What to Plant in Chicago in the Fall

What to Plant in Chicago in the Fall
Fall is the season to start a garden in Chicago. Garden centers have discounted trees, shrubs and perennials that can be planted now and return in the spring. These plants may look “dead” above the soil level, but below the roots are healthy. Before you set out to create your first garden make sure to sit down and draw yourself a garden plan. Build up your garden’s soil by amending with compost or buy soil from landscape suppliers in Chicago. Plant the perennial bulbs like tulips, then around them plant the perennials, trees and shrubs.

If you’re looking for fall color your choices this time of year are pretty limited to fall blooming asters, maybe some pansies and ornamental kale. Planting fall blooming asters now, will ensure you have aster blooming this time next year. The average first frost, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac is October 26, the Illinois State Climatologist Office says October 14. The first frost can range from a light frost to a killing frost. Provided the ground doesn’t freeze the first frost shouldn’t discourage your from planting or dividing perennials and moving them around the garden.

Here’s a list of some plants you can add to your garden this fall.

Trees & Shurbs.
Ornamental Grasses.
Perennial succulents like sedums.
Ornamental alliums (bulbs).
Lilies (bulbs).
Crocuses (bulbs).
Scilla (bulbs).
Daffodils (bulbs).
Hyacinths (bulbs)
Joe Pye Weed.

Again, don’t let the first frost or threat of frost keep you from planting.The important part of these plants are below the soil surface level. If the roots look healthy the plant should be fine. Once planted give them a good soak with the hose and mulch. Don’t overlook the seeds that can be planted in the fall either. Plant seeds for the perennials listed above, and more, so they sprout in the spring. Seeds for perennial plants may need to undergo a cold period before they germinate. Many of these seeds have hard coatings that need to be broken by the freezing and thawing cycle of the seasons. You can manually do this yourself, but why bother when nature does the work for you? Direct sow these seeds where you want them to grow in your garden. Looking for more tips on starting a garden in Chicago?  


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  • I almost bought mini (low-growing) allium bulbs at Meijer the other day. I love allium but can not buy bulbs until everything else is in the ground...

  • In reply to gardenfaerie:

    I bought one of those miniature alliums last year and I lost it in the garden when the pot it was in fell from the stairs. In the spring I found it blooming. It survived the winter above ground. The seed pods for it were shaped a lot like hearts. I'll have to post a picture of it on FB or somewhere.

  • In reply to gardenfaerie:

    My saffron crocuses are going right now. I always forget about them until the lovely surprise at this time of year. It's fun to save the saffron threads and make like I'll have enough one day to use in a dish. Great tips and list of fall choices. I'm enjoying fall gardening!

  • In reply to gardenfaerie:

    I love to wait for the 75% off plant sales! I didn't realize you could plant seeds for those perennials right now. Thanks!

  • In reply to gardenfaerie:

    I have a little nursery spot in the garden where I start seeds. This time I'm covering it with those meshy nursery pot trays since the dang squirrels are digging like crazy this time of year. Hopefully the seeds will have a better chance in undisturbed soil, and I can baby any seedlings that sprout until they get a little bigger and more able to fend for themselves in permanent spots.

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