Favorite Trees and Shrubs for Fall Color

Favorite Trees and Shrubs for Fall Color

It’s finally Fall; time for the harvest, sweater-weather, gathering ‘round the fire pit and pumpkin spice everything! The real beauty of the changing seasons though is the changing leaves that come with the cool weather and shorter days.

The best trees and shrubs for fall flowering trees offer more than one season of interest though, they provide colorful fruit to birds, interesting bark and beautiful branching structure through the winter months. Many are also native plants so no matter what conditions your site offers there is sure to be one, or more, perfect for your yard.

Winterberry This large shrub is known less for its fall leaf color than its stunning show of brilliant red berries. Birds are not particularly fond of them which ensures they remain on the shrub long after the colorful leaves – and even the snow – has fallen. Better still, it tolerates wet soil, even standing water as well as more common conditions.

Red Maple – Most maples offer vibrant fall color – Amur Maple, Japanese Maple and Sugar Maple – but the Red Maple of a native, most tolerant of Pennsylvania’s clay soils and cold winters. Varieties such as Red Sunset and October Glory offer rich red, orange and yellow fall color. It will grow large and provide shade for generations to come.

Sweet Spire – This small shrub is perfect for naturalizing; its loose shape it difficult to shape but its attributes are many. In addition to its fragrant white flower early in the season, this little beauty does triple duty by offering deep maroon leaves in fall and ruby-tipped branches in winter.  Think of it as a Red-Twig Dogwood in miniature. Like its idol it also tolerates wet soils and shade.

Oak leaf Hydrangea – A large shade-tolerant shrub, this multi-season stunner’s habit is also a bit on the wild side. Lager blue-green leaves eventually welcome a late season cone of white flowers and yield to a luscious wine-red fall color. When they fall it reveals an attractive shedding bark.

Viburnum  – There are so many varieties of Viburnum to choose from: Cranberry, Arrowood, Doublefile and Carlessii to name a few as well as hybrid like V. nudum ‘Winterthur’ and V. dentatum ‘Chicago Lustre.’ Almost all though offer spring bloom, edible berries – in several colors – and colorful fall leaves. Native to this region and all its conditions, you are sure to find one to love.

Fothergilla – Another small wonder this petite powerhouse is known for its honey-scented early spring blooms. Its summer habit is compact but casual and its fall color is unparalleled with each small shrub playing host to a rainbow. Native to the PA woods, it does well in dappled shade.

Thanks to cooler temperatures but the summer-warmed soil, fall is perhaps the best time for root-development and therefore a good time to plant.  While single specimens look great when in full fall color, consider planting in groups or groves for the maximum effect. If you have the room, consider planting a variety of contrasting colors for the brightest possible showing.

No matter how you use them, include colorful multi-season trees and shrubs  in your landscape for fall and beyond.

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