The Mexican blanket gaillardia.

This month, I have been talking about the upcoming “shoulder season” between summer and winter. This time period in other parts of the country is considered fall. Depending on our temperatures each year, we may or not have a fall.

This is the time of year when our summer flowers are failing, but it’s too warm to grow winter flowers yet. As I’ve discussed previously, my go-to list of shoulder-season annuals includes:

  • Alyssum
  • Dianthus
  • Dusty miller (complementary plant)
  • Geraniums (best in morning sun only; no sun in summer)
  • Marigolds
  • Osteospermum
  • Petunias
  • Snapdragons

When you get to the nursery in September or early October, there are a few other plants you might come across that will serve your decorative needs just fine until the temperatures mercifully drop below 70 degrees at night.

The first is the Mexican blanket, or gaillardia, as pictured above. Actually a perennial, this plant may survive all year long with a good pruning when it takes a break from blooming. The bright orange/red flower attracts butterflies and is a good cut flower to bring inside your home.

Another plant to add to this list is the ever-popular chrysanthemum. Another perennial, these plants can often be found in the early fall in nurseries. In kinder climates, “Mums” can be kept in pots or in the ground year-round but will only flower in the fall. If you are looking for a great plant with many color choices to spruce up your home before Thanksgiving, Chrysanthemums are a sure bet. However, unless you are a diehard “saver” of your plants, I would send it to the compost heap when it is done flowering. Being of the immediate (and continual) gratification generation, I don’t want to look at a green plant nine to 10 months of the year. I’d rather use that space in my pots for bloomers.

Marylee Pangman is the founder and former owner of The Contained Gardener in Tucson, Ariz. She has become known as the desert’s potted garden expert. She is available for digital consultations, and you can email her with comments and questions at Follow the Potted Desert at Get a free copy of Ten Top Tips to Desert Potted Garden Success by visiting