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GardenSMART :: Five Fabulous Shrubs for Fall Planting

Five Fabulous Shrubs for Fall Planting

By Natalie Carmolli, Proven Winners® ColorChoice®
Photographs courtesy of Proven Winners

Seems like in the past few years, our spring planting season has shortened. With that, the threat of hot, dry conditions coming more quickly than planned has the potential to wreak havoc on your tender new plants. Luckily, there are a wide variety of shrubs that thrive when planted in the fall. Here are five favorites that will deliver no-fuss color and interest to your garden next spring.

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Fothergilla gardenii

A Fothergilla planted in fall will reward you with honey-scented blooms in May, even before its leaves appear! Dwarf varieties grow to be only 2-4' tall, standards sizes are 5-6' and Fothergilla major will top out at a whopping 10' tall. Brilliant orange-red and yellow fall foliage and fragrant white bottlebrush-like flowers in the spring make it a landscape favorite. Hardy in zones 5-9, it will do fine in full sun but also doesn't mind cooling off in the afternoon shade.

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Cotinus coggygria

Smokebush is a gorgeous shrub in any season but will do great when planted in autumn. Many people tend to stay away from Cotinus because of its size, but Winecraft Black  smokebush* has a dwarf habit, growing to 6' at its tallest. In spring, round leaves emerge rich purple but as summer's heat comes on, they turn a deep near-black tone and finally light up in an array of reds and oranges in fall. In early summer, large, soft panicles of bloom appear that become the misty "smoke" that makes this such a popular plant.

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Aronia melanocarpa

Otherwise known as chokeberry for its tart fruit, Aronia is another shrub that offers interest for all seasons. It has fragrant white flowers in spring that attract a wide range of pollinators, glossy red fruits that last into winter for the birds, and colorful fall foliage. This native shrub is also often overlooked due to its larger size, but Low Scape Mound aronia* comes in at a compact 12-24" making it a great choice for garden borders. Plus it's the Proven Winners ColorChoice landscape plant of the year for 2019!

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Spiraea japonica

When thinking about garden workhorses, you have to give it up to spirea. Spirea is a dependable early bloomer in spring, and you can't beat Double Play Candy Corn spirea* for fall color. The show starts in earliest spring, when the new growth emerges bright candy apple red. As it matures, it turns pineapple yellow, and the new growth continues to emerge bright orange all season. Give spirea a good start in the nice cool fall weather, and it will be tough and drought tolerant by the following spring.

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Hydrangea quercifolia

Oak leaf hydrangea wins in the fall when its foliage turns a beautiful russet-red color. In summer white or pink panicles emerge, aging to a greenish or dark pink color in fall. Hardy in zones 5-9, oak leaf hydrangea appreciates rich, well-drained soil in full or part sun. The Gatsby series of oak leaf hydrangea comes in four distinct varieties, Gatsby Moon hydrangea* being this writer's favorite. Their tightly packed, pure white florets create very full, conical panicles with a unique pillowy effect that gives a distinctive, showy look to this beloved native species.

For more information, check out "Fall is a Great Time to Plant" by Spring Meadow Nursery's horticulturist, Stacey Hirvela. It gives you all the information you need about which varieties of shrubs are best planted in the fall, and how to successfully establish them. But what it ultimately comes down to is this: Planting your shrubs in the fall offers many advantages – from soothing, cool temperatures, to autumn rains which assist in establishing strong root systems. The result is a more beautiful plant in the spring that can thrive throughout the summer.

*Proven Winners® ColorChoice® variety.


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