We asked the Curators of the RHS Gardens which autumn plants they cherish most, and how to get the best from them
Inject some choice autumn colour into your garden with these outstanding plants, as suggested by the RHS Curators - or simply visit your nearest RHS Garden to see them dazzle!
RHS Garden Wisley - Matthew Pottage
Found on the edge of Oakwood with Seven Acres, Disanthus is happiest in part shade with a slightly acidic soil. The autumn colour kicks off from late summer and holds for many weeks until turning a vibrant crimson before the leaves finally drop.
We grow it alongside Japanese anemones, where the pink flowers complement the shades of red.
More about Disanthus cercidifolius
Colchicum cilicicum ‘Purpureum’
Growing in profusion under the cherry trees at the entrance to the Glasshouse Landscape, this wonderful autumn crocus has a pale white stem crowned with pink petals.
Mature bulbs easily produce 10-15 flowers each, so a ‘wow’ display can be enjoyed when you plant in big groups. Best grown in full sun to part shade, we find Colchicum incredibly easy and good value at Wisley.
More about Colchicum cilicicum ‘Purpureum’
RHS Garden Hyde Hall - Robert Brett
Acer rubrum ‘October Glory’
‘October Glory’ can reach the dizzy heights of over 12 metres, providing a magnificent splash of crimson in autumn. Despite its name, at Hyde Hall we are finding it now peaks more frequently during November.
Preferring moist but well-drained soil, this really is an excellent specimen of red maple.
More about Acer rubrum ‘October Glory’
Aronia × prunifolia ‘Brilliant’
Another plant looking superb in autumn is the purple or red chokeberry. With its edible berries (high in antioxidants) and stunning autumn foliage, this is a stunner shrub.
Small white flowers in spring are followed by long-lasting, bright red berries, which provide a feast for birds through autumn into winter, and many seasons of interest.
More about Aronia × prunifolia ‘Brilliant’
RHS Garden Rosemoor - Jonathan Webster
Liquidambar acalycina ‘Spinners’
Hailing from China, and distinguishable by having a three-lobed leaf, instead of the usual five lobes, this grows well with us and thrives in our moist soil. The colour is deep and the leaves hold on into December.
We have a cultivar called ‘Spinners’, which was discovered by Peter Chappell, the creator of the Hampshire garden of the same name. This is planted in Lady Anne’s Arboretum with a selection of other Liquidambar.
This tree is great for a smaller garden; to get the best vibrancy, plant in a sheltered but open aspect.
More about Liquidambar acalycina ‘Spinners’
Read about Spinners Garden, an RHS Partner Garden
Nerine ‘Zeal Giant’
‘Zeal Giant’ was given an Award of Garden Merit for its strong growth, ease of cultivation and high quality of bloom. It has vivid, dark pink flowers on strong, 60cm-tall stems, produced at a time of year when most things are dying back.
Though it’s regarded by some as less than hardy, I would suggest a sheltered, well-drained and sunny site that has had a bit of organic matter added. It thrives outdoors at Rosemoor and looks stunning in our Fruit and Vegetable Garden, planted on the south-facing wall.
More about Nerine 'Zeal Giant'
RHS Garden Harlow Carr - Paul Cook
Autumn wouldn’t be the same without Cyclamen hederifolium. Here, the flowers drift through the woodland under mature beech trees and are dotted under the shrubs on the Winter Walk.
Plant them in autumn as potted plants rather than dry tubers, in partial shade. If they are happy they will seed around and increase to give cheerful carpets.
More about Cyclamen hederifolium