Although autumn is well and truly upon us now, there are still lots of plants looking wonderful at this time of year. Here are top ten plants to brighten up October gardens, even in the darkest of days.

1. Nerine bowdenii (Bowden lily)

First up is a hardy lily, that’s a delightful surprise at this time of year as it produces fabulous bright pink flowers until late autumn. It’s best grown at the base of a sunny wall on its own as it can get crowded out by other plants. Ideally, mulch over winter and, once established, it’ll reward you with its cheerful flowers for years to come.

  • Flowers in autumn
  • Hardy
  • Grows to 45cm tall
  • Moist but well-drained or well-drained soil
  • Full sun
  • Sheltered

2. Ceratostigma willmottianum (Chinese plumbago)

This is the ideal hardy shrub for the front or middle of a border. From late summer until late autumn, it pumps out masses of delightful vivid blue flowers. Then, come autumn, the leaves turn shades of warming russet-red before leaf fall. Pruning in early spring will help produce lots of flowers later in the year.

  • Flowers in summer and autumn
  • Hardy through most of the UK
  • Grows to 1m tall
  • Moist but well-drained or well-drained soil
  • Full sun or partial shade
  • Exposed or sheltered
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3. Cyclamen hederifolium (ivy-leaved cyclamen)

Long flowering and hardy, these tough little plants come in various shades of pink to white and look wonderful planted under and around the base of trees. The leaves are individually marked with silver lines, making each plant delightfully unique.

  • Flowers in autumn
  • Fully hardy
  • Grows to 10cm tall
  • Well-drained soil
  • Partial shade
  • Sheltered
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4. Chrysanthemum indicum (hardy chrysanthemum)

Hardy chrysanthemum varieties are another great way of introducing late season colour into the flower border. As the name suggests they are fully hardy and many flower all the way through to first frosts. They grow well in containers.

  • Flowers in summer and autumn
  • Fully hardy
  • Grows to 90cm tall
  • Moist but well-drained or well-drained soil
  • Full sun
  • Sheltered
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5. Anemone hupehensis (Japanese anemone) ‘Hadspen Abundance’

Japanese anemone varieties are generally easy to look after and long-lived once established. They flower on long, elegant stems and look lovely grown en masse. This variety produces single, deep-pink flowers with a satiny shine for weeks on end starting from late summer.

  • Flowers in summer
  • Fully hardy
  • Grows to 90cm tall
  • Moist but well-drained soil
  • Full sun or partial shade
  • Exposed or sheltered
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6. Euonymus alatus (burning bush)

Perfect for October gardens is this large shrub/small tree that comes into its own at this time of year when its leaves turn spectacular shades of vivid crimson and scarlet. Then, the leaves fall to the ground, leaving behind brightly coloured purple/red fruits which split open to reveal a vivid orange seed in the centre.

  • Interesting foliage through the year
  • Hardy
  • Grows to 2.5m tall
  • Moist but well-drained or well-drained soil
  • Full sun or partial shade
  • Exposed or sheltered
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7. Malus (crab apple) ‘Comtesse de Paris’

Crab apples are easy to care for trees that produce pretty spring blossom and coloured fruits during the autumn months. The numerous, small fruits on the Comtesse are a pretty shade of yellow and stay on the tree often well into the New Year. So they provide cheerful colour during the winter months.

  • Flowers in spring and summer
  • Fully hardy
  • Grows to 4m tall
  • Moist but well-drained soil
  • Full sun or partial shade
  • Exposed or sheltered
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8. Anemanthele lessoniana (pheasant-tail grass)

Next is an evergreen grass, another invaluable plant for autumn/winter interest in the garden. The narrow green leaves naturally arch over as the plant matures forming graceful mounds that grow well in sun or partial shade. They look particularly good planted around the base of trees, as well as in flower borders. They come into their own at this time of year, as the leaves start to turn orange-bronze.

  • Flowers in summer and autumn
  • Hardy through most of the UK
  • Grows to 1m tall
  • Moist but well-drained or well-drained soil
  • Full sun or partial shade
  • Exposed or sheltered
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9. Symphyotrichum novi-belgii (aster) ‘Winston Churchill’

Asters are a brilliant choice for October gardens as there are so many different varieties available. There are two main groups: ‘New England’ and ’Novi-belgii’. The ‘Novi-belgii’ plants tend to have the brightest colour flowers and ‘Winston Churchill’ is no exception. It produces lots of bright, cerise-red, semi-double flowers for several weeks.

  • Flowers in summer and autumn
  • Fully hardy
  • Grows to 80cm tall
  • Moist but well-drained soil
  • Full sun or partial shade
  • Exposed or sheltered
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10. Hylotelephium spectabile (sedum ice plant) 

Sedum flowers are immensely attractive to pollinating insects, especially bees and butterflies. The wide, shallow, flower-heads of this variety start off light pink and change over the weeks to a delightfully dark crimson. If left on after flowering, these turn striking shades of dark brown. Cut back new growth stems in early spring to create stockier, shorter plants if planting front of border.

  • Flowers in summer and autumn
  • Fully hardy
  • Grows to 45cm tall
  • Well-drained soil
  • Full sun
  • Exposed
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Make the most of crisp autumn mornings with these top ten plants for October gardens that will greet you in the garden. Enjoy your garden all year round by making your garden inviting and colourful, whatever the season.

Find out more about adding texture to your garden:

Adding texture

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