The 14 Best Things You Can Still Plant in Pennsylvania in October

Clarion River Pennsylvania
© K Steve Cope/

Written by Kimberly Magerl

Published: October 8, 2023

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Spooky season is just around the corner, and change is in the air. Pennsylvania landscapes are transforming, and while summer blooms fade gracefully, turfgrass begins to brown, and vibrant colors grace foliage. It’s October in the Keystone State. This Halloween month presents unique opportunities for gardeners. Discover the fifteen best things you can still plant in Pennsylvania in October and enjoy a thriving landscape until the winter air sets in. 

Pennsylvania’s Fall Climate

Pennsylvania’s USDA Hardiness Zone falls between 5a to 7b, depending on your location. The fall climate marks a period of transition from the warmth of summer into the cold northeastern winter months. The Quaker State experiences four distinct seasons, with October temperatures hovering between 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. 

October is drier when compared to Pennsylvania’s rainy summers. However, it still experiences consistent moisture. Northern portions of the state also typically experience the first frost towards the end of the month. Fall is an important harvest season for Pennsylvania’s agricultural scene.  

A map showing Pennsylvania's USDA Hardiness Zones.

Pennsylvania’s USDA Zone falls between 5a to 7b.

© – Original / License

The 15 Best Things You Can Still Plant in Pennsylvania in October

1. Asters (Aster spp.)

Daisy-like asters are a fall-blooming perennial that grows well in several states, including Pennsylvania. They are a genus of flowering plant that covers a variety of species that share common traits. Asters bloom daisy-shaped flowers in shades of purple, pink, blue, or lavender. They also produce lance-shaped, hairy leaves and reach heights up to 4 feet. 

Asters are hardy and well-suited to Pennsylvania’s USDA Zone. They love well-draining soil and full sun. You can plant the fall bloomers in the spring, early summer, or early fall. Deadhead spent flowers to encourage prolific blooming. 


Ancient Greeks believed asters had magical properties and could ward off evil spirits.


2. Blackhaw Viburnum (Viburnum prunifolium)

Also known as sweet haw or smooth blackhaw, blackhaw viburnum is a native deciduous shrub that thrives in Pennsylvania’s climate. Specimens grow up to 15 feet tall, producing glossy dark green leaves that turn shades of red, purple, and burgundy in the fall. Blackhaw viburnum also produces red berries that ripen to blue-black, making it a valuable addition to wildlife-friendly landscapes. 

Specimens prefer well-drained soil and tolerate a range of soil types. They are also low-maintenance and drought-tolerant once established. They grow well in full sun to partial shade and do not require pruning. However, you can shape them after their flowering period to your desired size. 

Rusty blackhaw viburnum white flowers on green shrub

Certain viburnum species yield edible berries suitable for making jams and jellies.


3. Broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica)

This cool-season vegetable is a reminder to eat your vegetables and take your vitamins. High in vitamins C, K, and A, this versatile vegetable grows well throughout Pennsylvania. It comes in many varieties and grows well in both the spring and fall. The U.S. is also the broccoli producer, though it is native to the Mediterranean region.  

Specimens thrive in moist but well-draining, rich soil and full sun. They tolerate partial shade but produce smaller crowns in these conditions. Like leafy vegetables, broccoli is susceptible to pests and diseases, including aphids, cabbage worms, downy mildew, and clubroot. 

Broccolini stem growing in a vegetable patch

Italians first cultivated broccoli over 2,000 years ago.

©Verity McColl/

4. Carrots (Daucus carota subsp. sativus)

We’ve all heard carrots are good for our eyes. This widely consumed vegetable produces vibrant, crisp orange roots with a sweet flavor. They are a cool-season vegetable well-suited to Pennsylvania’s October climate, and they grow well in the spring and fall. 

Carrots are rich in vitamin A and benefit from a layer of mulch to conserve moisture. They thrive in well-draining soil that is free of rocks and clumps. Carrots also grow best in full sun but tolerate some shade. They do not tolerate heavy fertilizers and grow well in beds and containers. 

