather;
can withstand temperatures below freezing.
ViolasWide range of colors.Admire, ColorMax, Gem,
Smaller blooms than pansies, but more tolerant of
temperature variability. Long-lasting.
PanolaWide range of colors.Beaconsfield, Fire,
Deep Blue Blotch
A cross between a pansy and a viola. Smaller
blooms than a pansy, but larger than a viola.
Dusty MillerSilvery, white foliage.Silver Lace, New Look,
Silver Dust, White Diamond
Cut leaf or solid leaf varieties. Plants will live both
summer and winter, but should be replanted
every two years for vigor. Light foliage highlights
other annual color.
DianthusShades of pink, red and
American Pie, Diana,
Floral Lace, Fruit Punch,
Paint the Town
Short-lived perennial, often used as an annual.
Blooms during cool weather, just green in the
SnapdragonWide range of colors.Candy Showers, Snapshot,
Sonnet, Trailing
Florets resemble dragon’s snout. Available in a
variety of sizes. Types can grow from 6-15 inches
to 30-48 inches tall.
Flowering CabbageGreen base with shades
of purple, pink or white
rosettes of foliage.
Glamour, Nagoya, OsakaOrnamental cabbage is bitter and not
recommended for eating. Forms more of a head
than kale.
Flowering KaleShades of red, white, pink
and purple.
Glamour, Peacock, Red Bor, YokohamaFoliage can be shiny, fringed, lacy, curled with
colors that intensify with lower temperatures.
Ornamental MustardGreenish-red leaves when
young, dark purple as it ages.
Giant Red, Miz AmericaTough, showy plants. Edible. May need protection
if temperatures drop below 25 degrees.
Swiss ChardLarge, green leaves with
bright, colorful stems.
Bright Lights, Burgundy,
Celebration, Northen Lights
Very showy in winter garden. Can persist into
summer. Edible.