SOME OF OUR FAVORITE PLANTS FOR FALL COLORS - OUR TOP 15 CHOICES
In New England, we are so lucky to have the beautiful changing leaves in the fall. It is such a visual treat when the trees take on their fall color. As the warm weather of summer and early fall fades the deciduous tree leaves stop producing chlorophyl. The green pigment in the leaves that allows the leaves to photosynthesize (feed themselves).
People from all around the country flock to New England to see the collage of colors. Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire are usually the most popular destinations. Although the other three in New England hold their own. This annual event is a huge boon for hotels, inns and restaurants who build entire experiences around this natural festival.
Our area is renowned for this glorious autumn show because the extremes from summer heat to cooler fall temps happen so quickly. 2023 should be a great year for fall color because of all the rain. Yes, the rain that ruined your plans this summer allows the leaves to stay longer and transition later. We are lucky to live here because we can enjoy this without traveling. However, the best way to guarantee great fall color is to plant specific plants in your yard.
THE CHANGING COLORS OF FALL
THE CLASSIC SUGAR MAPLE
our favorite plants for fall color - shade trees
Sugar Maple Acer sacarum
A true New England icon for its orange/ red fall color, more importantly, it’s sap is used to make maple syrup. Although sugar maples seem to be struggling in Massachusetts in recent years there are a few new varieties developed to perform better with the warming climate; Green Mountain and Fall Fiesta.
Red Maple Acer rubrum
Another great native tree that has a range of fall color. This tree is tough and adaptable to many soil types. The nurseries have done a great job of creating several varieties to ensure great fall color; Red Sunset. October Glory and Radiant to name a few.
Tupelo Nyssa sylvatica
Another great native medium sized tree. It usually grows in stands. It is a nice clean tree and the deep red fall color is a show stopper. It also has a number of varieties also; Forest Fire, Green Gable and Wild Fire.
Gingo, Gingko biloba
This tree is known as the living fossil “that survived 270 million years of earth’s history, from dinosaurs to humans. It is only kept alive through nursery production. It is a great uniform medium to large tree with cool leaves that turn yellow gold in the Autum. Be sure to plant a male because although the fruit has a lot of medicinal qualities, when the fruit falls to the ground it produces foul-smelling odor. A couple varieties to consider; Autum Gold, Chi Chi and Jade Butterflies.
Scarlet Oak Quercus coccinea
Another great native tree. Scarlet is a large shade tree with deeply lobed shiny leaves that turn a burgundy fall color. An under used tree. With its brilliant fall color and not many known problems it should be planted more.
Sweetgum Liquidambar styraciflua
Although the fruit can be a nuisance this is a great tree. It is a medium to large tree with a broad conical shape and almost star-shaped leaves. It is a low-maintenance tree with the most diverse fall color. Yellows, oranges, purples, and reds on different leaves on the same branch.
OUR FAVORITE PLANTS FOR FALL COLOR - Ornamental trees
Japanese Maple Acer palmatum
One of the most popular specimen trees Japanese maples have dozens of different species too many to list. The less common green leaved trees will have the most amazing burnt red fall color. Even the more popular red leaved varieties will have interesting fall color.
Japanese Stewartia Stewartia pseudcamellia
The Japanese Stewartia is another very popular specimen tree because it has multiple seasons of interest. Similar to Japanese maple it is a small to medium tree. Although some specimens can struggle with leaf scorch, most plants will have a beautiful orange-to-red Autum display.
Sourwood Oxydendron arboretum
Another tree native to the U.S. A great small to medium tree with multiple season interest. It usually grows taller than wide which means it does not take up a lot of space.
Paperbark Maple Acer griseum
The Paperbark Maple is one of the best ornamental trees. It is slow growing so most specimens are small to medium-sized trees. Mostly known for its deep brown exfoliating bark it also has brilliant red fall color.
OUR FAVORITE PLANTS FOR FALL COLOR - SHRUBS
All of the varieties of Fothergilla have wonderful fall colors. It is native to the southern part of the U.S. but it is hardy to New England. It ranges from a small to medium-sized plant that is best planted in full sun. It has small white flowers in the spring and it is a very clean low maintenance shrub. Its range of fall colors is these plants’ best attribute.
High Bush Blueberry Vaccineum corymbosum
Another great native people plant for fruit (if you can keep the birds and animals away). It is a low-maintenance medium to large shrub with a wide range of fall colors.
Oakleaf Hydrangea Hydrangea quercifolia
A medium to large shrub with large white conical flowers in the summer that has large oak-shaped leaves that turn maroon to red in the fall.
Virginia Sweet Spire Itea virginica
A great super low maintenance small shrub that will grow in almost any soil or light. It flowers white in the spring and has deep red fall color starting in late summer and it persists into early winter.
A huge genus in the landscape industry with dozens of varieties. Some are native and some are not. Most will have beautiful fall color and a showy fruit set. Most viburnums will be medium to large shrubs. Because there are so many varieties it is hard to list them all but here are a few to consider; native; Arrowood, Autumn Jazz, Winterthur Smooth, American Cranberry, non-native: Cayuga, Burkwood, Mohawk, Spice Island.