Male farmer harvesting carrots in the garden. Selective focus. Food.

The Dutch developed the modern orange carrot in the 17th century as a tribute to the Dutch Royal Family.

©Tatevosian Yana/

5. Chrysanthemums (Chrysanthemum spp.)

Perhaps the most noteworthy and recognizable fall perennial, chrysanthemums, or mums, are well-adapted to Pennsylvania’s October climate. These unique bloomers thrive in cooler fall temperatures, producing showy, daisy-shaped flowers in a variety of colors like yellow, white, orange, and red. Specimens also produce lobed or serrated foliage, depending on the variety. 

Mums prefer well-drained soil but thrive with consistent moisture. They grow best in full sun and require six hours of direct sunlight per day. Their blooms vary in size from small, button-sized blooms to larger specimens. Pinch back young stems to encourage bushier growth and bigger blooms. 

vivid red chrysanthemums

Some Asian cultures associate chrysanthemums with longevity and ancestor veneration.

©Mariia Romanyk/

6. Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum)

This herb tastes like soap to some people. Nonetheless, it is a popular culinary ingredient boasting a fresh, citrusy flavor that is popular in various cuisines, including Mexican, Indian, Thai, and Mediterranean. Beginner gardeners often mistake this herb for summer sun-loving basil. However, cilantro is a cool-season herb that thrives in the crisp October air. 

Specimens bolt in hot weather, which means they seed and are virtually inedible, making spring and fall the ideal growing seasons. Cilantro prefers well-draining and fertile soil. They also grow best in full sun and moist soil. They do not require fertilizer and are generally low-maintenance. 

cilantro in garden

Cilantro leaves have a polarizing flavor, with some finding them fresh and citrusy while others perceive them as soapy.


7. Crocus (Crocus spp.)

Crocus is another bulb species that thrives in the spring when planted in the fall. The genus encompasses over 100 species of flowering perennials with spreading or clumping growth habits that thrive in masses. Crocus is winter- and early-spring blooming and also one of the first flowers to produce bright blooms after the melt of the Pennsylvania snow. 

Specimens produce cup-shaped blooms with six petals in a variety of shades, including purple, white, yellow, and blue. Blooms are usually small. Crocus plants also produce grass-like leaves that emerge with their flowers. They thrive in well-drained, nutrient-rich soil and full to partial sun. They also require consistent moisture to thrive but do not respond well to over-fertilization. 

Top view of Crocus tommasinianus 'ruby giant'

Saffron, one of the world’s costliest spices, comes from the stigma of the Crocus sativus flower.


8. Daffodils (Narcissus spp.)

October is an excellent time to plant daffodils in Pennsylvania. While they are spring bloomers, planting daffodils in the fall allows them to develop deep roots. Specimens produce trumpet-shaped flowers in shades of yellow, white, or pink. They have grass-like foliage and reach heights of around 12 inches. 

Daffodils grow best in the well-draining soil and full sun. They appreciate nutrient-rich varieties and applications of slow-release fertilizer in the spring. These bulb plants also appreciate consistent moisture and a layer of mulch to protect them from extreme Pennsylvania temperatures. 

Daffodils are also low-maintenance. Furthermore, they are among the first plants to bloom in the spring throughout the Keystone State. 

Yellow daffodils in flower, Narcissus Pipit

Daffodils, also called “narcissus,” derive their name from the Greek myth of Narcissus, who transformed into a flower.

©Andrew Fletcher/

9. Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides)

Fountain grass is a perennial ornamental grass that produces attractive flowerheads and graceful, arching foliage. It is well-suited to Pennsylvania’s fall climate and is generally hardy, tolerating a range of temperatures. Specimens reach up to 2 feet tall and wide. Their attractive dark green foliage turns vibrant shades of gold in the fall, lasting until the first frost. 

