Seasonal Splendor (Planting for Color)

colorful flowersEach season brings with it new colors and emotions. The goal of this fact sheet is to aid the homeowner in selecting plant material that will offer season-long interest in the landscape. Different colors can add variety, but too many may create chaotic color schemes that are aesthetically offensive. Consistency in a landscape is accomplished when the same color schemes are repeated.  

When planting for color, it is good to remember some general rules. Cool colors, such as shades of green, blue, and soft pastels, blend well together and have a tendency to make an area seem larger in appearance. These colors also suggest calmness or tranquility. Warm colors, such as shades of red, orange, and yellow, jump out visually and act as colorful accents. These colors imply lively and inviting feelings.

Complementary colors are those colors that most optimally accentuate each other. Yellow is considered complementary to purple. Red is complementary to green. Orange is complementary to blue. White is one of those universal colors which can complement all of the other colors.

There are many different plants which can add seasonal splendor to a landscape. Many plants display an array of flower colors throughout the season. Some plants dazzle our senses by offering tantalizing textures while others put on a spectacular show in the autumn as their colorful leaves proclaim the end of the season. When planting for color, it is important to think of the importance of foliage effect along with flower color.

With literally thousands of options in choosing plant material, it can oftentimes be overwhelming to homeowners in deciding which plants to buy. Catalogs and magazines are great for getting ideas. It is also a good idea to visit the nurseries and garden centers periodically throughout the year to see what plants are in bloom. Choosing a variety of plants with staggered bloom times, along with those that add unique textures and distinctive leaf colors can add seasonal interest to any landscape.

The following is a list of some of the more common perennial plants and their approximate bloom times along with plants that offer variety to the landscape in the form of texture and seasonal leaf color.

For simplification purposes, plants with flower times during March through mid-May are grouped into spring flowering plants. Plants flowering from mid-May through mid-August are grouped into summer flowering plants. Plants flowering during mid-August through October are grouped into fall flowering plants. While this fact sheet gives a general list of chronological color, some of the plants listed may crossover into other seasons – often, deadheading or removing of the spent blossoms encourages re-bloom. As a general rule, however, most perennials will provide blossoms for the space of 3-4 weeks. As always, it is important to remember that Mother Nature is consistently in charge. Weather variations, along with other climatic changes, can influence bloom time as well as color intensity. 

Fanfare Gaillardia
‘Fanfare’ Gaillardia (Gaillardia x grandiflora ‘Fanfare’)
Fountain Grass
Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides)
‘Grow-low’ Sumac
‘Grow-low’ Sumac (Rhus aromatica ‘Grow-low’)
Pasque Flower
Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris)

Spring Color

Plant Type Flower Color
Chokecherry tree white*
Flowering Cherry tree white, pink
Flowering Crabapple tree white, pinks*
Flowering Pear tree white*
Flowering Plum tree / shrub pink*
Golden Chaintree tree yellow
Horse Chestnut tree white, pink
Magnolia tree white, pink
Redbud tree white, pink* 
Serviceberry tree / shrub  white*
Barberry shrub yellow*
Bridal Wreath Spirea shrub white
Broom shrub yellow, pink
Currant shrub yellow
Flowering Almond shrub pink
Forsythia shrub yellow
Japanese Kerria shrub yellow
Lilac shrub white, pink, purples
Mock Orange shrub white
Ninebark shrub white*
Oregon Grape Holly shrub yellow*
Privet shrub white
Quince shrub pink, red
Rose shrub various
Snowberry shrub white
Viburnum shrub white, pink*
Basket of Gold perennial yellow
Bleeding Heart perennial pink, white
Candytuft perennial white*
Catmint perennial purple
Columbine perennial various
Coral Bells perennial white, pink*
Creeping Phlox perennial white, pink, purple
Dianthus perennial white, pink
Dutchman’s Breeches perennial white
English Daisy perennial white, pink 
‘Firecracker' Penstemon perennial red
Flax perennial blue, white 
Forget-me-not  perennial white, pink, blue 
Foxglove  perennial white, purple
Iris perennial various
Pasque Flower perennial purple
Perennial Salvia perennial purple, white
Pigsqueak perennial pink*
Pineleaf Penstemon perennial orange, yellow, red
Rockcress perennial purple, white
Wasatch Penstemon perennial purple
Akebia vine purple, white
Japanese Honeysuckle vine yellow, white*
Wisteria vine purple, white 
Creeping Thyme  ground-cover pink* 
Turkish Veronica ground-cover purple, blue
Vinca (Myrtle) ground-cover purple, blue*
Crocus bulb various
Daffodil bulb yellow, white
Hyacinth bulb purple, white
Tulip bulb various

