Garden Planner: Sept/Oct 2004

What to plant, what to prune, and what’s in bloom now in Dallas gardens.

September & October

Many people save their major landscaping jobs for the spring, but in our neck of the woods, fall is just as good a time for these pursuits, if not better. It’s true that nurseries carry the widest selection of plants in spring, but planting in the fall has other advantages, most notably that our winters tend to be milder than our summers. That means that newly installed plants actually endure less stress while weathering our occasional winter snaps than they do by suffering through Dallas’ long, relentless summer. And since fewer people travel during the winter, the risk of plant demise due to neglect is greatly reduced. So if you’re contemplating any kind of garden overhaul, consider the appeal of working in the crisp fall air. An added bonus: Landscape professionals aren’t as swamped as they will be in the spring.


Spotlight on Blooms: Red Spider Lilies >>

Surely one of the most beautiful, exotic, and surprising flowers in the fall garden is the Lycoris radiata, or red spider lily. A fall-blooming bulb, this extraordinary plant seems to come from nowhere in September, sending up a lone straight stem with a single bud that bursts open into a crimson flower that looks for all the world like miniature fireworks. Planted in large clusters, these delicate blossoms make a striking focal point in the garden. The  fragile looking yet dynamic bloom is actually a circular cluster of blossoms with very long, upwardly arching stamen that create the appearance of one large round, feathery flower. (A single cut bloom with one or two artfully placed foliage stems makes a breathtaking arrangement.) The best part: They multiply on their own in the garden.


The Numbers

Average high: 87.7 degrees
Average low: 67.2 degrees
Average rainfall: 2.42 inches
Record breakers: In 1980 September temperatures hit 108 degrees, then four years later in the same month the mercury fell to 43 degrees. Welcome to Texas!

Average high: 77.9 degrees
Average low: 56.4 degrees
Average rainfall: 4.11 inches


Summer Checklist
Your Guide to Gardening in September & October



In Bloom
Ageratum, aster, clematis, crape myrtle, dahlia, marigold, morning glory, portulaca, rose, spider lily, zinnia.

To Do List

  • Divide and replant iris, canna, Shasta daisy, violet, and daylily.
  • Sow larkspur, poppy, alyssum, pansy, hollyhock, cornflower, candytuft, petunia, stock, and Sweet William seed.
  • Continue planting fall vegetables.
  • Lightly feed blooming tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants.
  • Plant strawberries.
  • Watch for brown patches on St. Augustine lawns.
  • Fertilize lawns with a low-nitrogen fertilizer.
  • You’ll see pansies in the nurseries, but wait– it’s a little early (hot) to plant them if they are to thrive all winter. (If you are anxious, sow seeds.)

    On September 25, check out the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days Program. This year nine private gardens  with a variety of designs and styles will be showcased. Gardens are open rain or shine, and reservations are not required. Tickets are $5 per garden, available on location the day of the event. For more information, visit or call 888-842-2442.


In Bloom
Fall aster, Camellia sasanqua, celosia, chrysanthemum, dahlia, marigold, rose.

To Do List

  • Divide and replant spring-blooming perennials. (By planting now, these perennials will be better-established, and therefore fuller and more floriferous, in the spring.)
  • Plant spinach, parsley, carrots, radishes, and greens.
  • Sow Bermuda onion seeds; initiate first planting of English peas. 
  • Plant hardy amaryllis, crocus, and Muscari bulbs.
  • Set out pansy, snapdragon, flowering kale, and dianthus plants.
  • Check lawn for grub worms.
  • Feed fall-blooming perennials.
  • Continue to sow larkspur, poppy, and hollyhock seeds.
  • Select tulip and hyacinth bulbs and refrigerate for four to six weeks before planting.
  • Dig and store caladium tubers.

Two Great Resources for Fall Plants

Howard Garrett’s seminal guide, aptly titled Howard Garrett’s Plants for Texas, tells you what to plant and when. Whether  you’re a first-time homeowner or a seasoned gardner, Garrett has answers to your questions. Plus, he’s eco-friendly. The Antique Rose Emporium’s online catalog ( provides tips for raising roses the right way: from preparing the bed to protecting against insects and diseases.  Place your order now since roses are only shipped between October and April, preventing those with a less-than-green thumb from planting during the wrong season.



Fine Feathered Friends

Early fall sees the very beginning of the southern migration of birds. Look for neotropicals such as warblers, tanagers, orioles, and vireos, as well as shorebirds such as sandpipers and plovers. To lure these nomads to your garden, try installing a birdbath with a drip system or a pond with a waterfall. The sound of moving water is a beacon for birds, and the motion keeps the water fresh as well. Also attractive as food sources are Yaupon, Possum Haw, and other hollies that berry.


Keep me up to date on the latest happenings and all that D Magazine has to offer.