Outdoor Living

10 Trees and Shrubs with Autumn Color You’ll Love

One of the things people most love about the autumn months is the trees and shrubs that light up landscapes with brilliant color. Some people travel for hundreds of miles to get a glimpse of the bright reds, yellows, purples, oranges, and browns that appear magically in the foliage. If you want to have vivid color on your property in the autumn, plant these trees and shrubs that are known for their spectacular leaf displays.

Sugar Maple1 – Maple Trees

Zone 3-8
Acer sp. has many varieties of Maples that light up the landscape in fall. A favorite Michigan Native, Acer rubrum, or Red Maple, reaches 40 to 70 feet tall and is one of the most popular landscape trees in the north and northeast because it provides shade and structure for yard areas. Red Maples have good longevity and root deeper than other varieties, making it easier to grow grass or other plants around them.

In the autumn maples can turn gold, orange, or red colors that are dazzling. Other varieties of Maples with different height and growth habits include Sugar Maple, Miyable Maple, Three Flowered, Amur, and Japanese Maples (Zone 5b-7).

Katsura Tree2 – Katsura Tree

Zone 4-8
The Japanese Katsura Tree, 
Cercidiphyllum japonica, grows to 40-60 feet tall, with a vase-like structure that makes it a highly desirable tree for residential yards and arboretum like areas. The leaves give off a fragrance in the fall that is reminiscent of raspberry, passionfruit, and cotton candy. In autumn, the tree turns a range of golden to reddish colors. It is partially shade-tolerant.

3 – River Birch

Zone 4-9
The river birch, 
Betula nigra, can reach 50 to 70 feet high. This species prefers moist soil with full sun. Many people choose this tree for its luxuriant foliage and attractive paper-like exfoliating bark and insect resistance. It bears glossy green leaves in summer and turns bright yellow in the fall. Other birch varieties with similar fall colors include Paper Birch, Grey Birch, and Yellow Birch.

4 – Witch Hazel

Zone 2-9
Hamamelis sp, or Witch Hazel, is a large shrub. Typical shrubs will grow to 12-15 feet tall, with the native tree Hamamelis Virginiana reaching 20-30 feet. Autumn color can be golden-yellow to deep purples and reds depending on the variety. Hamamelis virginiana is often covered in beautiful, fragrant yellow flowers in fall along with its golden-yellow foliage.

5 – Japanese Stewartia

Zone 5
A small ornamental tree growing between 12-40 feet tall, Japanese Stewartia,
Stewartia pseudocamellia, is a unique and highly ornamental choice. Along with its abundance of white camellia like flowers midsummer, and inspiring range of colors in its exfoliating bark, its leaves turn orange-red and maroon to purple in autumn. It performs well as a full or part shade understory tree. It prefers a location with protection from harsh winter winds where it can be viewed throughout the seasons.

6 – Red-Twig Dogwood

Zone 2-8
Cornus sericea, or red-twig dogwood, is a North American native shrub with many cultivated varieties that grow from 5 to10 feet tall. It produces clusters of small, white flowers in the spring, and a wealth of rose to maroon leaves in the autumn. The reddish bark of the individual twigs continues to add color during the winter and spring landscapes.

7 – Eastern Redbud

Zone 5-9
The Eastern Redbud, Cercis canadensis, is a U.S. native tree that can grow to 30 feet tall. The shrub, often used as a small tree, has heart-shaped leaves and pea-sized vivid magenta flowers that form garlands before the leaves arrive in spring. In the autumn, the green-leaved varieties turn a bright yellow color and the dark red varieties turn different hues of red and orange.

8 – Larch

Zone 3-8
Larix sp., otherwise known as Larch or Tamarack grow from 40-80 feet. Larix laricina is native to the North America and grows in moist to boggy soils, Larix trees are deciduous conifers, meaning that they have cones and needles like other conifers, but they lose their needles in the fall. The needles turn a bright golden yellow color and light up the landscape in the fall.

Gingko Tree in fall9 – Gingko Biloba


Zone 4-9
Gingko Biloba, or Maidenhair Tree, is an ancient tree that can be seen as a living fossil; it is the only living member of a group of plants thought to have lived on earth 150 million years ago. Fossils of the tree have been found dating back to 270 million years ago. Though it doesn’t look like it, it is loosely considered a conifer because of the kind of seeds and fruit is produces that are unlike any other plants. These trees have male and female plants, with male plants being preferred in landscape settings because the female have fruit that drop and create a foul odor. They are hardy trees that grow to 50- 115 feet tall and can withstand many different planting conditions, including urban pollution and road salt. In autumn, the leaves turn a bright yellow-gold color.

sumac in fall10 – Sumac

Zone 3-9
Rhus sp, are shrubs that are easy to grow, does not require extensive maintenance, and can be used for landscaping in a number of ways. Varieties grow from 2 to 25 feet tall and produce brilliant orange-red leaves in the autumn.

These shrubs provide attractive foliage during the spring and summer months, but their true glory is exhibited in the fall when they provide a tapestry of vivid color for yards and park areas. Choose any of these for your landscaping, and you will enjoy lavish fall foliage your neighbors will envy.

Plant Selection

Remember, plant selection also involves a lot of planting considerations besides climate hardiness zones. Other conditions like pH, drainage, and placement need to be considered. The experts at Drost Landscape are here to help with everything from design and planting to year-round maintenance.