* Indicates other ornamental features such as leaf color or fruit interest

Summer Color

Plant Type Flower Color
Catalpa tree white
Elderberry tree / shrub white* 
Golden Raintree tree yellow
Hawthorn tree white, pink*
Japanese Tree Lilac tree white
Linden tree yellow (fragrant)
Purple Robe Locust  tree purple, pink
Silk tree (Mimosa)  tree pink
Smoke Tree tree / shrub pink* 
Bluemist Shrub shrub blue, purple
Bumald Spirea shrub pink, white*
Butterfly Bush shrub white, purple
Hydrangea shrub blue, pink, white* 
Potentilla shrub yellow, white, orange
Rose Mallow  shrub pink, white, red
Rose of Sharon shrub white, pink, purple 
Yucca shrub cream-white* 
Agastache perennial orange, pink, purple
Artemesia perennial white*
Black-eyed Susan perennial yellow
Bridges' Penstemon perennial red, orange
Coreopsis perennial yellow, pink 
Cranesbill Geranium perennial purple
Daylily perennial various
Delphinium perennial blue, white, pink
Evening Primrose perennial yellow, white
Gaillardia perennial orange, red, yellow
Gaura perennial white, pink, red
Goldenrod perennial yellow
Hollyhock perennial various
Hosta perennial purple, white* 
Husker Red' Penstemon perennial white* 
Ice Plant perennial pink, yellow*
Jupiter’s Beard perennial pink
Lavender perennial purple, pink
Lupine perennial purple, pink, white 
Mexican Primrose perennial pink
Peony perennial various
Pike’s Peak’ Penstemon perennial purple
Pincushion (Scabiosa)  perennial purple, pink 
Poppy perennial various
Purple Coneflower  perennial purple, pink, white
Red Hot Poker  perennial red, orange, yellow
Red Rocks’ Penstemon perennial rose, pink, white
Russian Sage  perennial purple
Russian Stonecrop perennial yellow*
Santolina perennial yellow*
Shasta Daisy perennial white
Siberian Iris  perennial purple, blue, white 
Yarrow perennial various (pastels)
Clematis vine various
Trumpet Vine  vine orange, yellow
Canna Lily rhizome various

* Indicates other ornamental features such as leaf color or fruit interest. 

Fall Color

Plant Type Leaf Color
Amur Maple tree red
Autumn Purple' Ash tree purple
Bald Cypress tree orange
Bigtooth Maple tree pink, red, orange 
Crabapples tree various
Flowering Pear tree red, orange, purple
Ginkgo tree yellow
Green Ash tree yellow
Honeylocust tree yellow
Larch tree yellow
Northern Red Oak tree red, orange
Norway Maple tree yellow
Quaking Aspen tree yellow
Red Maple  tree red
Serviceberry tree / shrub orange, red 
Sumac tree / shrub red, orange, yellow
Swedish Aspen tree yellow, orange
Sweetgum tree orange, red
Washington Hawthorn tree orange, red
Zelkova tree bronze, orange, red
Burning Bush shrub red, hot pink
Cotoneaster shrub red, orange
Red-twig Dogwood  shrub purple
Viburnum shrub red, orange, purple
William Penn’ Barberry shrub bronze, orange, red
‘Autumn Joy’ Sedum perennial pink*
Aster perennial purple, pink, white*
Garden Mum perennial various*
Japanese Anemone perennial pink, white*
Boston Ivy vine red, orange, yellow 
Virginia Creeper vine red

*Indicates flower color. 

Winter Interest

Plant Type Interest
Arborvitae tree evergreen
Blue Atlas Cedar tree evergreen
Blue Spruce (dwarf cultivars) tree evergreen
Bosnian Pine tree evergreen
Crabapples tree persistent fruit
Deodar Cedar tree evergreen
Juniper tree evergreen
Paperbark Maple tree bark
River Birch tree bark
Scotch Pine tree evergreen
White Fir tree evergreen
Boxwood shrub evergreen
Creeping Junipers shrub evergreen
English Laurel shrub evergreen
Japanese Eounymus  shrub evergreen
Japanese Yew shrub evergreen
Mugo Pine  shrub evergreen
Photinia shrub evergreen
Red-twig Dogwood shrub twigs / branches
Winter Creeper Eounymus shrub evergreen
Yucca shrub foliage
Feather Reed Grass ornamental grass texture
Fountain Grass ornamental grass texture
Hardy Pampas Grass ornamental grass texture
Maiden Grass ornamental grass texture
English Ivy vine evergreen


  • Hannebaum, G. Leroy. (2002). Landscape Design: A Practical Approach. 5th Edition. New Jersey. Prentice Hall. 
  • Dirr, A. Michael. (1997). Dirr’s Hardy Trees and Shrubs: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press, Inc.
  • Valleau, M. John. (1998). Heritage Perennials: Perennial Gardening Guide. 3rd Edition. Abbotsford, British Columbia. Valleybrook International Ventures Inc. 


JayDee Gunnell, Horticulture Agent, Davis County Extension 

JayDee Gunnell

JayDee Gunnell

Extension Professor | Horticulture | Cache County Director

Agriculture and Natural Resources

Phone: (435)-752-6263
Office Location: Cache County

Related Research