I must admit I used to recommend Ornamental pear (Pyrus calleryana) such as ‘Chanticleer’ (same as ‘Select’, ‘Cleveland Select’, and ‘Stone Hill’) as a good tree for fall color.
I also recommended Burning bush (Eunymous alatus) as a fall color shrub – although I warned it was invasive in some areas.
I now recommend that you don’t plant these and perhaps should REMOVE them if you have them. They are as invasive as warned. I have seen it with my own eyes. You should not be planting these in your landscape. There are better plants for fall color that don’t crowd out our native vegetation, such as the ones listed below.
Burning Bush replacement
Instead of burning bush, why not an Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica ‘Henry’s Garnet’). Looking at this sweetspire in spring or summer, you will appreciate its sweet fragrance and cascading white flowers against fresh foliage, but you might wonder why it is called Henry’s “garnet”.
When you get to the fall and see it’s foliage change you will understand. There are different cultivar’s of Itea virginica, but they all have great fall color. This one grows about 4 feet high and 6 feet wide. Oh, did I mention it is a native from Texas to Pennsylvania. It also has no serious insect or disease problems.
Downy Serviceberry – Amelanchier arborea– Small to medium tree/shrub- This multi trunk tree adds much to the four season garden. It offers smooth gray bark for winter interest, nice white flowers in the spring, and outstanding fall color in most years. Fall color of this tree ranges from orange to red. In my mind the orange is the best as it is different than the more common reds and yellows often seen in plants in the fall. ‘Cole Select’ is noted for great orange fall color while ‘Princess Diana’ & ‘Autumn Brilliance’ usually have a nice red fall color most seasons.
MORE PLANTS FOR FALL COLOR
Oakleaf hygrangea – Hydrangea quercifolia– This bush has a huge leaf with big white flowers in the middle of summer when few other bushes are blooming. It has a very coarse texture and is a bold plant in the summer garden. It gets a nice yellow to reddish tone. This seems to look its best when under planted with an evergreen groundcover such as Pachysandra or Vinca.
Dwarf fothergilla – Fothergilla gardenia – A great little shrub that prefers acid sandy soil and thus is not the best for unprepared heavy clay. This shrub only gets 2-3’wide and high. It is a member of the witch hazel family and like them all gets a nice autumn color. It displays yellow to red fall color often on the same plant or even leaf. Like viburnums almost all members of the witch hazel can be counted on for good subtle fall color, although it is usually on the yellow side of the color wheel. Below are two examples of how the dwarf fothergilla can look in the fall.
Common witch hazel – Hamamelis virginiana – Small tree – This is the only plant on my list to flower in the fall. It’s small yellow ribbon like flowers are mostly hidden by leaves that have turned an attractive yellow. They do however produce a sweet fragrance that adds a nice touch if walked by. The yellow fall color is a nice complement to the reds and oranges of the other plants discussed here.
This post and Part 1, are really only the tip of the iceberg of great plants for fall color. I will cover more in future posts. If you are interested in my suggestions for your individual garden or landscapes feel free to submit a question on my Ask me a question page.