The Best Trees For Fall Color

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Oranges, reds and yellows are easy to find in Autumn landscapes, but do you know which plants are specifically responsible for your favorite bursts of color each fall? From classic Birch to exotic (sounding) Arctic Fire Dogwood, create a vibrant landscaping palette around your home with one of these fall favorites. 


One of the best recognized trees during autumn, the maple is a favorite for anyone looking to add bright reds, oranges and yellows to their fall landscaping. This tree is often found in the northern regions of the country, and is valued for the use of its wood as much as its beauty. Ranging in size from 15-to-70 feet, depending on the specific type of maple, this tree is a great option for a beautiful autumn addition to any yard.


The beauty of this tree's brilliant autumn red is alluring, however, several varieties are poisonous. If you decide to plant a Sumac in your yard, be sure to speak with a garden center professional about which kinds are best for you. Plant in full sun, in cold, northern regions of the country. Sumacs vary in size, and can reach up to 15 feet tall. Also, be cautious with surrounding plants, as the Sumac is an aggressive grower.


Named after the subtle haze that appears to surround the bush while it blooms soft pink, this shrub turns vibrant orange in autumn, making it another great choice for a pop of color in your autumn landscaping. The Smoketree can be trimmed to function as a small tree, or left to grown low and wide like a shrub. Be sure to plant in full sun with moderate watering in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States.


Known for its bright yellow leaves each fall, the gingko tree is also one of the oldest surviving tree species today. Each autumn, its rounded leaves change colors to a glowing yellow and light orange, giving it striking contrast against both green landscaping, and darker oranges and reds. The Gingko can grow up to 80 feet tall, but typically stays much shorter. Plant Gingko trees in sun or shade, and keep soil moist. Do not place them near paved surfaces, as their roots are known to grow forcibly and can lift up and crack driveways and pathways.


Another autumn classic, Birch trees not only offer vibrant fall leaf colors, but also the beauty of a striking contrast against their white bark. The unique paper-like texture of their bark offers even more detail, and varies based on the specific type of Birch. Plant your Birch in full or partial sun and keep soil especially healthy to maintain this tree's health. Birches typically grow between 20 and 50 feet tall.

American Cranberry Bush

This large shrub not only offers gorgeous fall color, but the classic fruit as well. Frequently found in moist climates in cold regions of the country (maximum temperature drops of -50 to -40 F), this plant is a good option for cold weather gardeners looking for a sturdy landscaping option. Set the American Cranberry Bush in partial shade to full sun, and keep soil moist during seasons with little rain.

Witch Hazel

Another plant offering mainly yellow fall foliage is Witch Hazel. An interesting aspect of this shrub also blooms yellow flowers, which remain on its branches even after all the leaves have fallen. Witch Hazel typically gives off the scent of spices, and is a great way to add color, scent and floral detailing to your landscaping throughout autumn. Be sure to plant in partial to full shade, and keep it well watered. Witch Hazel typically grows up to 12 feet tall.

Arctic Fire Dogwood

Try this flame-twigged tree for beautiful autumns and springs. During the fall, Dogwood's leaves turn bright red and purple before dropping off. Once the plant is bare, however, the stems remain a vibrant orange and red, making this landscaping choice perfect for year-round color. The brightest autumn shades can be seen in the Arctic Fire version of the species, which grows up to four feet tall. Dogwoods of other varieties can grow up to 25 feet tall, and all feature white blooms in the spring. Plant in sun or shade, and keep the soil most.

Willow Oak

Though it is a part of the Oak family, this tree is named after its long and narrow Willow-like leaves, which turn yellow, orange and red in the fall. The Willow Oak can tolerate various types of soil and full sun, making it easier to care for than more temperamental autumn trees. Found in the mid to lower half of the United States, this tree is a great choice for most homeowners looking to include the colors of fall into their landscaping. Willow Oaks usually grow between 40 and 60 feet tall, and can reach up to 40 feet wide.

Last Updated: August 9, 2013
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About Alexandra Kerr Through Ideal Home Garden, Alexandra covers topics ranging from interior design to home improvement, gardening and cuisine. Having a passion for cooking and entertaining in her own life, she hopes to communicate her love of home design and decorating with her readers. 

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