Usually, we don't think of herbaceous perennials as having fall color. However, there is a select group of perennials that might surprise you with their brilliant foliage colors in fall. Yellow is the most common color for fall foliage on perennials. Reds, oranges, and purples can also develop in some species of herbaceous perennials, although it tends to be more variable from year to year.
Many perennials have some color develop before they go dormant and disappear for the winter (brown and tan colors don't count!). Those plants listed below have notable yellows, reds, oranges, and purples in their late-season foliage providing at least a couple weeks of good fall color every year.
The fall color season for perennials is short (just like the maples and oaks so well known for their fall display). But even brief periods of fall color are appreciated in the garden. You might be impressed with the multi-season interest these plants can provide to your garden.
Most Notable Fall Color
Almost all Blue Stars, Amsonia tabernamontana (Blue Star), Amsonia ciliata (Downy Blue Star), and Amsonia hubrechtii (Arkansas Blue Star) are famous for the clear yellow foliage fall color. The Downy and Arkansas Blue Stars have narrow/thin foliage that also adds an interesting textural contrast throughout the gardening seasons.
For the most reliable red fall color, Bloodred Geranium (Geranium sanguineum) is your best bet. After a hard frost, the foliage often turns a brilliant red color before disappearing completely a month later.
Perennials with Notable Fall Color (Listed by Height)
|Common and Scientific Name||Fall Leaf Color||Light||Height/Width (feet)||Nativity|
|Barrenwort (Epimedium)||Burgundy-Red||Full to Part Shade||0.5'-1.25'/1'||Asia|
|Hostas (Hosta)||Yelow||Full to Part Shade||0.5'-4'/0.5'-4'||Asia|
|Bloodred Geranium (Geranium sanguineum)||Red||Full to Part Sun||0.75'-1'/1'||Europe/Asia|
|Pigsqueak (Bergenia)||Burgundy-Red||Full to Part Shade||1'-1.5'/1'||Siberia|
|Columbine (Aquilegia)||Orange-Red||Full to Part Shade||1'-3'/2'||North America|
|Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis)||Yellow||Full to Part Sun||1'-3'/1'-3'||Eastern United States|
|Blue Stars (Amsonia tabernamontana; A. ciliata; A. hubrechtii)||Yellow||Full to Part Sun||1'-3'-/3'||Eastern North America|
|Gooseneck loosestrife (Lysimachia clethroides)||Bronze-Red||Full to Part Sun||2'-3'/3'+||China, Japan|
|Balloon Flower (Platycodon)||Yellow||Full to Part Sun||2.5'-3'/2'||China, Japan|
|Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)||Copper-Orange-Red||Full Sun||2'-4'/1'-2'||North America|
|Monkshood (Aconitum)||Yellow||Full to Part Sun||3'-4'/1'||Europe|
|Peonies (Paeonia)||Burgundy-Red||Full Sun||3'-4'/3'-4'||Asia|
|Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis)||Yellow||Full to Part Shade||3-4'/4'||North America|
|Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans)||Red-Orange||Full Sun||3'-6'/2'||North America|
|Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) especially certain cultivars||Red||Full Sun||4'-6'/2'-3'||North America|
|Maidengrass (Miscanthus sinensis) especially certain cultivars||Red||Full Sun||4'-7'/3'||Asia|