by Erin Marissa Russell
Not ready to give up your flower garden just because October is here? You shouldn’t have to. There are plenty of flowers you can plant in October that will flourish in the chilly temperatures of fall and winter. Some of the plants we’ve highlighted below will bloom in the cold seasons, while others get started on growing strong root systems over the winter and wait until spring or summer to put on a show. In addition to flowers, you can also plant trees, shrubs, cover crops, and herbs this October.
Keep reading to see some of the common gardener questions and answers about which plants you can put in the ground this October so you can keep getting your hands dirty and enjoying your garden all year round.
What flowers can I plant in October?
October is the season to plant spring-blooming bulbs, wildflowers, and many standard gardening favorites. The flowers that don’t blossom this winter can spend the cold season in the ground, strengthening their root systems in preparation for a springtime bloom. Many plants benefit from (or even require) a certain number of “chill hours,” when temperatures dip to 35-45 degrees Fahrenheit, in order to produce flowers in spring. Wait until the weather is cooler than 60 degrees Fahrenheit to plant spring flower bulbs.
Amaryllis (Hippeastrum): Zones 9-11; with winter protection, also Zone 8. Loamy soil; full or partial sun; some shade is needed when the sun is highest in the sky. Flowers are four-10 inches. Blade-shaped leaves grow from a bulb, and flowers appear in red, chartreuse, white, pink, blaze orange, peach/salmon, variegated/bicolor, and a range of other hues. Amaryllis plants flower six weeks after planting and blossom from December to June. Planting in October puts you right on schedule for plants to bloom just in time for the Christmas season, which makes the amaryllis a perfect plant to give as a holiday gift.
Aster (Symphyotrichum): Zones 3-8. Full or partial sun; loamy soil. Star-shaped blooms are available in a range of hues, including blue, pink, purple, red, and white. Aster size varies widely by variety, ranging from eight inches to eight feet tall.
Autumn Crocus/Saffron Crocus (Crocus sativus): Zones 3-8. Crocus plants need temperatures to stay between 35 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 to 15 weeks in order to flower. Full sun or light shade; any soil type. Plants grow to six inches tall by three or four inches wide. Thin foliage shaped like blades is dotted with cup-shaped blooms that come in shades including blue, cream, lavender, orange, purple, white, and yellow.
Baboon Flower/Blue Freesia (Babiana stricta): Zones 9-10 for October planting. Plants grow to 18 to 24 inches tall. Thin foliage stalks are topped with falls of bluish-purple blooms with white centers. Blossoms appear 10 to 12 weeks after bulbs are planted. Full sun/light shade; moist, well-draining soil.
Carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus): Zones 3-10 (depending on carnation variety). There are over 300 types of carnation for gardeners to choose from, including flowers in shades of pink, red, vermilion, yellow,and white. At least 4-5 hours of daily sunshine; fertile soil that drains well with a slightly alkaline pH. (A pH level of 6.75 is optimal.) Carnations bloom one to two years after seeds are planted.
Cornflower/Bachelor’s Buttons (Centaurea cyanus): Zone 2-11. Full sun. Cornflower prefers slightly alkaline soil with a pH ranging from 7.2 to 7.8. These hardy flowers can grow in standard fertile soil or poor, rocky soil. Grows to 30 inches tall by 10 inches wide. Stacked feathery petals top grayish-green foliage with blooms in shades of blue, pink, purple, and white. Some of the purple varieties come in such deep, dark hues that they almost appear black.
Daffodil or Paperwhite (Narcissus): If you want to be surrounded by scented, flowering daffodils at Christmas, now is the time to start planting. It is always a bit of a hit-and-miss operation, but you greatly increase your chances by buying lots of bulbs and planting a few bulbs a week for the next few weeks. Paperwhites should only take around six weeks from planting to flower.
Forget-Me-Not (Myosotis) [https://www.gardeningchannel.com/how-to-grow-forget-me-not-flowers/]: Forget-me-nots are brilliant spring fillers, and if your garden tends to be bare early in the year you can give it near-instant springy froth with a pack of plug plants planted now. Any spring bulbs can poke up in between
Goldenrod (Solidago rigida): Goldenrod (Solidago rigida) has clusters of yellow blooms that appear at the top of tall flower stalks. It grows in full sun to part shade in USDA zones 3 through 9.
Hyacinth (Hyacinthus): Zones 4-9. Plants grow from bulbs and reach between six and 12 inches tall. Full sun/partial shade; fertile, well-draining soil. Hyacinths are known for the sweet fragrance that comes from the star-shaped flowers, which are clustered vertically in spires. Blossoms may be apricot, blue, pink, purple, orange, red, or white. Flowers bloom three weeks after leaves appear, which normally happens in spring at the same time as daffodils blossom. However, you can force hyacinths to bloom in winter, making them an excellent choice for holiday gift-giving.
