Fall may seem like the time of fallen leaves and wilting plants, but it’s actually a busy time for us gardeners, botanists, and horticulturists at Powell Gardens, Kansas City’s botanical garden.
Fall is one of the best seasons to start planting your seeds, because many seeds actually require the cold weather of winter to break free from dormancy in the spring. Plus, some of our flowers remain in bloom through September and October, and they need attentive care to maintain their natural beauty.
While we’re busy gardening, the fall holidays mean that it’s also time for festive celebrations in Powell Gardens. Our selection of beautiful gardens, tasty feasts, and spooky trails makes Powell Gardens one of the best destinations for fall activities in Kansas City!
Take a Look at Our Autumnal Collections
Though the flowers may not be as varied and colorful as spring or summertime, the warm amber hues of our plants make for a cozy experience. See which collections and flowers will be your best bet for beautiful viewings during the fall season!
Our Conifer Garden had its humble beginnings in 2001 as a miniature holiday display in our conservatory. But over the past 20 years, thanks to valuable contributions from supporters and in particular the late Marvin Snyder, our Conifer Garden grew into a fine-tuned collection of over 100 dwarf conifers.
We recently elevated the garden’s design since its inception through precise selections of unique specimens and attention to structure and layout. Most recently, we added a collection of bonsai trees and shrubs, with more additions like a bench, natural birdbath, and display of conifer cuttings.
Conifers may not be flashy or showy like a bright flower, but they are just as uniquely treasured and beautiful at Powell Gardens. Each species of conifer is distinct in its texture and color, from traditional green pine needles to feathery, golden stringy leaves. These varied hues of blue, green, and gold complement the warm colors of fall scenery in the Gardens.
The Meadow Pavilion
Fall is touted as the best time to see the incredible transformation of our native prairie grasses and flowers. Our Meadow Pavilion offers a sweeping view of the entire garden, while surrounded by plants characteristic of a native Missouri tallgrass prairie.
The billowing grasses reach their peak height and plume in the late summer, but they undergo a transformation as the weather gets colder. They turn into warm autumn tones that ripple in the wind, and they retain these rich colors throughout the winter.
From the Pavilion, visitors can observe the orange, yellow, and red tree leaves framing the gold of the prairie for a stunning sight.
Heartland Harvest Garden
The Heartland Harvest Garden at Powell Gardens has become one of our most educational and eco-friendly gardens. This premier edible landscape depicts the story of where our food comes from, through trees, shrubs, and flowers that capture the spirit of Kansas City.
As many Kansas Citians will know, fall is harvest season for farmers and gardeners. A visit to the Heartland Harvest Garden contextualizes what that means for our food production and, especially, the sustainability of our food sources.
Within the Heartland Harvest Garden, the Villandry Garden and the Potager Menu Garden are French-style kitchen gardens that combine beauty with the utility of seasonal fruits and vegetables.
While you browse, take a visit to the Missouri Barn & Silo for classic fall drinks and snacks like hot cider and popcorn. Visitors can also climb to the top of the Silo for some of the best views of the Garden.
The Heartland Harvest Garden is also the hub for our signature annual fundraiser, Under a Harvest Moon.
Fall Events & Features
Our fall events are a great reason to make it out to Powell Gardens. Visitors are always free to explore the rest of the Gardens while participating in some of the best fall activities in Kansas City!
Under a Harvest Moon
This fall fundraiser helps raise necessary funds for the Gardens to ensure the future success of our land and programs. We gather with family and friends under the eaves of the Missouri Barn at the beginning of October for a celebratory feast of the past year.
The evening will kick off with a vibrant cocktail hour accompanied by live music. Then we’ll follow with a four-course meal made from local and seasonal ingredients, including ones grown in Powell Gardens’ very own Harvest Garden.
A contribution to Under a Harvest Moon supports the very foundation of the Powell Gardens: our staff operations, garden maintenance, educational programs, and capital improvements. Because Powell Gardens is a nonprofit organization, your gift is invaluable to the continuation of Powell Gardens’ mission and vision.
