With temperatures finally starting to drop (at least at night), some of our favorite fall plants are just about to put on a show. These plants will add splashes of color throughout your garden as the rainy, gray days start to return.
Katsura Tree (Cercidiphyllum japonica)
There’s nothing like the smell of a crisp autumn morning and the Katsura Tree adds a heavenly scent to the air. In spring, new leaves have a reddish-purple tinge and mature to blue-green in summer. When fall arrives, the foliage turns bright yellow, orange, and red and when the leaves fall, they have a cotton candy like smell. The Katsura Tree gets its best fall coloring in full sun locations and prefers to have regular watering especially during dry, hot spells. Katsura Trees are perfect for providing shade while still allowing planting underneath due to their unaggressive root system. They are also great for providing screening quickly as they reach 25-60’ tall and 15-50 feet wide.
Maidenhair Tree (Ginkgo biloba)
This prehistoric tree is considered a living fossil with leaf fossils dating back to 270 million years ago making this one of the oldest plant species still alive today. While they grow best in rich, well-draining soil, they can tolerate all sorts of conditions including sandy and clay soils along with urban conditions with pollution and salt spray. The unique, fan shaped green leaves turn bright golden yellow as fall settles in and leave a lovely blanket of yellow on the ground as it gets colder. You can find many different sizes from large shade trees to more upright, narrow trees that are great for smaller spaces or in containers.
Mount Airy Fothergilla (Fothergilla x ‘Mount Airy’)
Don’t be fooled thinking all deciduous shrubs only look good in one or 2 seasons. Mount Airy Fothergilla, among many other shrubs, provides all-season interest from winter to fall. In later winter/early spring, before foliage emerges, sweet scented white, bottlebrush-like flowers shine in the sunlight on bare wood. Blue-green, heavily veined leaves appear after the flowers and then turn gorgeous shades of red, purple, orange, and yellow in fall. After the leaves fall, the upright branching pattern is revealed and is accented by frost and snow throughout winter. Fothergilla is great for woodland gardens and native areas as a border plant and works well as a hedge. It gets to be about 5-6 feet tall and wide and likes full sun or partial sun.
Munchkin Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Munchkin’)
Most associate Hydrangeas with spring and summer, but this hydrangea continues to shine well into fall. Large white flowers open in summer against a background of large, deep green oak-like leaves. Flowers mature to pink and stay upright despite any heavy rains. Due its smaller size (3-4 feet tall and wide) and its unique foliage and flowers, this plant is super versatile. It can be placed on its own to draw the eye, as a hedge for full impact, or within more natural, wooded settings with native plants. The large oak-like foliage turns shades of maroon and burgundy in fall and the exfoliating bark stands out in winter after the leaves are gone. This Hydrangea does well in full sun but can also handle partial shade/sun or filtered sun.
Sunshine Blue Highbush Blueberry (Vaccinium x ‘Sunshine Blue’)
Last but definitely not least is one of our favorite Blueberry varieties to put in our planting plans. Because this Blueberry has a small growth habit (3-4 feet tall and wide) and is evergreen (depending on climate), it can be placed in a wide variety of places from native areas to edible garden areas to containers to more formal planting areas. Blue green foliage provides the backdrop to pink and white bell-shaped flowers in spring. Blueberries are ready for picking in summer and are self-fruiting but have better fruiting when planted with other blueberries. Fall brings all shades of red to the foliage and will hang on through winter in more mild climates until new leaves emerge in spring. Full sun placement is best, and they like consistently moist, but not soggy, soils.
What is your favorite plant that provides that pop of fall color in your garden?