Top 5 Shrubs For Fall Color

Top 5 Shrubs For Fall Color

fall color shrubs in front of house

Fall is one of the most awaited seasons of the year and it’s easy to tell just when it has visited your town. No, not only do the plaid jackets and porch pumpkins give it away, but so do the natural yellows, oranges, reds and browns that grace shrubs and trees. 

Families look forward to pulling out the dusty pumpkin pie recipe. Kids look forward to carving the scariest pumpkin on the block. And gardeners, well we look forward to our bushes transforming into an autumn dream. 

Watching the fall shrub colors come alive each year keeps us wanting more and more shrubs in our yards! That’s why we’ve put together a list of the best shrubs for fall color. Now look forward to planting NEW shrubs this fall season!

Common Witch-Hazel

yellow common witch hazel bush up close

Make a real last minute statement with one of North America’s most unique native shrubs, the Common Witch-Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana). The bright yellow ribbons appear in late October and can last till early December. 

As the fall color comes on, this plant does a weird thing --- this is when it starts to bloom! You’ll be one of the last houses on the block to greet Halloween trick or treaters with fall color!

All along the stems, unique shaped leaves are draped up and down. They are even slightly fragrant. In full sun, they will do fine, but for the best results place them in part shade. 

Gardeners love to use the Common Witch-Hazel as a focal point in their fall garden as their golden yellow color illuminates a yard. 

And, when you’re outside roasting marshmallows around a fire pit and sippin’ on apple cider, the Common Witch-Hazel can be a real conversation starter.

Autumn Magic Black Chokeberry

red leaves on autumn magic black chokeberry

You’ll find four seasons of incredible interest with an Autumn Magic Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa 'Autumn Magic') in your front or back yard. But its fall color foliage takes the first place finish. 

Sure, the white flowers each spring or the glossy green foliage of summer are mesmerizing too. However, when autumn arrives, the Magic Black Chokeberry takes things to a new level. 

Those green leaves slowly transform into a fiery red and purple ambience that lasts while fall transitions into winter. Plant several as driveway borders to greet visitors on those chilly nights.

Not only will you be providing joy to your guests, but the birds will love the Autumn Magic Black Chokeberry too! Deep purplish-red berries pop up during autumn as well and the birds are quick to gobble them up. 

Did you know that these berries are a superfruit?  They ripen in August and can be picked and used like blueberries in baked goods, juices and smoothies.

This dramatic shrub deserves to be showcased each fall season as its peak color comes through. Never be bored with this chokeberry shrub in your landscape!

American Cranberrybush Viburnum

close up on red berries on american cranberrybush viburnum

The American Cranberrybush Viburnum (Viburnum trilobum) is a must-have classic. It provides both ornamental interest AND an edible harvest. Now that is the best of both worlds. 

The showy flowers from spring give way to bright red berries that elegantly dangle from the bush come the fall season. Use this red fruit for homemade jams and jellies put out as appetizers for an annual neighborhood Halloween party. 

You may even find a few local songbirds pay you a visit for a taste of the sweet berries!

But, the berries are not the only feature. Admire this viburnum’s purplish-red fall foliage as it borders the corner of your home. It’s vibrant, unique and powerful-- all things that make a statement outdoors.

Little Henry® Virginia Sweetspire

little henry virginia sweetspire red leaves

Looking for a small, but mighty shrub? Really boost the visual appeal without taking up too much space with a Little Henry® Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica 'Sprich'). 

This dwarf ornamental shrub carries features starting in the summer and lasting through the fall. 

Oranges and reds grace this shrub’s leaves each year. Place it in a front and center position so that you can watch the green foliage fade into a flaming leaf color display

Or use it in containers! What could be better than a Little Henry® Virginia Sweetspire placed in a pot that’s painted as a pumpkin? Now we can really embrace the spooky season.

