November in the Northern Hemisphere is usually a cold month that gives us a taste of the coming winter. Most plants have flowered and gone to seed, or are in the process of moving into dormancy. But some plants have an unusual flowering period that extends into November. Include some November flowering plants in your garden, and take the dreariness out of late autumn.
The herbaceous perennials in the viola family, commonly known as pansies, are easy to grow. They can be cultivated almost anywhere in the US. Although pansies are termed short-lived perennials, they are usually grown as biennials. They do not tolerate heat, and they bloom in cool weather. When planted in the late summer in latitudes south of the Mason-Dixon Line, pansies will bloom until a hard freeze, often well into November. In the deep south they will bloom even longer.
Cyclamen hederifolium is native to the Mediterranean areas from southeastern France all the way to western Turkey. Several species of cyclamen grow wild in woodlands, and they are found on islands throughout the northern Mediterranean Sea. In North American gardens, cyclamen hederifolium is a hardy, reliable grower as far north as northern New York state. Cyclamen is planted as tubers. The leaves appear in any of several shapes, sizes, and colorations. Cyclamen blossoms are held above the foliage, and are pink with a magenta marking at the base of the petals. Flowers may appear before the foliage, or they may grow along with the foliage.
Witch hazel grows as shrubby undergrowth in shady woodlands in eastern and central North America. In shady woods it may grow to be 10 to 15 feet tall. Where it does not have to compete with larger trees, or if it is transplanted as a specimen plant, it will grow into a tree 30 feet tall. Witch hazel is deciduous. Witch hazel blooms after a showy display of yellow autumn foliage, usually in November when the leaves have dropped. The flowers resemble spiders, with elongated creamy yellow petals that twist and turn. The display is extraordinary when contrasted with bare November branches.
Also known as autumn crocus or meadow safflower, colchicum is the only flowering bulb that blooms when it is dormant. Plant colchicum bulbs outdoors in late summer or early fall, covering them with five inches of soil. They prefer a fairly dry location. The flowers appear beginning in November, resembling purple crocus blossoms, except colchicum are dormant so there are no leaves present. They are also easy to "force" indoors. Place several of the bulbs in an open single layer in a shallow container or on a tray, and set them in a sunny window. In 10 to 14 days, the lily-like flowers will fill the container. Even though colchicum is called meadow safflower, the plant is toxic. Do not eat any part of the plant or bulb.