Fountain grass thrives in full sun but will tolerate partial shade. However, it produces the most profuse blooms in full sun. It is also drought-tolerant once established but grows fine in Pennsylvania’s moist soils. Cut specimens make great additions to living or dried floral arrangements, while living specimens work great in beds, borders, and even containers. 

Fountain Grass

Fountain grass produces attractive plumes resembling foxtails, enhancing garden aesthetics.

©Molly Shannon/

10. Garlic (Allium sativum)

This cool-season bulb plant thrives in the Pennsylvania October air. It is closely related to onions and shallots and has many culinary uses. Gardeners plant garlic in September to October to all the bulbs to establish deep roots before winter, which results in larger and more flavorful cloves. 

Garlic grows best in full sun and requires at least six hours of direct sunlight daily. It also prefers well-draining, fertile soil. Garlic is low-maintenance, though it is susceptible to pests and diseases, including aphids, onion maggots, thrips, white rot, and downy mildew. 

harvested hardneck and softneck garlic

Garlic’s medicinal uses date back centuries, with ancient Greek athletes employing it to enhance performance.


11. Kale (Brassica oleracea var. acephala)

This nutritious leafy green thrives in cooler temperatures like lettuce. It is well-suited to the Keystone State’s October climate, offering rich flavor and versatility in the kitchen. It is a cool-season vegetable that thrives in both the spring and fall, though specimens taste sweeter (less bitter) in the cooler months of fall compared to spring. 

Like most vegetables, kale prefers well-draining soil and full sun to partial shade. It also prefers moist soil and does not tolerate heavy fertilizers. Specimens benefit from a layer of protective mulch to conserve water. It is also susceptible to pests and diseases like lettuce varieties, including aphids, cabbage worms, and flea beetles. 

Organic kale growing in a raised bed garden

Kale, a member of the cabbage family, boasts a cultivation history of over 2,000 years.

©/ via Getty Images

12. Lettuce (Lactuca sativa)

We don’t necessarily associate lettuce with fall. However, lettuce grows best in cooler temperatures, favoring both the spring and fall. Enjoyed in a variety of dishes, from salads and sandwiches to New Age wraps, lettuce comes in many varieties and thrives in Pennsylvania’s moderate climate. 

Lettuce is an annual in the Keystone State, preferring well-draining, fertile soil and partial to full sun. It also tolerates some shade and moist soil. It also does not favor fertilization. However, lettuce is susceptible to numerous pests like aphids, slugs, and snails, as well as common diseases like downy mildew and powdery mildew. 

Green Batavia lettuce

Ancient Egyptians cultivated lettuce over 4,000 years ago, symbolizing love and fertility.

©Thomas Pajot/iStock via Getty Images

13. Onions (Allium cepa)

Onions are a staple in kitchens across the globe, but I bet you didn’t know they are a biennial bulb vegetable. There are many varieties of onions that grow in both the spring and fall seasons in Pennsylvania. They are closely related to other culinary plants like garlic and leeks and are a staple in many cuisines. 

Onions love well-draining soil and prefer fertile varieties. They also require full sun and moist soil. They love slow-release fertilizers and are a good source of fiber and Vitamin C. Unfortunately, onions are prone to many pests and diseases like white rot and downy mildew. 

In ancient Egypt, onions held such esteem that they were placed in tombs with pharaohs.


14. Radish (Raphanus sativus)

Radish is another root vegetable that thrives in the cooler temperatures of fall. It is fast-growing with a crisp and peppery flavor. There are many varieties to choose from, and you can harvest most in three to four weeks.

Radish grows best in well-draining soil and full sun. They also prefer consistent moisture and high organic content. They are incredibly low-maintenance and also not susceptible to many diseases. Most varieties are grown as annuals in Pennsylvania, though some are biennials.  

Radish plant growing in soil in garden.

Radishes are among the fastest-growing vegetables, ready for harvest in just 25 days.

