Autumn gardening: RHS tips on what to plant this October 

Apples in the orchard at Rosemoor RHS Apple festival in Devon.

Fruit trees are a great way to fill up your garden beds and October is the perfect time to plant them. - Credit: RHS/Guy Harrop

As the weather gets cooler, what should we be planting in our gardens to get them looking their best next year? 

Duncan Mclean, head plant buyer for the Royal Horticultural Society garden centres, shares how you can brighten your outdoor area and keep your garden in tip-top condition throughout autumn.

1. Get planting bulbs for spring 

Now is the ideal time to be planting bulbs in the garden for great displays next spring. An application of ‘Bulb starter’ at planting time will get them off to a good start. The wet summer we’ve had this year has delayed their harvest, so you’ll find a great selection of bulbs in garden centres in October. 

Tulips and daffodils are well suited to container planting and can provide stunning displays. Containers can be brought indoors when in flower to bring spring cheer. 

Indoor bulbs like amaryllis and paperwhite can provide blooms throughout the festive period and there’s still plenty of time to plant them.

This is a plant portrait of Amaryllis belladonna 'Johannesburg'

Amaryllis are popular winter plants that flower with pops of pink petals throughout the festive season. - Credit: RHS / Joanna Kossak

"You can buy tulips in October, but it is best to delay planting them until November to reduce the risk of disease," Duncan suggests.

Pansies, violas and cyclamens may be planted now to provide seasonal colour while you wait for the bulbs to pop through.

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2. Plant you own fruit trees and bushes 

October is the perfect month to plant dormant fruit trees and bushes. Plant now, while the soil is still warm and the plants will establish a strong root system over the autumn and winter for a good start next spring. 

"You’ll find a lovely range of top fruit trees like apples, pears and plums as well as soft fruit bushes, currants, blueberries and gooseberries at RHS garden centres this autumn,” Duncan says. 

“Make sure the planting hole is of sufficient size and add plenty of peat-free compost and organic fertiliser.”

Corylus maxima 'Kentish Cob', available amongst other plants at RHS garden centres.

The staff at the RHS garden centres are available for tips and advice on seasonal planting and how you can get your plants looking their best all-year round. - Credit: RHS / Graham Titchmarsh

3. Cultivate your veg patch 

If you want some fresh veggies to munch on and add to your meals next year, autumn is the time you need to be planting them. Onion and garlic are both a good choice as they can be used across a wide range of recipes, so plant your onion sets and garlic bulbs now.

4. Brighten your interiors with house plants 

The last few years has seen a surge in popularity of house plants. Foliage plants have driven the growth - among the favourites are kentia palms and elephant’s ears. Air purifying plants like peace lily and snake plants are increasing popular. 

“Snake plants are very easy to care for so they're great if you’re a beginner,” Duncan reveals. 

Aside from adding a fresh splash of colour, integrating green plants into your interiors can improve almost any room of the home and boost your mental health. 

Autumn also sees a real change in the range of orchids on offer. “Cymbidium orchids and Cattleya will bring a real exotic flavour into your room,” Duncan says. 

You’ll find a diverse range of orchids available at RHS garden centres that can be grown indoors in October.

Phalaenopsis White Willd Orchid to plant in autumn from RHS garden centre.

There are many varieties of Orchids available at RHS garden centres this autumn, including this wild, white 'Phalaenopsis' Orchid. - Credit: RHS Plants

5. Tidy garden, tidy mind 

Late autumn is the perfect time to have a good tidy up - organise your beds and borders and get mulching. 

Mulching is great for the soil as it can suppress weeds, improve soil biodiversity, replace lost nutrients and protect against harsh winter frosts. 

Suitable material for mulching ranges from well-rotted manure, garden compost or peat-free compost. Adding organic matter to the ground will improve the quality and health of your soil, helping the growth of your plants long-term. 

To find your nearest RHS garden centre, visit shop.rhs.org.uk/store-locator, or to shop all RHS gifts and gardening accessories visit rhsshop.co.uk