in

30 Best Shrubs for Fall Color

Horse chestnut, Aesculus parviflora, in autumn

Many shrubs that have been a backdrop to summer flowers take center stage in autumn. Brilliant and bold leaves (and berries) take over the garden in fall just as the last bright blooms of summer fade.

Autumn shrub colors are the result of plants winding down their growing season. As plants cease the production of green-pigmented chlorophyll (that substance plants use to create their own food through photosynthesis) other leaf pigments that have been there all along come to the fore–yellows, oranges, and reds.

Fall shrub color can vary from year to year with temperature and from one sun exposure to next, but there are many shrubs that can be counted on for a colorful display.

Take a look at your garden’s color palette not only in spring and summer but also in autumn. Consider your garden a canvas–you are the painter. Where will bright autumn colors bring interest and even drama to the landscape? Where will the colors pop?

Here are 30 shrubs that will catch your eye in autumn. Add these shrubs to your garden in autumn or spring. They will become established over the summer and will delight you for autumns to come,

Spicebush, Lindera bensoin, n autumn
Spicebush, Lindera bensoin, n autumn

Yellow 

Aesculus parviflora (bottlebrush buckeye): Large deciduous specimen shrub suited for lawns grows to 12 feet (3.6m) tall and 36 feet (11m) wide. White flowers are showy in bloom. Leaves turn to bright yellow in autumn. Grows best in Zones 4-8.

Clethra alnifolia (summer-sweet): Short-stalked deciduous shrub with small blossoms that open in mid-summer emitting a strong sweet fragrance. Grows 6 feet (1.8m) tall and 5 feet (1.5m) wide. Colorful fall foliage holds well into autumn. Grows best in Zones 4-9.

Hamamelis virginiana (common witch hazel): Short-stalked deciduous shrub with brilliant yellow flowers appearing in mid to late autumn. Grows 15 feet (4.5m) tall and 8 to 10 feet (2.4-3m) wide. Grows best in Zones3-8.

Hibiscus syriacus (rose-of-Sharon): Late-blooming deciduous shrub with showy spring and summer flowers either single or double in many colors. Grows 12 feet (3.6m) tall and 8 feet (2.4m) wide. Grow best in Zones 5.8.

Ilex verticillata (winterberry): A deciduous holly with brilliant red winter berries after leaves drop in autumn. Grows to 6 feet (1.8m) tall and 4 feet (1.2m) wide. Grows best in Zones 3-9.

Lindera benzoin (spicebush). Rounded deciduous shrub all parts of which are spicy-scented when broken. Light green leaves become yellow in fall. Flowers open in spring before the leaves. Grows from 6 to 12 feet (1.8-3.6m) tall and wide. Grows best in Zones 4-9.

Rhododendron mucronulatum (Korean rhododendron). Dwarf to medium-sized deciduous shrub with solitary, funnel-shaped pinkish-purple flowers grows from 1 to 8 feet (1-2.5m) tall and 3 feet (1m) wide. Grows best in Zones 5-8.

Oak-leafed hydrangea, Hydrangea quercifolia, in autumn
Oak-leafed hydrangea, Hydrangea quercifolia, in autumn

Red to Wine Red 

Berberis koreana (Korean barberry): Multi-stemmed deciduous shrub with showy yellow flowers in spring grows 4 to 6 feet (1.2-2m) tall and 2 to 5 feet (1-1.5m) wide. Deep reddish-purple autumn color persists late into the season. Best in Zones 3-7. 

Cornus sericea (red-osier dogwood): Vigorous deciduous shrub with dark red winter shoot; dark green leaves red and orange in autumn. Grows to 6 feet (2m) tall and 12 feet (4m) wide. Grows best in Zones 3-8. 

Cotoneaster spp. (cotoneaster): Hardy shrubs both deciduous and evergreen have an interesting branching pattern and bear small white or pinkish flowers in spring. All produce autumn colors and small red to black fruits that hang on through winter. Size varies with species. Grows best in Zones 4-8.

Deutzia gracilis ‘Nikko’ (dwarf slender deutzia): Bushy, erect deciduous shrub with dull to mid-green leaves and star-shaped pink-flushed white flowers in spring into summer. Leaves turn red in autumn. Grows to 3 feet (1m) tall and wide. Grows best in Zones 5-8.

Enkianthus perulatus (white enkianthus). Attractive deciduous shrub with nodding bronze-yellow flowers in spring. Autumn leaf color is bright scarlet. Grows 25 feet (8m) tall and 4 to 12 feet (1.2-3.6m) wide. Grows best in Zones 4-7.

Euonymus alatus (winged euonymus): Dense, bushy deciduous shrub with dark green leaves turns brilliant red in autumn. Bears spherical reddish-purple fruit. Grows 15 to 20 feet (5-6m) tall and 10 feet (3m) wide. Grows best in Zones 4-9. 

Hydrangea quercifolia (oakleaf hydrangea): Deciduous, mound-forming shrub with attractively peeling, orange-red bark. Panicles of white flowers become pink-tinged with age. Mid-green leaves turn bronze-purple in autumn. Grows to 6 feet (2m) tall and 8 feet (2.5m) wide. Grows best in Zones 5-9.

Itea virginica ‘Henry’s Garnet’ (Virginia sweetspire): Upright, then arching, deciduous shrub with finely toothed dark green leaves turning red to purple in fall. Bears fragrant, creamy-white flowers in summer. Grows 5 to 10 feet (1.5-3m) tall and 5 feet (1.5m) wide. Grows Best in Zones 6-9. 

