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Master Gardeners of Orange County, NC


Bloom · Berry

Below is a simple ‘shortlist’ of plants that are normally in bloom this month or are of interest for fruit, bark or foliage. See Bloom • Berry for comprehensive lists with links to photos and cultural information.

Perennials Shrubs Trees Vines
Flowering Perennials
Arum lily (frt)
Fall Crocus
Ginger lily
Shining coneflower
Joe Pye Weed
Spider lily

Ornamental Grasses
River oats
Pampas grass
Maiden grass
Fountain grass
Switch grass
Muhly grass
Beautyberry (frt)
Crape myrtle Clematis
Climbing aster
Fall color in the Carolinas


Fall is the true growing season for cool-season lawns, so this is the time to feed and renovate. Cool-season lawns seeded in the spring don’t last through the summer because their roots don’t have a chance to grow deep into the soil before hot weather arrives.


Aerate (core), remove plugs and break them up to put the soil back into the lawn.


Fertilize and lime cool-season lawns (fescue, bluegrass) according to soil test results. Labor Day is an easy way to remember this task. Do not fertilize zoysia, but Bermuda may benefit from a ‘winterizer’ fertilizer (low nitrogen, high potassium) applied in mid-late September.


Overseed thin, bare areas as weather cools. Use a blend of “turf-type” tall fescue cultivars at 6 pounds of seed per 1000 square feet, and apply a starter-type (high phosphorus) fertilizer. Keep the seedbed moist with light watering several times per day. Do not let the seedlings dry out.


Established lawns begin growing again and also need increased water. See the Growth Cycle section of LAWNS for details.


Bermudagrass lawn maintenance calendar NC CES: AG-431
Tall fescue lawn maintenance calendar NC CES: AG-367
Organic Lawn Care NC CES: AG-562

Ornamental plants


Remove all fallen rose leaves to prevent reinfection with blackspot and other fungi.


Continue to fertilize annuals with liquid fertilizer, but only once or twice per month.


  • Beneficial insects share the same plants as insect pests. Use low-toxicity pesticides when possible, spray only if needed, and spray at dusk when the bees have all gone home. Always read and follow label directions for safe pesticide application.
    • Monitor azaleas and pyracantha for lace bug.
    • Monitor euonymus for scale.
    • Monitor arborvitae, hemlock and juniper for spider mites.
    • Fall webworms are often mistaken for Eastern tent caterpillars, but do no lasting harm to trees. Tent caterpillars are active only in spring, while webworms become active beginning in mid-summer. Treatment is not necessary, but you can open the web to expose the caterpillars to predators.
  • Dispose of dead iris leaves to prevent insect overwintering.


Let some hips develop on roses to signal that winter is coming.


  • Mulch newly-planted plants to a depth of about 1”, keeping it away from plant crowns, to conserve moisture and suppress weeds.
  • Wait to mulch establish plants until early winter, after a hard freeze. Because mulch traps heat, heavy mulching in fall can prevent plants from entering dormancy properly and make them more susceptible to winter damage.

Planting & propagating

Fall is the ideal time to plant, divide and transplant many trees, shrubs and perennials. Plants experience less stress if moved when the air temperature is cool, so you may want to wait until this occurs before installing. Deciduous plants are happiest if installed once the leaves have fallen.

  • Shop early since most retailers do not restock once a plant has sold out — they prefer to not carry inventory over the winter.
  • When planting containerized plants, try to gently disturb or “open up” the root ball so that roots face outward.
  • If plants will be placed in clay, you might try “bare-rooting” to avoid a texture difference between the root ball and the surrounding soil. Use a hose to remove the potting mix, then gently spread the roots over a cone of native soil in the planting bed.
  • SOIL PREP provides detailed instructions on soil prep and planting, including special advice for planting trees.
  • Divide spring- and early-summer-blooming perennials like iris, daylilies, and peonies and spring-flowering bulbs. Because plants put enormous energy into blooms, most fall-blooming perennials, including many ornamental grasses, are better divided in spring.
  • Exceptions
    • Many of the newer hybrid echinaceas are tap-rooted and require a full growing season to develop a good root system. These prefer spring planting, as do some tender perennials.
    • Hostas can be moved now, but it is better to wait until later in autumn when the weather is cooler to divide them.
    • You can plant chrysanthemums, pansies and groundcovers.
  • Transplant evergreens. Note that some slow-growing, fleshy-rooted trees and shrubs like magnolias and camellias prefer spring planting.
  • If transplanting in dry weather, water the soil thoroughly first to make digging easier, and water the plant regularly in the new location. Adding bonemeal &/or vitamin B12 to stimulate root production and decrease transplant shock is not necessary:
    The Myth of Beneficial Bone Meal
    The Myth of Vitamin Stimulants
  • Root-prune any woody plants that you plan to move next spring.


  • Do not prune trees or shrubs — pruning stimulates new growth that is easily damaged by soon-to-arrive cold weather.
  • Continue to deadhead annuals & perennials.


