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Best 25 plants to grow in autumn

Pink dahlias are one of the best plants to grow in your garden in autumn
Credit: Getty Images

Autumn is here - and it's one of the best seasons for many reasons: ochre leaves falling from trees, the return of knitted jumpers and Halloween, to name a few. However, the season also brings opportunities for your garden.

When the weather gets colder, the colours in the borders ironically heat up - from fiery shades of orange through to plum, with tinges of blue and pink from flowering shrubs and bulbs. Grasses may also steal the show with their own decorative seedheads and plumes in the autumn months. 

Containerised plants are particularly impressive and easy to grow at autumn time - and you often don't need to plant these far in advance.  Trips to the garden centre can be overwhelming, with an abundance of choices to wade through. That's why Val Bourne has compiled a list of the top 25 flowers that are in their prime in autumn.

1. Orpine 'Purple Emperor' (Sedum telephium)

Flat heads of tiny ruby-red stars are supported by neatly crimped, chocolate-purple foliage. The Purple Emperor's flowering season is from August to October, and you should put it in direct sunlight or partial shade. (Optimal height: 50cm/20in).

2. Sneezeweed 'Sahin's Early Flowerer' (Helenium)

Helenium flowers Credit: Clara Molden

Shimmering orange daisies with brown velvet centres can brighten your garden from summer to early autumn. Be sure to deadhead to encourage repeat flowering. Soil needs to be of good quality - ideally moist and in direct sunlight. (1m/3ft).

3. Aster 'Little Carlow' 

Sprays of small lavender-blue daisies thrive from August to October, particularly in evening light. Be sure to plant them in good, fertile soil in the sunlight. (1.2m/4ft).

4. Michalmas daisy 'Mönch' (Aster x frikartii)

The longest flowering aster of all, with good foliage and large violet-blue daisies on slightly lax stems. Plant in good soil in the sun and the Michalmas daisy will flower from August to September. (90cm/3ft).

5. Sunflower 'Lemon Queen' (Helianthus)

This tall, self-supporting and non-spreading perennial sunflower flowers from July to September. Make sure to plant it at least partially in the sun. (1.75m/6ft).

6. Coneflower 'Goldsturm' (Rudbeckia fulgida)

Slick and smart, these neatly rayed golden daisies are dark-eyed and persist from July until October. Plant in good soil in direct sunlight. (90cm/3ft).

7. Hardy garden verbena (Verbena rigida)

Fragrant vivid purple flowers and a branching candelabra habit. This low-growing plant stays in flower for months, from June to September. Requires sunlight and soil with good drainage. (30cm/1ft).

8. Chinese plumbago (Ceratostigma willmottianum)

Wiry, tall wands of gentian-blue phlox-shaped flowers continue until October against reddish foliage. Requires warmth and sunlight. (90cm/3ft).

9. Red-hot poker 'Tawny King' (Kniphofia)

Long-flowering poker with gradient of colours, reminiscent of maple syrup and cream. Requires sunlight and moist soil for it to flourish from July to October. (1.2m/4ft).

10. Oriental fountain grass (Pennisetum orientale)

Slender beige caterpillars make surrounding pinks and purple plants appear brighter. The lax stems also add movement to the border. Requires good soil drainage and full sunlight. (90cm/3ft).

11. Miscanthus sinensis 'Silberfeder'

These silver plumes on arching stems grow best in a bushy environment, but can deliver whatever the weather (which is particularly handy in Britain). They flower by August but fade well. Moist, well-drained soil is preferable. (2.4m/8ft).

12. White gaura (Gaura lindheimeri)

Wands of delicate apple blossom-white flowers open slowly and keep the show going until November. Good drainage needed. (1m/3ft).

13. Penstemon 'Hidcote Pink' 

Butterfly-like in its appearance, refined spires of tubular, rose-pink flowers, etched with white and overlaid with cerise, elevate this tough penstemon into the super league. Sunlight and well-drained soil are required for this plant to flower from summer to autumn. (25cm/10in).

14. Monkshood 'Arendsii' (Aconitum carmichaelii)

Thick, grey-green stems and sumptuous dark foliage boast spires of sapphire-blue flowers from September to October. Sun or shade are optimal. (1.25m/4ft).

15. Smoke tree 'Royal Purple' (Cotinus coggygria) 

When temperatures plummet, the wine-red lollipop leaves fleck with shocking pink. Place in the full sun for the plant to flower from July to August. (5m/16ft).

16. Japanese Anemone 'Honorine Jobert' (Anemone x hybrida) 

Classic Japanese anemone with single white flowers bossed in gold, with dark green foliage. Grows well in deep shade and in any soil, but not too wet. (1.2m/4ft).

17. Anise-scented sage 'Black and Blue' (Salvia guaranitica)

Credit: Roger Taylor

Foot-long tapering spikes of navy blue tubular flowers held in black cases. Good drainage and sun required. (2.5m/8ft).

18. Argentinian vervain (Verbena bonariensis)

Self-supporting, slender plant with stems topped with lavender leaves. Direct sunlight needed. (2m/6ft).

19. Bergamot 'Squaw' (Monarda)

Brash scarlet flowers make this robust grower a show-stopper in September. The black pepper-pot seedheads last through winter too. Sunlight is required and humus-rich soil is preferable. (1.2m/4ft).

20. Dahlia 'David Howard' 

Soft orange, smoky-leaved dahlia. Indispensable in warm-toned borders. Grows best in direct sunlight. (75cm/30in).

21. Montbretia 'Severn Sunrise' (Crocosmia)

A late crocosmia with shot-silk, shimmering copper-tinted flowers that fade to pink. Sun and summer moisture required. (1m/3ft).

22. Coneflower 'Magnus' (Echinacea purpurea)

A flat-petalled reddish pink daisy with a golden-brown centre. Sun and good soil are needed for it to flower from July to September. (1m/3ft).

23. Sedge (Carex testacea)

A swirling optic-fibre lamp of soft, olive-green filaments, touched with orange highlights, on year-round grass. Well-drained soil is required. (40cm/16in).

24. Flat-stalked spindle tree (Euonymus planipes)

The jungly pinnate leaves turn crimson-pink and drop early to reveal orange and crimson spindles on dangling threads. This plant needs well-drained soil and can grow in direct sunlight or partial shade. (2m/6ft).

25. Phlox 'Monica Lynden-Bell' (Paniculata)

A pale pink, white-eyed fragrant phlox with a robust constitution. It complements asters and grows well in the shade - providing it is in good soil. (75cm/30in).

Read more: How to tidy up your autumn garden - and still respect the creepy crawlies