You may be looking around your neighborhood with envy this time of year, admiring the gorgeous shrubs, plants and small trees giving their yearly, and spectacular fall foliage show. If you, like myself, have fall color envy, then here are some great fall garden plants for autumn colors you can plant this fall or next spring. Next year, it will be your turn for people to slow down and stare as they pass your home!


Best Fall Garden Plants for Autumn Color

Fall Sumac

Sumac is a small landscape tree that has spectacular autumn color. This is a fall plant that is a four season show, as its attractive berries hang on through winter. Landscape Sumacs are not poisonous like, well like poison sumac.  Best fall plant plant for autumn color around!


Japanese Maple

Maples of any kind have beautiful fall color, but the Japanese Maple is a smaller tree suitable for any garden, and is decorative as well. Japanese Maples thrive in most parts of the country. Find out more about them at our post on top trees for small gardens.


Burning Bush (Euonymus)

This mid sized shrub turns a deep and eye catching red every fall. A hedge of them can be breathtaking! They can have thorns, and attract bees in the summer, but are a good all around fall plant for autumn foliage color that makes a great backdrop during the rest of the year to flowers and grasses. Photo by ‘Proven Winners‘.

Burning bush


Fothergilla (Bottlebrush)

Another great mid sized fall shrub that has fragrant, bottle brush white flowers in spring, and in the fall turns every shade of orange, yellow and red…often on the same leaf!



Smoke Bush (Cotinus)

This shrub doesn’t do the usual orange and yellow… if you need a change, this maroon shrub changes over to a deep, dramatic purple and red and blooms smoke like tufts of flowers. Very good specimen plant! Photo by ‘Mooseys‘.

Smoke bush fall


Oakleaf Hygrangea

This is not the classic mophead hydrangea, but the variety that blooms with white, long panicles in late summer, and has oak shaped leaves. The leaves of this fall plant turn gorgeous shades of red in fall. This make a great three season plant for any garden. Photo by ‘Farmingtons‘.

Oakleaf Hydrangea


Ornamental Grasses

While most ornamental grasses don’t technically turn fall colors, they are worth mentioning here as a fall plant worth having. Many turn a deep bronze with the cold weather, and add a texture to the garden as important as color.

However, Miscanthus “Purpurascens” (flame grass)  flowers emerge magenta, then in fall turn silky white. The normally gray-green foliage earns its fiery name in fall when it changes to a brilliant flaming orange.

Shenandoah Switch Grass is a popular newer grass with great fall color.  In summer, the leaves on this slow-growing upright ornamental grass feature attractive red-stained tips, but in fall the leaves turn rich black-burgundy.This plant also has a clouds of feathery pink flowers to boot!

Pennisetum is a fountain grass that turns golden yellow in the fall. Photo by ‘AHBL‘ in Seattle.


Fall Colors for the South

Many of these fall garden plants aren’t suited to the warm winters of the South, so for those of you below the Mason Dixon line, we have a fall foliage suggestion for you as well. Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina) is a delicate looking rounded shrub that comes in a great dwarf form as well, and performs well in most parts of the country to zone 10. The deep red foliage of the Nandina generally begins to appear in late summer to early fall and holds its color throughout the winter season. In fact, the Heavenly Bamboo Nandina will go through several color changes throughout the spring, summer and fall to provide you with a unique look all year long! Photo by ‘Furneys’.


So plant one or two this year, and enjoy that fall color in the coming seasons. Nothing says fall like fall garden plants with amazing autumn colors! We think you will also love our post on Fall Lawn Care Tricks and Fabulous Fall Container Ideas!

Image Credits: Proven Winners, Mooseys, Farminton, ABHL, Furneys

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1 Comment

  1. Martha Hoover September 28, 2014 at 2:12 pm

    Live in Southern California. Need info/advice on
    “very economical” fall color, prepare lawn (bermuda) also mixed bermuda fescue and ? with burn spots patches dog urine. Long lasting to permanent blooming color for edging , low growing, for summer or possibly permanent.


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