©Natallia Ploskaya/

15. Tulips (Tulipa spp.)

Most gardeners think of spring when they hear the mention of tulips. However, fall is the ideal time to plant these spring-blooming bulb plants. Tulips feature slender, upright stems topped with signature, cup-shaped flowers. The flowers come in a variety of colors, including red, pink, orange, purple, yellow, and white. 

October is an important month for planting tulips and getting them ready for the long winter to encourage spring blooms. Tulips love well-draining, nutrient-rich soil and thrive in partial to full sunlight. They also appreciate regular watering and applications of slow-release fertilizer in the spring. 

Be sure to apply a layer of mulch to insulate your new tulip bulbs and protect them from temperature fluctuations and frost. It is also important to protect your bulbs from the local Pennsylvania wildlife like deer and squirrels

Gardener picking purple tulips in spring garden. Woman cuts flowers off with secateurs picking them in basket. Purple flag variety close up

In the 17th century, tulip bulbs exceeded gold in value in the Netherlands during “Tulip Mania.”

©Mariia Boiko/

Fall Planting Tips for Pennsylvania

October is an ideal month for fall planting in the Quaker State. The cool temperatures and consistent rainfall create ideal conditions for many plant varieties to develop strong roots before the winter. Follow some fall planting tips to get the most out of your Pennsylvania garden: 

  • Select fall varieties: Choose plants that are suitable for fall planting.
  • Timing: Fall planting occurs from late August through October, depending on the specific plant and your location within Pennsylvania. Aim to plant at 4 to 6 weeks before the first expected frost date in your area to allow roots to establish.
  • Prepare the soil: Prepare the soil by amending it with organic matter, such as compost. Well-drained soil with good fertility is essential for successful fall planting.
  • Practice good watering techniques: Adequate watering is crucial during the fall. Even though temperatures are cooler, plants still need consistent moisture to establish roots before winter. Ensure the soil remains consistently moist but not waterlogged.
  • Lay mulch: Apply a layer of mulch around newly planted specimens. Mulch helps conserve moisture, insulate roots, and suppress weeds. 
  • Watch out for wildlife: Fall is an active time for local wildlife. Consider using protective fencing or netting to deter deer, rabbits, or other animals.

Pennsylvania’s unique climate varies from region to region, so be sure to consider your specific microclimate when planning your fall garden. 

Preparing Your Landscape for Frost

Frost pokes its cold and ugly head out in late October in most of Pennsylvania. It can damage and even kill sensitive landscape plants and affect the health of your garden. Consider some easy steps to prepare your landscape for the first frost: 

  • Look up local frost dates
  • Select frost-tolerant plants
  • Water your plants well before the frost
  • Lay mulch to protect your plants
  • Moved potted plants indoors
  • Drain your irrigation system
  • Deadhead and prune plants
  • Cover your garden beds
  • Harvest sensitive crops like herbs

Planting Possibilities for October in Pennsylvania 

Cooler temperatures, changing foliage, and pumpkin spice lattes all signal the arrival of fall in Pennsylvania. As most plants are brown, dry, and dormant, you can extend your growing season well into the fall with options suitable for the cooler weather. 

Fall-blooming flowers like mums offer a delightful fall show, while cool-season vegetables like kale, broccoli, and onions can stock your fridge and pantry. Whether you’re enhancing your landscape or preparing your garden for spring, October offers a great window of opportunity to flex your green thumb in the Keystone State. 

Summary: 15 Best Things You Can Still Plant in Pennsylvania in October

NumberCommon Name
2Blackhaw Viburnum
9Fountain Grass

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About the Author

Kimberly Magerl is a content writer and data analyst specializing in lawn and garden, home improvement, roofing, and solar technologies. She enjoys growing fruits and vegetables in her garden, getting outdoors, and putting her toes in the sand. A resident of Texas, when she isn't gardening, Kimberly enjoys trying new recipes and cooking with her home-grown herbs.

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