Dig it!

Planting Trees & Shrubs for Fall Color

Fall is just around the corner! As the weather cools and we enjoy less hours of sunshine, summer blooming plants will begin to look tired. The hot sunny days required for blooms have peaked and now is the time to think about what comes next in the landscape. There are many late blooming perennials and fall annuals that offer vibrant blooms and foliage in all shades of the rainbow. However, there are shrubs and trees that offer year round interest and amazing fall color too. Often you hear terms like “Year Round Interest” and “Great Fall Color”.

Occasionally we don’t go far enough in explaining the what, where and why. Year round interest includes the color and texture of the foliage, bark and branches, as well as the shape of the plant. Below are some landscape staples that serve great purpose in the landscape and also have great fall color.

Autumn Blaze Maple – Let’s begin with an all-time favorite. The Autumn Blaze Maple tree is a unique autumnblazemaplecombination of the best traits from the red maple and silver maple. The qualities mixed by the Autumn Blaze Maple tree are brilliant scarlet-red color in the fall, dense and healthy branching, and enhanced growth that protects from insects and disease. These trees are known for their unexcelled speed of growth (up to 3 feet/year!) and ability to adapt to poor soil conditions & pollution. Great shade tree!

Burning Bush – The Burning Bush is a multi-stemmed deciduous shrub that turns a bright cherry red in the fall. This shrub performs well in both full sun and full shade. It is very adaptable to both dry and moist locations, and thrives under average home landscape conditions. It is not particular as to soil type. It has many practical uses in the landscape such as a hedge or a focal point plant surrounded by smaller plants. It can also be used on a corner to soften the hard edge of a building.

Fothergilla – Fothergilla has showy white flowers in early spring and in the fall the show continues in a mosaic of yellow, orange and red. Group or mass in shrub borders, foundation plantings or native plantings. Mixes easily with rhododendrons which generally share the same soil requirements.

Smokebush – Named the smoke bush due to feathery smoke-like summer blooms, the smokebush is a stunner in spring, summer and fall. This is an eye-catcher in the landscape. Drought tolerant and deer resistant. The burgundy leaves of the 'Royal Purple' Smokebush deepen through the summer, turning a vibrant purple-red in fall, especially dramatic in full sun. Golden Spirit shines spring through fall with its bright golden leaves.

Tor White Spirea - The neat mound of rich green foliage provides the ideal backdrop for tight clusters of brilliant white flowers. Foliage becomes gold, red and purple in autumn. Fantastic planted in mass, lining a walkway or as a foundation plant. Also consider Glow Girl, a golden leaved variety of Tor.

Oakleaf Hydrangea - The Oakleaf gets its name from the shape of its beautiful large leaves. These leaves often turn colors of brilliant red, orange, yellow and burgundy in the fall if planted in a sunny location with a little afternoon shade. The Oakleaf hydrangea can tolerate and even thrive in much sunnier areas than the mophead and lacecaps (macrophyllas).


Limelight Hydrangea – Many hydrangeas are lovely in the fall due to the dried blooms on their branches. The limelight is particularly pretty with its pinkish green tinged blooms. This is a wonderful hydrangea for cut flowers. Also consider the Strawberry, a variety that turns pink from the tip of the flower down to the base. It almost resembles a cone of strawberry ice cream!

Ornamental Grasses: Burgundy Bunny – Everyone wishes Purple Fountain Grass was a perennial, but if you want something close to that look in a perennial form, try Burgundy Bunny. A red-tinted sport of the popular 'Little Bunny,' this dwarf Fountain Grass sports carmine foliage among the green all summer, then blazes scarlet from autumn until frost. Everything about it is diminutive, from its shortsize to its narrow leaves and dainty cream-colored "bunny tail" blooms. Perfect for containers, accent plantings, and small space gardens, it is an irresistible miniature!

Boxwood - Boxwood are a gem of a plant! Available in a variety of sizes and shapes, they are easy to maintain and offer year round color. The only need to be pruned minimally and grow in a nice even, round, cube or pyramidal shape. Their emerald green waxy round leaves look shiny and bright all year round.

Norway Spruce - Norway Spruce a giant evergreen trees that are prized for their dark green needles and their hardiness. If you have room for a Norway, they make a great privacy screen every day of the year! Running short on space or want a bit more color? Try Paul’s Select Norway, a new dwarf blue variety that only gets to 10-12 feet tall and 4-6 feet wide.

Sugar Maple - Green Mountain, Legacy, Fall Fiesta - Sugar Maples are easy to recognize in the fall. Depending on the soil conditions, their fall color is a hard to miss bright yellow to fiery orange. Sugar Maples thrive when planted in the correct location and prefer to be planted on a bluff or downward slope of a hill. They need a well drained home!

Paperbark Maple - Paperbark maple are known for their cinnamon colored bark that appears to be curling off the trunk. To us, the winter interest of a paperbark brings to mind the look and feel of a winter wonderland. This is one of our landscape team's favorite shade trees. In the fall, you will enjoy the long lasting scarlet foliage.

London Planetree -  The plantree get big - up to 90' tall and 70 feet wide! It is a popular, durable and  londonplanetreeattractive shade and street tree, very tolerant of adverse conditions and road salt; and features interestingly shaped leaves. The fall color is a coppery bronze and in the winter you can enjoy its beautiful white and brown mottled bark.

Read more about the best tree choices for your landscape here.

Thanks for reading about some of our favorite plants for fall color. Click below to download our Checklist for Fall Gardening!

New Call-to-action


Recent Posts

Posts by Topic

see all

Subscribe to Blog