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Shrubs with Fall Foliage

By: Garden Gate staff
Great fall colors aren’t just found on trees. Some of the best shades of orange, red yellow and even purple come from these shrubs with fall foliage.

Find a spot for shrubs with fall foliage

When you think of fabulous fall color, what comes to mind? Stunning maple leaves, mums, pumpkins? Probably. But don’t forget shrubs! These woody plants are workhorses in the garden. Smaller than trees (and often multistemmed), you can find shrubs that fit anywhere — even in containers — and they’ll keep going in your garden for years. While many popular fall plants, such as pansies or flowering kale, add great pops of color, shrubs with fall foliage will give you more bang for the buck as they only get better year after year.

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Multiseason interest

These seven shrubs are fall foliage stars, but they’re also attractive when they’re in bloom and in summer leaf. For a big splash of fall color, think about creating a combo with several of these plants together. It’s nice to have a mix of foliage colors in your garden, and with these shrubs you run the gamut from yellow to orange, red to crimson and bronze to purple. Even if you’re not familiar with some of these shrubs, once you grow them, they’ll soon become your favorites, too!

Cutleaf staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina Tiger Eyes®)

This cutleaf staghorn sumac can sucker though not as much as other sumacs. But it doesn’t need a lot of maintenance — just prune any dead wood.

Blooms Yellow flowers in early summer Foliage Yellow-orange and red foliage in early fall Light Full sun to part shade Soil Well-drained Size 3 to 6 ft. tall and wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 8

Birchleaf spirea (Spiraea betulifolia ‘Tor’)

Clusters of small white flowers appear in mid- to late spring, but its crowning glory is in mid- to late fall when the leaves become marvelous shades of purple, red and orange! Prune in late winter to early spring.

Blooms White clusters in midspring Foliage Purple, red and orange in mid- to late fall Light Full sun Soil Average well-drained Size 2 to 3 ft. tall and wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 8

Cranberrybush viburnum (Viburnum opulus americanum ‘Wentworth’)

Versatile cranberrybush viburnum (also known as “highbush cranberry”) makes a good focal point, screen, hedge or foundation plant. Its late summer sweet and tart berries make good preserves, too!

Blooms White in late spring to early summer Foliage Yellow, red and crimson leaves in mid- to late fall Light Full sun to part shade Soil Average, well-drained Size 8 to 12 ft. tall and wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 2 to 8

Bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora)

Bottlebrush buckeyes are known for their showy flowers, but come fall, the leaves take center stage as they turn yellow. Low-maintenance is this shrub’s middle name. Once established, bottlebrush buckeye’s not fussy about moisture. It’s both rabbit- and deer-resistant!

Type Shrub Blooms White spikes from late spring to early summer; yellow leaves in early fall Size 8 to 12 ft. tall, 8 to 15 ft. wide Light Part to full shade Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 8

Dwarf fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenia)

Fragrant, creamy white bottlebrush blooms of fothergilla are charming in early spring. Then summer brings leathery blue-green foliage that turns red, yellow and orange, often all on the same leaf, in fall.

Type Shrub Blooms Native with bottlebrushlike white aromatic flowers in spring before leaves appear Light Full sun to part shade Size 3 to 4 ft. tall and wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 5 to 8

Common witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana)

In zones 4 to 6, shelter common witchhazel from winter winds. Otherwise, it’s low-maintenance and only needs pruning for removing deadwood or shaping.

Blooms Cream to yellow flowers from mid- to late fall Foliage Golden leaves from early to midfall Light Full sun to part shade Soil Slightly acid, moist, well-drained Size 10 to 20 ft. tall, 15 to 25 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 8

Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)

Oakleaf hydrangea loves heat and humidity! Plus it has plenty of winter interest — older bark peels away to expose shiny dark brown stems.

Blooms Upright pyramidal clusters of white flowers from late spring through summer Foliage Purple, bronze and crimson fall foliage Light Full sun to part shade Soil Rich, moist, well-drained Size 4 to 8 ft. tall and wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 5 to 9

Cutleaf staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina Tiger Eyes®)

This cutleaf staghorn sumac can sucker though not as much as other sumacs. But it doesn’t need a lot of maintenance — just prune any dead wood.

Blooms Yellow flowers in early summer Foliage Yellow-orange and red foliage in early fall Light Full sun to part shade Soil Well-drained Size 3 to 6 ft. tall and wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 8

Dwarf fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenia)

Fragrant, creamy white bottlebrush blooms of fothergilla are charming in early spring. Then summer brings leathery blue-green foliage that turns red, yellow and orange, often all on the same leaf, in fall.

Type Shrub Blooms Native with bottlebrushlike white aromatic flowers in spring before leaves appear Light Full sun to part shade Size 3 to 4 ft. tall and wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 5 to 8

Birchleaf spirea (Spiraea betulifolia ‘Tor’)

Clusters of small white flowers appear in mid- to late spring, but its crowning glory is in mid- to late fall when the leaves become marvelous shades of purple, red and orange! Prune in late winter to early spring.

Blooms White clusters in midspring Foliage Purple, red and orange in mid- to late fall Light Full sun Soil Average well-drained Size 2 to 3 ft. tall and wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 8

Common witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana)

In zones 4 to 6, shelter common witchhazel from winter winds. Otherwise, it’s low-maintenance and only needs pruning for removing deadwood or shaping.

Blooms Cream to yellow flowers from mid- to late fall Foliage Golden leaves from early to midfall Light Full sun to part shade Soil Slightly acid, moist, well-drained Size 10 to 20 ft. tall, 15 to 25 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 8

Cranberrybush viburnum (Viburnum opulus americanum ‘Wentworth’)

Versatile cranberrybush viburnum (also known as “highbush cranberry”) makes a good focal point, screen, hedge or foundation plant. Its late summer sweet and tart berries make good preserves, too!

Blooms White in late spring to early summer Foliage Yellow, red and crimson leaves in mid- to late fall Light Full sun to part shade Soil Average, well-drained Size 8 to 12 ft. tall and wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 2 to 8

Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)

Oakleaf hydrangea loves heat and humidity! Plus it has plenty of winter interest — older bark peels away to expose shiny dark brown stems.

Blooms Upright pyramidal clusters of white flowers from late spring through summer Foliage Purple, bronze and crimson fall foliage Light Full sun to part shade Soil Rich, moist, well-drained Size 4 to 8 ft. tall and wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 5 to 9

Bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora)

Bottlebrush buckeyes are known for their showy flowers, but come fall, the leaves take center stage as they turn yellow. Low-maintenance is this shrub’s middle name. Once established, bottlebrush buckeye’s not fussy about moisture. It’s both rabbit- and deer-resistant!

Type Shrub Blooms White spikes from late spring to early summer; yellow leaves in early fall Size 8 to 12 ft. tall, 8 to 15 ft. wide Light Part to full shade Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 8

Published: Oct. 23, 2018
Updated: Sept. 17, 2020
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