Rhododendron arborescens (sweet azalea). Upright deciduous azalea with shiny, dark-green leaves that turn reddish in autumn. Bell-shaped rose-pink flowers, Grows 8 to 20 feet (2.5-6m) tall and wide. Grows best in Zones 5-9.

Rhododendron vaseyi (pink-shell azalea): Deciduous azalea with dark green leaves bears funnel-shaped rose-pink to white flowers. Grows 15 feet (5m) tall and wide.

Rhus spp. (sumac): Deciduous shrubs of various sizes grown for their brilliant autumn color. Can be grown in shrub borders or as specimens. R. glabra (scarlet sumac) has glossy, bluish-green leaves that turn rich red in autumn. It grows to 8 feet (2.5m) tall and wide. Grows best in Zones 2-8.

Viburnum spp. (viburnum): Several species of deciduous shrubs are grown for their foliage, flowers, and fruits. Lance to rounded mid-green leaves turns reddish in autumn. Sometimes fragrant white or cream or pink-flushed flowers appear in summer. Red to blue-black fruits hang on in autumn. Size varies by species from 6 to 12 feet (1.8-3.6m) tall and 6 to 12 feet wide. Grows best in Zones 4-8.

Autumn twig with two orange-red leaves of chokeberry, Aronia
Autumn twig with two orange-red leaves of chokeberry, Aronia

Red, Yellow, Orange, and Purple 

Aronia spp. (chokeberry): Deciduous shrubs are grown for their white, sometimes pink-tinged flowers and colorful autumn leaves, and spherical red or black fruits. Mid-green leaves turn purple-red in fall. Grows 10 feet (3m) tall and 5 feet (1.5m) wide. Grows best in Zones 5-9. 

Berberis thunbergii (Japanese barberry): Dense, deciduous shrub with fresh green leaves turning orange and red in autumn. Pale yellow flowers are produced along branches in mid-spring. Grows to 3 feet (1m) tall and sometimes to 8 feet (2.5m) wide. Grows best in Zones 5-8. 

Cotinus spp. (smokebush, smoke tree): Deciduous shrub with grounded green or purple leaves which color in autumn. plume-like panicles appear in summer producing a smoke-like effect. Grows to 15 feet (5m) tall and wide. Grows best in Zones 5-9. 

Cotoneaster divaricatus (spreading cotoneaster): Densely branched, erect to rounded deciduous shrub with glossy dark green leaves turning red in autumn. Grows to 8 feet (2.5m) tall and 10 feet (3m) wide. Grows best in Zones 5-7. 

Fothergilla spp. (fothergilla, witch alder): Deciduous, low-growing shrub grown for their bottlebrush-like flowers borne before the leaves and attractive autumn color. Dark green leaves turn bright red, orange, and yellow in autumn. Grows 3 to 8 feet (1-2.5m) tall and 3 to 6 feet (1m-2m) wide. Grows best in Zones 5-8.

Hedge cotoeaster, Cotoneaster lucidus, in autumn
Hedge cotoeaster, Cotoneaster lucidus, in autumn

Red and Yellow 

Cotoneaster lucidus (hedge cotoneaster): Upright, rounded evergreen shrub with spreading branches; leaves are shiny, dark green turns red and yellow in autumn. Persistent black fruit in winter. Grows 6 to 10 feet (2-3m) tall and wide. Grows best in Zones 3-7.

Enkianthus campanulas (red-vein enkianthus): Spreading deciduous shrub with dull green leaves that turn orange-yellow or red in late spring. Bell-shaped creamy yellow flowers in late spring. Grows 12 to 15 feet (4-5m) tall and wide. Grows best in Zones 5-8.

Itea virginica (Virginia sweetspire): Upright then arching deciduous shrub with dark green leaves turning red to purple in fall. Bears fragrant, creamy white flowers in summer. Grows 5 to 10 feet (1.5-3m) tall and 5 feet (1.5m) wide. Grows best in Zones 6-9.

Rhododendron calendulaceum (flame azalea): Deciduous rhododendron with mid-green leaves bears trusses of orange to scarlet funnel-shaped flowers. Mid-green leaves turn yellow and red in autumn. Grows to 8 feet (2.5m) tall and wide. Grows best in Zones 5-8.

Goldflame Spirea in autumn
Goldflame Spirea in autumn

Orange to Gold 

Hamamelis X intermedia (hybrid witch hazel): Vase-shaped deciduous shrub with ascending branches; bright green leaves turning orange in autumn. Flowers in mid and late winter vary in color by variety. Grows 12 feet (4m) tall and wide. Grows best in Zones 5-9.  

Rhododendron spp. (swamp azalea, plum-leaved azalea, royal azalea): Azaleas: both deciduous and evergreen, small to medium-sized shrubs in the rhododendron family. They bear profusion of small to large trusses of usually small flowers in white, yellow, orange, pink, and red. Mid- to dark green leaves turn yellow to orange to gold with the onset of cold in autumn. Sizes vary from 1 to 5 feet (1-1.5m) tall and wide, sometimes larger. Best in Zones 4-8.

Spiraea bumalda (Bumald spirea): Clump-forming, deciduous shrubs with erect shoots and dark green leaves that turn brilliant yellow-orange to gold in autumn. Bowl-shaped flowers are dark pink in late summer. Grows 3 feet (1m) tall and wide. Grows best in Zones 4-9.

Also of interest:

Trees with Autumn Color

How to Plant Shrubs

Shrubs with Showy Berries

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

House finch visiting crab apple tree

45 Plants that Provide Food for Songbirds 

Acer palmatum san

20 Trees and Shrubs with Decorative Bark