Best Trees & Shrubs for Fall Color | Midwest Living

Best Trees & Shrubs for Fall Color

Add exciting color to your autumn garden with these easy-to-grow trees and shrubs.
  • Green ash: fast-growing shade tree

    Green ash is an adaptable, fast-growing shade tree. It reaches 50 to 60 feet tall and 25 to 30 feet wide. It matures from a pyramidal habit to an open, spreading habit. The leaves change to yellow in the fall; 'Emerald' is adapted to hot climates and has reliable yellow fall color.

  • Cutleaf sumac: year-round interest

    Cutleaf sumac offers year round garden interest -- for those gardens who can take its large size and rapid spreading. In early summer, it produces cone-shaped clusters of greenish yellow flowers. During the summer, the finely cut foliage stays attractive. Later in the year, 'Laciniata' (shown here) displays wonderful red, yellow, or orange fall color and attractive clusters of red fruit.

  • Apple serviceberry: all-season color

    Apple serviceberry is a small tree or large-multi-stemmed shrub with white or pink flowers that appear in spring, before the young purple leaves appear. The flowers are larger than on other serviceberries. The leaves turn green as they mature, then become orange in autumn. During the summer, its red berries attract birds. Silvery-gray bark gives winter interest.

  • 'White Tigress': unusual bark

    'White Tigress' striped bark maple is a small, bushy tree with unique white striped green bark. In the fall, the leaves turn from green to pale yellow. This tree prefers shade, and requires careful attention until established.

  • Cranberry bush: red fall foliage

    American cranberry bush produces flat, white flower clusters in spring, and attractive red foliage in the fall. Birds appreciate the bright red berries that appear late in the year. American cranberry bush is most comfortable in light shade, and forms a dense, rounded outline about 10 feet tall and wide.

  • Chokecherry: red leaves, black fruit

    Black chokecherry is a small tree, growing to 30 feet, or a large shrub. It offers small white flowers in spring; in the fall, it sports leaves in shades of red plus black, 1/2-inch fruit. Birds generally get to the fruit before anyone else has a chance. The melanocarpa variety is more compact than the species, topping out at about 20 feet.

  • Burning bush: brilliant display

    Burning bush is a deciduous shrub that is popular for its brilliant scarlet fall color. Growing 7 to 15 feet tall and wide, burning bush has rounded, horizontal-branching, vase-shaped habit, making it well-suited to use as an unclipped hedge or screen, in a shrub border, or simply as a specimen plant for its spectacular display.

  • Ginkgo biloba: yellow fall fans

    Ginkgo biloba is a slow-growing, majestic shade tree, eventually growing to 80 feet tall and wide. The leaves have a unique fan shape and turn yellow in fall. It tolerates heat, pollution, and a range of soil pH. Choose a male plant, because females bear a fruit that smells extremely unpleasant once they are about 20 years old.

  • Hophornbeam: handsome foliage

    American hophornbeam is a handsome yet underused rounded tree with hard wood. It averages 25 to 40 feet in height and about 10 to 25 feet wide. The dark green leaves are pale and fuzzy on the underside and turn yellow in the fall. The attractive orange or gray bark peels off in long strips. The catkin flowers persist into winter, as does the fruit, a nutlet that resembles hops and attracts birds.

  • Doublefile viburnum: layered effect

    Doublefile viburnum has a horizontal habit with tiered branching that creates a layered effect and gives winter interest. Mature specimens have a rounded shape. The dark green foliage emerges early and changes to a reddish-purple in fall. The spring-blooming flat clusters of white flower that are up to 6 inches wide. In summer, the bright red fruits change to black and attract birds.

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