Throughout the year, we showcase forageable plants along our Family Discovery Loop trail and our Heartland Harvest Garden. Our blue plant tags with flower and leaf symbols designate these plants and fungi while including fun facts about their growth and nutritional value.
Each month, we feature a particular plant as one of our Foraged Finds. In previous years, our fall Foraged Finds have included the Missouri goldenrod and the Osage orange tree. This exhibition gives visitors an opportunity to learn more about edible fall plants and how our ecosystem flourishes year-round.
Scarecrow Trail and Pumpkin Village
For two weeks in the beginning of October, Powell Gardens officially welcomes fall with our Scarecrow Trail and Pumpkin Village. For more information, keep an eye on our events calendar!
In mid-October, Powell Gardens transforms into a dark and mysterious landscape brimming with enthralling performances, captivating music, and innovative technology. In this wooded labyrinth known as the Dark Forest, you’ll meet unexplainable paranormal forces and spellbinding supernatural beings.
Come venture into the dark side of Powell Gardens in this mile-long haunted walk. Before or after your eerie experience, visitors are free to browse our Mystic Faire and enjoy seasonal food and beverages, including s’mores kits around our firepits. Dark Forest is the perfect spooky fall activity in Kansas City for a fitting conclusion to the season.
Please note that this event is rated PG-13 and is held in select evenings through the end of October.
Gardening Tips for Fall Activities At Home
Since our staff members will be busy planting seeds during the fall and preparing our plants for the coming winter, we’d love to share some tips with our fellow gardeners. (Not to mention, we offer classes throughout the season on gardening for any age & experience level.)
As the weather cools off, preparing your garden and harvesting crops can be incredibly fulfilling fall activities in Kansas City!
1. Keep an Eye on The Weather
Though we don’t really need to tell most gardeners that the weather is important for plant growth, you should track the weather and future predictions for the first frost. In our corner of the world, the first freeze typically occurs toward the beginning of October.
For most spring-blooming plants, you’ll want to try to plant around six weeks before the first frost to let their roots get established. At the same time, planting too early can cause the seed to germinate prematurely, which will freeze it once the winter cold sets in. But normally, you can expect to sow your seeds at the beginning of September.
2. Plant Cool-Season Vegetables
While the leaves fall off trees and flowers wilt, you can still plant vegetables for harvesting for the rest of the season. There are many kinds of plants and vegetables that actually prefer the cooler season and can survive the frost through November. Radishes, beets, and turnips are cool-season vegetables that take less than two months to mature.
3. Scatter Spring-Blooming Seeds & Plant Bulbs
Many perennial seeds prefer being planted in fall, because they need the cold temperatures of winter to sprout come spring. This process is known as cold stratification. Scatter these seeds in your garden six weeks before the first frost and cover them with a light layer of mulch for insulation.
Plan to plant spring bulbs like tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths in September or October, once the nighttime temperatures dip to around 50 degrees. These bulbs need the long winter for their beauty sleep, so that they’re ready to wake up with bright colors in spring!
4. Think Twice Before Trimming
As plants begin to die off during the fall, you might be tempted to immediately clean up your garden by hacking off the dead sections. Don’t do it just yet!
The fallen stems, leaves, and foliage are vital to insulating the rest of the plant underneath the soil. Over the coming winter, the roots and seeds will be gathering their strength for spring. If you trim the visible parts of the plants too much, they might divert too much energy toward regrowth rather than strengthening their roots and withstanding the cold.
If you have diseased or damaged plants, that’s a different story, but for now, most plants can be left alone until late winter or early spring.
Look Forward to Fall at Powell Gardens
Cooler weather is the ideal time to explore everything that the Gardens have to offer. From featured gardens to festive events, there’s something for everyone to enjoy as part of their fall activities in Kansas City! Make sure to keep an eye on our events & classes calendar to take advantage of the last celebrations before the winter cold hits.
But even though the chill of winter is around the corner, don’t fret! Powell Gardens will still be open for our Festival of Lights, a colorful display of Christmas lights throughout the landscape, during November and December.