Trees and Shrubs for Fall Colour

Fall is a wonderful time for brisk walks to admire the brilliant colours of trees and shrubs. Everywhere you look there are shades of red, yellow, and orange. Why not add some of this glorious colour to your own garden. Our GARDENWORKS experts have selected a few of their favourite trees and shrubs with outstanding fall colour.


Fullmoon maple (Acer japonicum)
This small tree or large bush only grows to a maximum height of about 10m (30’) making it a great choice for the urban garden. The leaves are soft green in summer, turning to rich crimson in fall (especially the variety ‘Aconitifolium’). Plant on a moist, well-drained site with shade to full sun.


Japanese maple (Acer palmatum)
This group of trees bear rich colours of either bronze or different shades of green leaves during the summer. The ‘Dissectum’ Japanese maple has much more finely-cut lacey leaves and a dainty appearance. The majority of Japanese maples grow 6 to 7.5m (20 to 25’). In the fall the leaves turn gorgeous shades of red, orange or yellow. Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’ has deep reddish-purple leaves in the summer that turn brilliant red in the fall. The coral-bark maple, Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku,’ bears light green foliage in summer which changes to a glorious apricot-yellow tone in the fall all highlighted by its bright, salmon-pink bark.


Beauty berry (Callicarpa bodinieri var Giraldii)
This shrub may appear nondescript during the summer months, but in the fall, the leaves turn rose-purple and the branches are dressed with clusters of jewel-like lavender fruits. Plant in clusters of three to encourage heavy fruiting. At maturity, this loose shrub will reach 2m (6’) in height and width.


Red twig dogwood (Cornus stolonifera)
An absolutely gorgeous shrub with red branches in the winter, and wonderful fall colour. If you are also interested in a striking summer contrast the more interesting choice is the variegated leaf varieties. There is a yellow twig variety for a bright winter display. Planted together both would make a spectacular show of colour. Cut them down to 15cm (6”) in late winter and/or early spring to encourage the development of fresh stems.


Redvein enkianthus (Enkianthus campanulatus)
An easy to grow shrub with brilliant fall colour of yellows and reds. It’s pinkish white urn-shaped flowers are produced in spring and usually last three to four weeks. This is a medium to large sized bush (3 to 4.5m (10 to 15’) that thrives in full sun to partial shade.


Winged euonymus (Euonymus alatus)
For spectacular fall colour, this shrub has no rival. Another common name for it is the burning bush. Its bright red leaves can be spotted from a great distance, being one of the most brightly coloured of shrubs in fall. For the best in colouration, plant in full sun. Over time it can eventually grow to be a small tree with a height of 1.8 to 2.4m (6 to 8’) with a wide spreading canopy.


Maidenhair tree (Ginkgo biloba)
A large tree reaching a mature height of 30m (100’) it should be planted in a large garden. If you have the room for it the ginkgo is absolutely majestic in maturity. Its beautiful fan-shaped leaves are light green in summer and turn a butter-yellow in fall.


Dwarf alder (Fothergilla spp.)
These slow-growing shrubs have the wonderful habit of turning a rich burgundy-red when under the slightest stress, and of course in the fall. Full sun is best, as they colour up less in shade. There are two different species that are popular in gardens. Fothergillia monticola is a small shrub that grows 1 to 1.5m (3 to 4’) tall, while Fothergillia major is more upright reaching heights of 3m (9’) tall. Both species bear white catkin-like flowers in early spring, just before their leaves appear.


Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua)
This large, statuesque tree with maple-like leaves will eventually reach heights of 12m (40’). Fall colours range from dark burgundy to brilliant red and yellow. Its distinctive grooved bark provides winter interest.


Heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica)
This easy, evergreen shrub will tolerate most garden sites from full sun to shade, but fall colour is more intense when grown in full sun. Eventually reaching a height of 1.5 to 1.8m (5 to 6’), the heavenly bamboo can be planted amongst other shrubs or used as an loose unstructured hedge.


Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)
Virginia creeper and Boston creeper are very similar in needs and growth habits. Both are self-clinging to any surface and can tolerate shade to full sun exposure. These vines are great choices to dress up a wall or tree. Fall colour range from rich orange to deep burgundy.


Firethorn (Pyracantha spp.)
A fast growing, evergreen shrub, the firethorn produces abundant orange-red berries in the fall. Use this thorny, sprawling bush as a barrier or grown against a wall. Unclipped, it grows into a large shrub over 3m (9’) tall.


Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina)
This sprawling shrub needs a bit of space and can tend to get a bit aggressive (so keep your eye on it). But the breathtaking display of orange and yellow colour in the fall makes it a welcome addition if you have room. Staghorn sumac will eventually gain the status of a small tree, reaching 7.5 to 9m (25-30’) in height.


Doublefile viburnum (Viburnum tomentosum)
The branches of this wonderful shrub are arranged horizontally in tiers, and are covered with delicate white blooms during spring. In the fall they are dressed with warm bronze leaves. ‘Summer Snow Flake’ is the most popular variety and reaches 1.5 to 1.8m (5 to 6’) in height.


Persian parrotia (Parrotia persica)
This tree is attractive all year, but its most dramatic display appears in the fall. The colour on it has been described as having an inner glow. It makes a great small tree for urban gardens, reaching an eventual maturity of 5m (15’) tall.


Katsura (Cercidiphyllum japonicum)
This is a tree of many virtues, being a wonderful supply of fall colour and shade for small gardens. The leaves show hints of bronze tones throughout the growing season, but in fall they turn a rich reddish-burgundy colour. Perfect for urban gardens, this tree reaches a height of 12m (40’) at maturity, but has a narrow growth habit, taking less room than other widely branched trees. Also available is the weeping form, ‘Pendula’ or ‘Pendulum.’

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