The Best Trees and Shrubs to Plant in Your Yard for Beautiful Fall Foliage
If your fall fantasies involve sitting in your own yard, sipping a homemade pumpkin spice latte, and watching as the plants in your yard go from summer greens to autumnal shades of red and orange, then it's time to start gardening. Here, we're sharing a number of trees and shrubs that will give your yard a good dose of fall color come autumn.
Reds and Purples
Maples, particularly Japanese maples, are the first plants many gardeners think of when it comes to spectacular fall color. The hue depends on variety; Velvet Viking™, for example, goes from being purple in summer to vibrant red in autumn. Other maples may turn shades of yellow, orange, and purple. Blueberries are often overlooked for their ornamental appeal, but many turn stunning shades of red and purple come fall. This makes them great plants for double-duty use. Meanwhile viburnums offer amazing fall color in addition to berries that attract birds. Sparkler® is an easy-care version of the North American native that turns a rich purple-red at the season's end. Oakleaf hydrangeas, like Snow Queen, are another amazing North American native shrub that works well in partially shaded spots and are known for delivering purple-bronze foliage in fall. It is one of the relatively few shade plants for reliable fall color.
Blues, Orange, Greens, and Yellows
Fothergilla, or witch hazel, is a native shrub with blue-green leaves in summer and pumpkin orange leaves in fall. If you're looking for another bright-hued plant, linderas, or spicebush, grows mainly as a shrub or small tree. A common or native species, Lindera benzoin, has brilliant yellow to orange fall color. The Asian spicebush, Lindera salicifolia, has bright orange fall color and the foliage stays on it longer throughout the winter. For year-long color, plant arborvitae—it offers a show in all seasons! Its new growth emerges a pleasing yellow shade before fading to green. Then, when temperatures drop in autumn, the foliage goes a glowing shade of golden orange that's unlike anything else in the landscape.
When to Plant Them
Happily, you can plant your trees and shrubs almost anytime from spring to fall in most areas and still enjoy the changeover of color in the fall, according to Justin Hancock, Monrovia horticultural craftsman. "Spring planting gives you the advantage of bigger variety at the store; autumn lets you see the fall color for yourself before you bring your plant home." Just beware, if your plants are stressed, struggling, or unhappy with where they're growing, they are unlikely to produce as lively of a color palette come autumn.
If your foliage isn't turning the colors you had hoped, your soil may be to blame, says Adrienne R. Roethling, director of curation and mission delivery at Paul J. Ciener Botanical Garden. She says that the ideal soil PH should be 6.2-6.5. If your PH is fine but you're still having an issue, drought may be the problem. "If soils are dry, especially in summer and fall, some plants will just drop their leaves prematurely," she explains.