Ice Plant (Delosperma cooperi): Ice plant (Delosperma cooperi) grows in USDA zones 8 through 10 in full sun. It reaches heights of about 6 inches or less and produces pink or purple blooms. Hellebore (Helleborus × hybridus cvs.) can bloom in temperatures below freezing and grows in USDA zones 4 through 9. The cup-shaped flowers tilt downward and appear throughout the plant’s glossy green leaves.
Larkspur (Delphinium consolida): Zones 3-8. Blossoms resemble miniature irises, stacked in towers atop stalks that can stretch to six feet tall. Select from blue, pink, purple or white blossoms. Larkspur can be cultivated in most soils, but it thrives in light soil with ample drainage.Full sun/partial shade. When you plant larkspur in October, blooms will appear the following spring.
Marigold (Calendula): Zones 3-9. Many gardeners include these goldenrod and orange-colored flowers scattered among their plants because of marigold’s natural ability to repel insects.
Poppies (Annual, California, or Oriental): Plant seeds for spring-blooming California poppies now. Try your hand at the common and beautiful sunny orange California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), the diminutive, yellow-flowered foothill poppy (Eschscholzia caespitosa) or red-orange wind poppies (Papaver heterophyllum).
Tulip (Tulipa): Zones 4-6. Gardeners love this spring-blooming classic for the broad range of colors available and the ease of care. There’s a tulip variety for almost every color out there, from icy white to midnight black. Some types are bicolored or variegated, and others have double-stacked petals. Mature plants measure anywhere from four to 24 inches tall.
There are more flowers you can plant in October than the selections we’ve highlighted above. Gardeners can consider adding cockscomb (Celosia cristata), common daisy (Bellis perennis), dog’s tooth violet (Erythronium dens-canis), fritillaria, giant allium (Allium giganteum), glory-of-the-snow (Scilla forbesii), hawksbeard (Crepis): hellebore (Helleborus), hollyhock (Alcea), iris (Iris germanica), leather flower (Clematis), lupine (Lupinus), pansy (Viola tricolor var. hortensis), peony (Paeonia), petunia (Petunia x atkinsiana), pinks (Dianthus caryophyllus), poached egg plant (Limnanthes douglasii), Primrose (Primula vulgaris), Siberian squill (Scilla siberica) , snowdrop (Galanthus), snapdragon (Antirrhinum), stock (Matthiola incana), summer snowflake (Leucojum aestivum), sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus), sweet William (Dianthus barbatus), wallflower (Erysimum), watsonia (Watsonia borbonica), and winter aconite (Eranthis).
What plants are best to plant in October?
October gardeners can grow certain herbs, trees, shrubs, roses, cover crops, and plants used in landscaping in addition to the flowers we detailed in the section above. Many vegetables can be planted in October, either for a fall/winter harvest or to develop over the winter in time for spring and summer harvesting. This article will give you the rundown of veggies suited for October planting, along with their USDA growing zones and some care basics. Check the instructions for each type of plant you’ll grow to find out when they should be planted.
Depending on your growing zone and the first estimated freeze date of the fall, you can choose to sow seeds directly into the ground, start seedlings indoors and move them into the garden once they’ve had a chance to grow, or purchase young plants for transplanting. Here are the herbs, shrubs, and other non-flowering options we recommend for October planting.
- Bay (Laurus nobilis)
- Blueberries (Cyanococcus)
- Chives (Allium schoenoprasum): (Depending on the climate in your area, you may need to move your chives indoors to a windowsill or sunny patio when winter cold sets in.)
- Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum): (As with chives, cilantro may need to be moved indoors if the weather gets too cold for them.)
- Dill (Anethum graveolens): If wintertime temperatures in your location dip too low for dill, plant yours in containers so you can move them inside until the weather gets warmer.
- Fothergilla (Fothergilla major)
- French Thyme (Plectranthus amboinicus)
- Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum)
- Milkflower (Cotoneaster lacteus)
- Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
- Parsley (Petroselinum crispum): (Move to windowsill in winter.)
- Red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia)
- Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
- Rowan (Sorbus)
- Smokebush (Cotinus coggygria):
- Strawberries (Fragaria x ananassa): (Gardeners planting strawberries in October should use runners instead of seeds.)
- Turfgrass (Zoysia japonica)
- Witch-Hazel Shrub (Hamamelis virginiana)
Want to learn more about which plants to grow in October?
Urban Farmer covers October Planting
The Old Farmer’s Almanac covers Best Shrubs for Fall Planting
The Old Farmer’s Almanac covers Plants for Fall Color
Better Homes & Gardens covers Plant in Fall for Prettiest Spring Yard
SFGate Homeguides covers Types of Flowers to Plant in October
Thompson & Morgan covers What to Grow and Sow in October