Much attention is given to flowering perennials and annuals in the fall and though we understand why, if we only focus on those types of plants, we’re selling our fall gardens short. Why? Because there’s a bevy of fall plants to grow and flowering shrubs to try that will truly shine during the harvest season, with brilliant leaf color, textural bark, and flowering shrubs.
When designing your fall landscapes look for plants that will contribute a richness that simply cannot be had by fleeting annuals. Here are our top picks.
Fall Plants and Shurbs to Grow
Fall Flowering Shrubs to Grow
Even though we’re still talking about fall flowers, it’s the flowering shrub varieties that add color to your landscape and grab attention. Caryopteris starts with blue to purple flowers in the summer and continues to bloom into the fall. Plant ‘Sunshine Blue’ to add golden yellow foliage to the mix! And who doesn’t love a good hydrangea? If you plant ‘Limelight,’ you’ll be treated with lime green flowers in the summer which fade to deep rose/cinnamon-brown in the fall. Truly drool-worthy. And don’t forget about Weigela ‘Ghost’ if you give it a light pruning early in the growing season, you’ll get a second heavy bloom of deep reddish-pink flowers in the fall in addition to its buttery-hued leaves.
Fall Foliage to Plant
We adore autumn leaves, don’t you? So let’s add some into our gardens. One of my favorites is Croton (Codiaeum variegatum), with its jellybean-colored leaves of yellow, orange, red, and green. This traditional houseplant is perfect for fall container plantings, when the weather turns, just bring it inside. Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus spp.) is a noteworthy vine with green leaves that turn bright red in the fall. Itea spp. is another underutilized shrub with stunning orange-red fall foliage, opt for ‘Little Henry’ for a more manageable size. Looking for something a bit richer? Reach for Viburnum nudum ‘Brandywine’ with its glossy dark maroon-red leaves. And for that quintessential fall leaf color? It’s hard to beat maples (Acer spp.), from red maples to sugar, silver, and Norway maple trees, you’ll be delighted with the blaze of leaf color that sets the whole landscape on fire. As an added bonus, you can add your fall leaves to the garden as mulch or toss them in your compost.
Beautiful Barks and Fall Berry Shrubs
The bark on tree trunks and branches is nothing to downplay and they especially shine when leaves have fallen, exposing all the gorgeous textures. Try a trident maple (Acer buergerianum) with its gray/orange/brown exfoliating bark, paperbark maple (Acer griseum) with its peeling bark in shades of orange to cinnamon, river birch (Betula nigra) for its peeling salmon-white bark, and paper birch (Betula papyrifera) with chalk white bark. Other great options include shagbark hickory (Carya ovata) with its gray bark in long, curling strips, and crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia spp.) with cinnamon-brown exfoliating bark. Plant these beauties in front of evergreen trees or shrubs to let them truly shine.
Honorable Mentions: Don’t forget about berries! Plants like beautyberry (Callicarpa bodinieri), strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo), harlequin glorybower (Clerodendrum trichotomum), and Himalayan honeysuckle (Leycesteria formosa) offer fall berries that shine like jewels in the garden.