Smooth Sumac

Smooth Sumac cluster of red berries

Obtain a pretty scarlet shade and few yellow hues with the Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra). This easy and hardy plant works hard in all garden backgrounds so that you don’t have to!

You’ll notice tiny red berries that are in large clusters, most often called drupes, that form upon this shrub. These acidic and tart tasting berries are most popularly used to form a berry tea called sumac-ade (almost like a lemonade). 

Smooth Sumac is truly an autumn splendor, one of the first plants to show the red fall color.  

They can be grown as a specimen or allowed to colonize in natural groupings. Wherever you choose to place it, this shrub will always put on a show!

Which Fall Color Should You Grow & Why?

Are you unsure of which autumn color is the right one for you and your landscape? Think about what that color symbolizes: it’s amazing the emotions a single color can bring! In fact, fall colors are nature’s way of stimulating our senses in every way. 

Red: with its vast amount of shades stretching from burgundy to scarlet and purple to vermilion, red can be argued to be the main color of autumn. And the way it makes you feel only enhances its role as top fall color. 

Make a statement in your garden as red is used as a symbol for power and magnificence. With it comes energy, life and strength. All emotions that we crave! So, if you’re looking for a warm, energized aura- red is your fall color.

Yellow: there is no denying the peacefulness that yellow brings. You may have spotted it in warm shades, such as amber or-- on the other hand, in bold hues, such as citrine and mustard. Nonetheless, yellow brings the joy of spring and summer to the fall season. 

The color is associated with life and the sun. It represents knowledge and reason while creating a positive atmosphere. Use yellow shades to bring happiness to the outdoors!

Orange: since it is between the colors of red and yellow, orange inherits a lot of the main features from each. Therefore, for the perfect balance of energy and serenity-- grow orange. 

In brighter shades, you’ll feel happiness, prosperity and energy. Then with the duller tones, a sense of calm and welcoming aspects take over. 

Brown: last but certainly not least, brown builds its base on comfortability and reassurance. It makes us think of the earth, trunks of trees and the roots down below our feet. Brown connects us to security, vision and even willpower. 

Mix it with the other fall colors to create the ideal ‘small corner of the woods’ sensation in your own backyard!

Now, when picking which of our top 5 shrubs to grow, you’ll have a better idea of what color you want to add! Read more about why leaves change color in the fall and our choices for the top 5 fall color trees in our blog here!

the meaning of fall colors

#ProPlantTips- Plant Your Shrubs In The Fall

It’s tempting to put off planting season until the warmer weather rolls around and we know that spring has been viewed as the best time to plant for quite some time. But, gardeners who capitalize on planting in the fall gain several benefits that spring can’t provide. Here’s just a few:

1. Establishes Strong Root Systems

With the balance between the still-warm soil and the lower, but not freezing air temperatures, shrubs can now form a strong root system. By the time spring and summer roll around, your new shrub will be ready for the stress of the heat and low amounts of water. 

You’ve got a jump on the new season-- and now, so do your shrubs!

2. Fill In The Garden Gaps

Fall slows down the endless list of outdoor responsibilities and allows you to take a break. You can now consider the landscape at hand, take detailed notes and make educated decisions. 

After a long growing season of showing gaps or weaknesses in garden layouts and schemes, use fall (and above shrubs) to fill in those empty spaces!

3. Pest Populations Are Low

It’s a well-known story. You buy a new plant in the spring, place it in the ground and pests/diseases kill it off. Newly established shrubs are highly vulnerable! 

However, in the fall season, pest and disease populations are substantially lower. Not to mention, competition from the stubborn summer weeds is reduced. Take advantage of this and plant your shrubs before those pesky numbers rise again.


Don’t wait until spring to add a fall color shrub (or a few) to your garden! This fall activity always pairs nicely with the joys of apple picking and visits to the pumpkin patch. 

With yellows, oranges, reds and browns in your own yard-- the fall season can finally be complete and you’ll know just when it arrives. 

Happy planting!

← Previous Next →