For beautiful color in the garden during the fall, try a dark red mum like ‘Raquel’ and the grass, prairie dropseed. Early in the season the grass forms fine textured clumps of very slender medium green leaves. In the fall the leaves take on orange hues that fade to light bronze in the winter. The pink to brown tinted flowers are produced in open branching panicles and rise well above the foliage in late summer. The garden mum is best treated as an annual and planted at the beginning of September to replace an annual that has faded. Praire dropseed is tolerant of many soils and can be grown in the consistently moist soil needed by the garden mum although it prefers soil on the dry side. Both plants enjoy full sun.
Any dark red garden mum such as ‘Raquel’ will work in this combination but this cultivar is especially noted for its compact habit, abundant flowers, and dark green aromatic leaves . If planted in the spring, pinch back the tips of the branches from late spring until mid summer to encourage branching and flowering. Fertilize several times and keep moist especially as flowers begin to form. Otherwise, plant the mums in the fall when they are available.
Bloom Time: Late summer to first frost
Size: 18-24” H x 12-18” W
Hardiness: Zones 5-9
Praire Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis)
Considered by some to be the most beautiful of the native praire grasses, praire dropseed forms fountains of emerald green leaves before turning gold and orange in fall. The fragrant flowers are considered showy and the seeds attract song birds. Very tolerant of various soil type including heavy clay but prefers relatively dry soil.
Bloom Time: Late summer to fall
Size: 24-26” H x 24-36” W
Hardiness: Zones 3-9