Top 10 Trees for Fall Foliage Color

By Teo Spengler | September 30, 2017
by Teo Spengler
September 30, 2017

Spring dances into the backyard wearing green leaves and frilly blossoms, but autumn’s attire is even more dramatic. Think the colors of flamenco dancers: deep gold, rich maroon, brilliant scarlet and licks of flame orange. It’s not hard to invite the fall foliage show to your garden. Just plant the right trees and keep your eye on the calendar. Read on for the top 10 trees that get the most “aahs” in the autumn landscape.

1. Sugar maple – Canada’s national tree is America’s favorite as well. The mighty sugar maple (Acer saccharum) not only has the sweet sap used to make maple syrup and sugar, it’s also the king of fall color. If you have a big backyard and love lobed leaves in shades of yellow and orange, this is the tree for you.

2. Red Maple – Tough and adaptable, red maples (Acer rubrum) are popular shade trees for urban environments. These trees earn their common names. They produce glints of red all year round with red buds in winter, red flowers in spring, red leafstalks in summer, and brilliant red foliage in autumn. Truth to tell, fall foliage ranges across the fiery spectrum, from yellow right through orange to red. Newer cultivars produce more consistent red color in autumn.

3. Japanese maple – Small garden? You can still plant maples that will make your neighbors jealous. Choose among many types of Japanese maples (Acer palmatum), small, ornamental trees with gorgeous lacy leaves. In autumn, Japanese maple leaves shift into incredible hues: yellows, oranges, bronzes, purples, reds, and everything in between.

4. Japanese persimmon – You can’t go wrong with Japanese persimmon trees (Diospyros kaki) in the landscape. Not only will the tree produce vivid orange leaves in autumn, but you’ll also get tons of dramatic orange fruit decorating the tree branches like holiday ornaments.

5. Birch tree – Nothing lights up the corners of your garden like trees with blazing canary-colored leaves in autumn. Birch trees do this especially well, and their fluttering heart-shaped leaves will bring you delight well into winter. Which birches to choose? Paper birch (Betula papyrifera) has that glowing white bark that looks so romantic. But its fabulous features also include brilliant golden leaves in fall. Or go for European white birch (Betula pendula) that grows faster and taller, but has the same sunny yellow fall foliage.

6. Ginkgo – The ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) is one of the oldest trees on earth. Native to China, ginkgoes have unique leaves in the shape of fans. Mature ginkgoes are stunning, especially in autumn when those fan-leaves burn yellow at summer’s end.

7. Tulip poplarYellow poplar or tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) has large leaves that are among the first to turn in fall. The buttery-yellow fall color turns heads.

8. HickoryHickory trees (Carya spp.) native to America’s forests. They also offer an outstanding show of deep yellow in autumn.

9. Sweetgum – If you love red or purple foliage on trees in autumn, plant American sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua). The leaves are shaped like stars and turn crimson, scarlet and purple in fall.

10. DogwoodDogwood trees (Cornus) and many of their cousins, like Kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa) are natural beauties in the landscape. You’ll love the gorgeous spring flowers almost as much as the deep reddish-purple leaves in autumn.

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