Trees and Shrubs with Great Fall Color

Cooler temperatures, crisp breezes, and beautiful fall foliage – some of the many reasons so many people love autumn.  The yellows, oranges, reds, and purples seen on many deciduous trees and shrubs in fall come from compounds present in the leaves earlier in the growing season, but masked by the green chlorophyll in the leaves.  When the chlorophyll dies in fall, the yellow and orange carotenoids present in the leaves throughout the growing season, as well as the red and purple anthocyanins that are produced in the leaf in late summer and early fall, are revealed.

Not every tree or shrub species produces carotenoids or anthocyanins in quantities that lead to a dramatic color display. Because the weather is different each year, the amount of these pigments will also vary – causing the fall color display to change in intensity from year to year.  Good growing conditions during the spring and summer followed by cool, dry nights in fall usually produce the most brilliant fall color.

When selecting plants for the home landscape, consider those with excellent fall foliage.  Some of the best fall color is produced by the trees and shrubs listed below.

Trees and Shrubs with Good Fall Color (Listed by height)

Common and Scientific Name

Fall Leaf Color

Height/Width

Shade Trees

 

 

Black gum (Nyssa sylvatica)

yellow to orange to red

30-40'/25-30'

Ohio buckeye (Aesculus glabra)

yellow to reddish orange

30-40'/30-40'

Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)

yellow to purple to red

30-60'/25-40'

Yellowwood (Cladrastis kentukea)

yellow

35-40'/40-45'

Red maple (Acer rubrum)

orange to red

40-50'/30-40'

Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum)

yellow to apricot

40-50'/35-40'

Freeman maple (Acer ×freemanii)

red

40-50'/40'

Norway maple (Acer platanoides)

yellow

40-50'/40-50'

Black maple (Acer nigrum)

yellow to orange

50'/50'

Honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis)

yellow

50'/50'

Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum)

brownish orange

50-60'/30-35'

Larch (Larix spp.)

yellow

50-60'/30-40'

American sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua)

yellow to red to purple

50-60'/40-50'

Sugar maple (Acer saccharum)

yellow to orange

50-60'/50'

Ginkgo (Gingko biloba)

yellow

50-80'/30-40'

Shagbark hickory (Carya ovata)

yellow

60'/40-45'

American elm (Ulmus americana)

yellow

60-70'/60-70'

Red oak (Quercus rubra)

wine red

60-70'/60-70'

White oak (Quercus alba)

wine red

60-70'/60-70'

Kentucky Coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioica)

yellow

60-80'/40-55'

 

 

 

Small Trees

 

 

Korean maple (Acer pseudosieboldianum)

yellow to orange to red

15-25'/15-25'

Japanese Dogwood (Cornus kousa)

red to purple

15-30'/15-30'

Serviceberry (Amelanchier ×grandiflora)

yellow to orange to red

20-25'/20-25'

Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

yellow

20-25'/25-30'

Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboretum)

red

20-50'/10-25'

Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides)

yellow

20-50'/10-30'

American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana)

yellow to orange to red

25-30'/25-30'

 

 

 

Shrubs

 

 

Dwarf Fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenii)

yellow to orange to red

1.5-3'/2-4'

Smokebush (Cotinus coggygria)

yellow to orange to purple

10-15'/10-15'

Blackhaw Viburnum (Viburnum prunifolium)

red to purple

12-15'/6-12'

Nannyberry Viburnum (Viburnum lentago)

yellow to red to purple

14-16'/6-12'

Common Witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana)

yellow

15-20'/15-20'

Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus)

red

15-20'/8-12'

Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina)

yellow to orange to red

15-25'/20-30'

Birchleaf Spirea (Spiraea betulifolia)

orange to red to purple

2-3'/2-3'

Fragrant Sumac (Rhus aromatica)

orange to red to purple

2-6'/6-10'

Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica)

red to orange to yellow

3-5'/3-5'

American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)

 

3-6'/3-6'

Koreanspice Viburnum (Viburnum carlesii)

red

4-6'/4-7'

Smooth witherod (Viburnum nudum)

red to purple

5-12'/5-12'

Witherod Viburnum (Viburnum cassinoides)

orange to red to purple

5-12'/5-12'

Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia)

red

6-10'/3-6'

Fothergilla (Fothergilla major)

yellow to orange to red

6-10'/5-9'

Arrowwood Viburnum (Viburnum dentatum)

yellow to orange to red

6-10'/6-10'

Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)

yellow

6-12'/6-12'

Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quericifolia)

red

6-8'/6-8'

Red Twig Dogwood (Cornus sericea)

red to orange

6-9'/7-10'

American Cranberrybush Viburnum (Viburnum opulus var. americanum)

red to purple

8-12'/8-12'

Bottlebrush Buckeye (Aesculus parviflora)

yellow

8-12'/8-15'

European Cranberrybush (Viburnum opulus)

red to purple

8-15'/10-15'

 

 

 

Vines

 

 

Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)

red to purple

30-50'/5-10'

Boston Ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata)

red to purple

30-50'/5-10'

 

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