How To Enhance Your Gardens Fall Foliage Color

The intensity of any year’s changing Fall foliage is dependent on many factors, most of them are under Mother Nature’s control.

Red & scarlet displays are influenced by weather. Yellow pigments are usually more predictable. The best red displays happen during years of abundant moisture and when Fall days are warm and sunny and night are cold (below 45° Fahrenheit). Moisture from Summer and early Fall rain prevents the leaves from drying up and dropping before they change color. Cold nights trap sugars in the leaves where they are transformed into red pigments. We can’t control nature, but we can maximize our garden’s color.  Locate plants with showy fall foliage in a south or west face where afternoon sun is abundant.  You can also plant them in a frost pocket (low lying area), where cold air accumulates at night.   Irrigating deciduous woody plants in Summer and Fall when they are dry, will also help their Fall colors.

Perennials with good Fall Color

I hope to help you today in the selection of plants for your garden that will bring together all of autumn’s bounty by contrasting and combining colorful fall foliage, brilliant berries, and silvery grasses.  We enhance the season’s blaze of foliage with colorful flowering perennials. Let nature’s bursts of gold and purple flowers, punctuated by bursts of white, influence our gardens.

  • Rudbeckia’s (blackeyed susan’s) several varieties for late bloom
  • Sedum- Autumn Joy Blooming pink to burgundy
  • Gold rods- Solidago
  • Asters- many hybrids 2-6 tall blue or purple daisy like blooms
  • Jap. anemone- white or pink and tall.
  • Eupatorium- hardy ageratum- tall blue mist or joe pye weed tall mauve
  • Boltonia- white
  • Sunflower or composite family- a lot of tall yellows or helenium (sneezeweed)
  • Russian Sage- tall airy blue with grey foliage
  • Ornamental grasses: add movement to the garden and the blooms catch light.
  • Fountain grass- pennisetum or foxtail bloom
  • Maiden grass- miscanthus sinensis open fan bloom and has a taller vase shape
  • Pampas- Cortaderia is large and showy
Red Fall color in shrubs
  • Burning bush (euonymus alatus)
  • Oakleaf hydrangea
  • Virginia sweetspire (itea henry’s garnet)
  • Barberry- purple foliaged cultivars to scarlet
  • Nandina- reddish
  • Viburnums: koreanspice, doublefile, tea, cranberry bush.
Yellow Fall color in shrubs
  • Beauty berry- callicarpa
  • Sweet pepperbush- clethra
  • Fothergilla-member of witchhazel family and in October the leaves of this native shrub orange/red in full sun, yellow ish in shade.
  • Witchhazel- hamamelis- great early February fragrant flowers too!
  • Winterberry- deciduous holly (ilex verticillata) also red berries for winter interest.
  • Kerria- yellow flowers
  • Forsythia- small yellow blooms
Red to Burgundy Fall color in small trees (15′ – 25′)
  • Japanese Maples- their red color intensifies. Purple foliage becomes scarlet.
  • Dogwood- Red color
  • Smoketree- purple foliage to scarlet
  • Crape myrtle
  • Sumac- often seen in the wild, this shruby tree makes a wonderful accent when used right
Yellow Fall color in small trees (15′ – 25′)
  • Redbuds
  • Fringe tree
  • Cherry
Red to Burgundy Fall color in tall trees
  • Red Maple (acer Rubrum) especially hybrids October Glory, Red Sunset
  • Serviceberry (amelanchier)
  • Sweetgum
  • Sourwood
  • Scarlet Oak
Yellow Fall color in tall trees
  • Birch
  • American Yellowwood
  • Ginkgo
  • Tulip Popl
Orange, Scarlet, or Gold Fall color in tall trees
  • Sugar maple – Acer saccharum- outer leaves orange/scarlet inner leaves vary from orange to yellow
  • Sweetgum liquidambar
  • Mt. Ash Sorbus
Fruits & Berries
  • Viburnums- many varieties have noteworthy fall fruit (Linden, Cranberry, Tea, Red
  • Nandina
  • Callicarpa- wonderful purple beautyberry
  • Aronia- red chokeberry native
  • Winterberry- a deciduous holly- need a male and female
  • Pyracantha- orange or red berries
  • Hawthorn tree (crataegus)
  • Mt. Ash (sorbus)
  • Crabapples (malus)
  • Kousa dogwood rosy pink strawberry like fruit like fruit

Your garden can be at it’s richest and most colorful at this time of year. Take a look at your existing plantings, notice their best attributes, add new plants to enhance the planting. Take a trip to the garden center and let us show new ideas . Dont let fall just mean raking leaves and mulching.

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