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? Fall days are shorter with less sunlight. When this happens, leaves stop making chlorophyll (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’)’s dark green summer leaves turn eye-catching orange-red to scarlet-red in the fall. It is a fast-growing (up to 2 feet per season), dense-upright habit (like a teardrop), well-branched tree that matures to 50 feet tall x 40 feet wide. It is 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 ample 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, turning bright red with copper tones in the fall. Bloodgood is a ‘V’ shaped small tree reaching 18 feet tall x 15 feet wide in the right growing conditions. Bloodgood will suffer from winter tip damage in colder winters or cold regions. It 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 turn brilliant yellow, orange, and scarlet red in the fall with upright clusters of red fruit. This plant will sucker, so it needs a bit of room to grow. About 6 feet tall and wide at maturity with a round shape. This is a good replacement shrub for Japanese Maple as the foliage is deeply cut, giving the shrub a lacey look. Hardiness zone 4.

Fall Foliage of a Tiger Eye Sumac | Dearborn Designs

Bobo Hydrangea (Hydrangea ‘Ilvovo’) dwarf Bobo bears 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 grows to 3 feet tall and wide. Hardiness zone 3.

Bobo Hydrangea | Proven Winners

Ivory Halo Dogwood (Cornus alba ‘Bailho’) A compact variety of variegated dogwood is 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 section 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. Hardiness zone 3.

Bright Red Stems in Winter. Burgundy Red Fall Foliage.

Double Play Red Spirea (Spiraea japonica) Double Play Spirea is a new series from Proven Winners. I like the new Red Double Play because it’s hard to find a shrub that blooms red, let alone a compact shrub. Double Play Red reaches about 3 feet tall and wide. Spring foliage emerges burgundy-purple, turning green in summer, then deep burgundy-red in fall. 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, Fireball’s stems are attractive as they are square in shape. It matures to about 6 feet tall and wide. Fireball needs sun during the summer to turn color in the fall. If grown in shade, this shrub takes longer to turn color and can even lose its foliage before it turns color. It is hardiness zone 4a.

Fireball Burningbush

Little Henry Sweetspire (Itea ‘Little Henry’) Little Henry is an unused shrub in many gardens, and it’s a shame. Sweetspire attracts native bees and butterflies to its fragrant summer blooms. Little Henry foliage turns burgundy-red and orange in late September, no matter the light conditions. It will grow in full sun to shade and reach about 3 feet tall and wide. It is hardiness zone 5.

Little Henry Fall Colour | Proven Winners

Brilliance Autumn Fern (Dryopteris ‘Brilliance’) One of my favourites for a shade garden. Spring fiddleheads are pink, and spring foliage emerges bright red-rust orange, turning deep green in the summer. Fall foliage is hues of bright red and butter yellow, lime green, and burnt orange, all rolled up into one fern. It is hardiness zone 5.

Brilliance Autumn Fern | Proven Winners

Jaws Stonecrop (Sedum ‘Jaws’) Jaws are tall sedums reaching over a foot in height and width. Its sizeable blue-green foliage in summer has deep-cut edges shaped like cups; 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 later fall color. Hardiness zone 2.

Jaws Foliage | NVK Nurseries

Sun Power Plantain Lily (Hosta ‘Sun Power’) With a bit of light, Sun Power has bright chartreuse, lightly twisted leaves in summer that turn bright yellow in fall, sure to brighten up any dark corner. Sun Power reaches about 28 inches in height but is about 48 inches in width. Lilac purple funnel-shaped blooms held on tall stems in August attract hummingbirds. It is 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

Plant a selection of these amazing autumn plants to inject vibrant hues into your garden as temperatures cool.

Lexi Dearborn

The Gabby Gardener

September 2022

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