Home » ⇾ Dazzling Fall Colour. Must-Have Plants!

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” Albert Camus.

If you are looking for dazzling fall colour in your yard, here are a few of my ‘must-haves’ plants for your fall garden.

Why do plant leaves change colour? Because fall days are shorter with less sunlight. When this happens, leaves stop making chlorophyll (that’s the green stuff) so the green fades and reds, oranges, and yellows become more predominant.

Welcome fall with a blaze of colourful plants!

Autumn Blaze Maple | NVK Nurseries

Autumn Blaze Maple (Acer freemanii ‘Jeffersred’) Dark green leaves of summer turn eye-catching orange-red to scarlet-red in the fall. Autumn Blaze is a fast growing (up to 2 feet per season) with a dense-upright habit (like a tear drop), and well-branched.  Matures to 50 feet tall x 40 feet wide. Hardiness zone 3.

Fall Fiesta Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum ‘Bailsta‘)has a rounded-upright round habit like a lollipop on a stick.  The glossy green foliage of summer turns vibrant red, golden-yellow, and orange in fall. This strong, fast-growing maple needs a large space as it will mature to 50-70 feet tall x 50 feet across. Hardiness zone 3b.

Fall Fiesta Sugar Maple | NVK Nurseries

Bloodgood Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’) Purple-red foliage through the summer turns bright red with copper tones in the fall. Bloodgood is a ‘V’ shaped small tree reaching about 18 feet tall x 15 feet wide in the right growing condition.  Bloodgood will suffer winter tip burn (damage) in colder winters or in northern regions.  Bloodgood needs protection from dry, harsh winter winds. Hardiness zone 5.

Bloodgood Japanese Maple | Dearborn Designs

Tiger-Eye Sumac (Rhus ‘Bailtiger’) Soft yellow summer leaves held on red stems give way to brilliant gold, orange and scarlet red foliage in fall with clusters of upright red fruit. This plant will sucker so it needs a bit of room to grown. About 6 feet tall and wide at maturity in a dome shape. This is a good substitute for a Japanese Maple if you live in northern areas. Hardiness zone 4.

Fall Foliage of a Tiger Eye Sumac | Dearborn Designs

Bobo Hydrangea (Hydrangea ‘Ilvovo’) Dwarf Bobo bares white upright, panicle flowers in summer, aging to a lovely, soft pink and dusty-rose in September.  Light green summer foliage turns butter yellow in fall. This compact shrub is wonderful for a smaller garden or as a low hedge. Grows about 3 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide. Hardiness zone 3.

Bobo Hydrangea | Proven Winners

Ivory Halo Dogwood (Cornus alba ‘Bailho’) A compact variety of variegated dogwood to about 5 feet tall and wide. White flowers in spring produce clusters of whitish-blue berries in fall. Berries are a good food source for local songbirds. Variegated green and white foliage in summer where the green sections of the leaf turns burgundy-red in fall creating a candy-strip appearance.  Red stems and branches in the late fall and through the winter. Great winter interest. Hardiness zone 3.

Bright Red Stems in Winter. Burgundy Red Fall Foliage.

Double Play Red Spirea (Spiraea japonica) Double Play Red is a new spirea series from Proven Winners.  It’s really hard to find a shrub that blooms true red, let alone a shrub that is smaller in size, but Double Play Red does both. Double Play reaches about 3 feet tall and wide at maturity.  Spring foliage emerges burgundy-purple turning green through the summer, and then in the fall, the foliage turns deep burgundy-red.  Hardiness zone 4.

Double Play Red Spirea | Proven Winners

Fireball Burning Bush (Euonymus ‘Fireball’) Prized for its flaming burgundy, red, and sometimes pink foliage in late September and into October. Stems are interesting as they are square in shape. Matures to about 6 feet tall and wide. Fireball needs a sunny location during the summer to turn colour in the fall. If grown in shade, this shrub takes longer for the foliage to turn colour, and tends to lose most of it’s foliage before it does turns colour. Hardiness zone 4a.

Fireball Burningbush

Little Henry Sweetspire (Itea ‘Little Henry’) Little Henry is so unused in gardens and it’s a shame. Sweetspire attracts native bees and butterflies to it’s fragrant white summer blooms. In September, Little Henry turns burgundy-red and orange, no matter the light conditions. Will grow in full sun to shade, reaching about 3 feet tall and wide. Hardiness zone 5. A must have for any garden!

Little Henry Fall Colour | Proven Winners

Brilliance Autumn Fern (Dryopteris ‘Brilliance’) One of my favourites for a shade garden. Spring fiddleheads are pink with foliage emerging bright red-rust orange, turning deep green in the summer. Fall foliage has hues of bright red, butter yellow, lime green and burnt orange – all on one very cool plant.  A fall standout. Hardiness zone 5.

Brilliance Autumn Fern | Proven Winners

Jaws Stonecrop (Sedum ‘Jaws’) Jaws is a tall sedum reaching just over a foot in height and width. Large blue-green foliage has deep cut edges shaped like cups in summer however it’s the fall blooms that are spectacular. Bright deep salmon-pink flowers in September and October attract migrating butterflies on their journey south.  Seed heads dry to a brownish red for even later fall colour. Hardiness zone 2.  That’s right, zone 2!

Jaws Foliage | NVK Nurseries

Sun Power Plantain Lily (Hosta ‘Sun Power’) With a bit of sunlight, sun power has bright chartreuse, lightly twisted leaves in summer that turn bright yellow in fall, sure to bright up any dark corner.  Sun power reaches about 28 inches in height however about 48 inches wide. Lilac purple funnel-shaped blooms held on tall stems in August attract hummingbirds. Hardiness zone 3.

Sun Power Hosta | NVK Nurseries

Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis) Miscanthus can reach anywhere from 3 feet tall to 12 feet tall depending on the variety. What makes Miscanthus an outstanding grass are their feathery, fall plumes. Miscanthus blooms in late summer with a reddish-purple plume that fade to silvery and cream as the season progresses. Summer’s green foliage turns yellow in fall. Hardiness zone 4 to 5 depending on the variety.

Miscanthus Fall Plumes | Dearborn Designs

If you’re looking for memorable fall colour, try a few of these plants to brighten your gardens as the weather cools.

Lexi Dearborn

The Gabby Gardener

September 2022

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