Reduce watering somewhat to encourage plants to prepare for dormancy. A little water stress enhances fall color on many trees and shrubs.

  • However, be sure to water foliage plants like hosta and plants that are/will produce flowers/berries.
  • Water deeply to soak the soil 4–6” deep.
  • For trees, water around the drip line and as far as 3x the drip line — in clay soils, even tap-rooted trees, usually spread their roots widely and shallowly.
  • For all watering, try to avoid wetting the foliage. The best time to water is late night–early morning, which minimizes evaporation and ensures that if foliage is wetted, it dries quickly. This minimizes conditions that favor fungal disease.


  • Manage vines such as trumpet creeper, blackberry and poison ivy, and remove “weed” or unwanted trees from your landscape.
  • Weed in bed areas either by spraying or by hand. If hand-weeding, it is easier when the soil is damp. Try to get to weeds before they seed — if not your weed problems will multiply rapidly.



Plant leafy greens, onion & garlic, radish and turnip.


If you do not have a fall vegetable garden, it is a good time to chop, burn or discard dead vegetable plants so that diseases and insect pests do not overwinter in the garden.


  • Spray nectarine and peach tree trunks for peach tree borer.
  • Pears should be picked at the hard ripe stage and allowed to finish ripening off the tree. The base color of yellow pears should change from green to yellow as the fruit approaches maturity.


Feed hummingbirds! They are especially hungry now as they are preparing for their long journey to Central America. Fill feeders with a solution of 1 part sugar in 4 parts water. Boil for 2-4 minutes to dissolve all sugar, then cool. Wash feeders and replace the food at least twice weekly.

Change birdbath water frequently to keep it fresh and prevent mosquitoes from breeding. Give your bath a scrub to keep it clean and to remove mold that can make it slippery for birds.

Landscape ideas

Autumn leaf color is still just a dream, but you can still create a beautiful September garden. One idea, mentioned on the welcome to this page, is shining coneflower (Rudbeckia nitida), butterfly bushes, joe-pye weed, ironweed and tall ornamental grasses. For a different look, try a garden plan featuring Japanese anemones. The first plan features traditional fall colors, the second is a 3-season plan and the third is a hot pink and purple scheme.

2007   2009 JCRAJC Raulston Arboretum fall photo tours
Autumn in the Arboretum JCRA
The Science of Color in Autumn Leaves USNA
The Three ‘C’s’ Among Fall-flowering Bulbs: Colchicum, Crocus and Cyclamen

House plants

Prepare house plants to reenter your home. Check them carefully for insects and/or disease and trim any dead or weak foliage, but wait until spring to repot. Remember, temperatures of 45°F can damage many tropical house plants.

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plant sales

NC Botanical Garden

9/27, 9–noon

A large selection of southeastern native perennials, woody shrubs and trees, vines, ferns, and carnivorous plants propagated and grown by the NCBG horticulture staff will be for sale. Non-members can become members by making a donation at the entrance to the sale to receive members' 10% discount on all plant purchases. Proceeds benefit the horticulture department and fund several part-time garden staff positions.

Orange County Master Gardeners

Deer-resistant plants

9/28 – 10/19, plant distribution 11/1

Order Form
Plant Photos
Perennials Factsheets
Woody Factsheets
best printed on legal paper with printer set to "Actual size"
best printed on legal paper with printer set to "Actual size"

We are mainly self-funded and many of the supplies for our projects are generously donated by area businesses. However, we do need to purchase some items. Rather than raising our course fee, we are holding a pre-order plant sale.

how plants were selected

The plants offered in this sale were chosen for their resistance to deer browsing. There are 18 choices covering needs for almost any garden site. All should provide many years of enjoyment. Please read the plant factsheets to determine whether a particular plant will suit your garden. Clicking on the botanical name in the order form takes you to the associated factsheet.

  • Initial consideration was restricted to plants listed as "rarely damaged" by several state Cooperative Extensions.
  • Because browsing preferences are always local, we excluded any plants on these lists that had experienced browsing in a selection committee member's garden.
  • Next, we excluded plants with invasive potential.
  • We also removed plants that are difficult to grow, overly expensive, high-maintenance, or with limited ornamental appeal.
Living with deer

Deer, Oh Deer
Deer-resistant Plants
Reducing Deer Damage to Home Gardens and Landscape Plantings
Managing Deer Damage in Maryland
An Overview and Cost Analysis of Deer Repellents for Homeowners and Landowners

fall planting

Fall is for Planting
Planting Techniques for Trees and Shrubs
How to plant trees & shrubs in the Southeast

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Lawn · Garden Moisture Index

Colors indicate inches of precipitation deficit/excess with a resolution of 4km.
Alabama State Climatologist Lawn/garden moisture index

This live feed maps the difference between recent garden-effective precipitation and the amount normally adequate for the time of year. Soil water-holding capacity is not considered, but the index still provides a good idea of current soil moisture.

Check drought conditions
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