Autumn in Michigan means a brilliant yellow, orange and scarlet leaf canopy above and carpet underfoot. A few late-blooming plants in your Michigan garden will create stunning complements to, or contrasts with, the foliage extravaganza. While hardy mums and ornamental kale from the local nursery brighten gardens well into fall, some of Michigan's own native late bloomers also contribute vibrant color.
Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), a 1-to-6 foot high perennial of the bellflower family, brings brilliant scarlet to Michigan gardens from mid-summer to October. Plants grow wild along the state's stream banks and ravines and on prairies and open meadows. Cardinal flower has dark green, lance-like leaves and multiple straight stems. Its heavy spikes of tubed-shaped blooms have nectar irresistible to hummingbirds. Plant in sun to shade and moist or well-drained, rich loamy soil. Don't let it dry out, cautions the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Increase plants by bending the stems to the soil and securing them with sticks or stones until they root. All parts of cardinal flowers are toxic if ingested.
Sky Blue Aster
Perennial sky blue aster (Aster oolentangiensis) blooms across Michigan's wet prairies from late summer into autumn. A rough-leaved plant standing up to 3 feet high and 2 feet wide, it has abundant yellow-centered light blue flowers. Less than 1 inch across, they resemble miniature daisies. Lower medium-green leaves are up to 5 inches long. Upper leaves become progressively shorter as they ascend the stems. The Missouri Botanical Garden recommends drought-tolerant sky blue aster for wildflower and prairie gardens or mixed borders. Plant it in full sun to partial shade and dry to averagely moist well-drained soil. It's not fussy about soil type.
Great Blue Lobelia
Great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica), according to Doug Landis and Anna Fiedler of Michigan State University's Department of Entomology, grows wild in the state's wet meadows and along river banks and swamps. Another bellfower family perennial, it reaches up to 3 feet high. The densely leaved plants have ornamental spikes of lavender-blue lipped blooms from mid-August to early October. They make a dramatic pairing, says the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, with blooming cardinal flowers. Great blue lobelia requires moist to wet sand, loam or clay and sun to shade. It doesn't tolerate dry conditions. Flowering occurs the second year after planting. All parts of this plant are toxic if ingested.