By Natalie Carmolli, Proven Winners® ColorChoice® shrubs
Photographs courtesy of Proven Winners® ColorChoice® shrubs
As autumn paints the landscape with its rich and vibrant hues, folks eagerly await the arrival of fall foliage. While deciduous trees steal much of the spotlight, a world of exquisite fall color is waiting to be explored among shrubs.
So let’s take a look at five fabulous selections that will add a touch of seasonal magic to your outdoor spaces. Whether you're a seasoned gardener or just beginning to cultivate your green thumb, these shrubs are sure to inspire and elevate your fall landscape to new heights of beauty.
Known botanically as Callicarpa, beautyberry is a striking addition to gardens, especially in late fall when it showcases its most captivating feature - its vibrant berries. These berries, which cluster along the shrub's branches, come in shades of intense purple, magenta, or lavender, depending on the variety. They create a stunning contrast against the shrub's dark green foliage, turning it into a living masterpiece. As days grow shorter and cooler, the beautyberry's colorful berries persist, adding a burst of late-season color while providing essential sustenance for wildlife, making it a true gem of autumn beauty and environmental importance. USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5-8. 4-5’ tall/3-4’ wide.
Pearl Glam® beautyberry features elegant, dark purple foliage from spring through frost on a neat, upright habit that takes up far less valuable garden real estate than the old sprawling varieties.
In addition, it doesn’t need a separate variety to pollinate it – it is self-fruitful and will develop a showy crop of purple fruits even if you plant just one.
Diervilla is a captivating addition to any garden with colorful foliage that changes throughout the growing season. However, it is the fall when diervilla truly shines, as its leaves undergo a breathtaking transformation. The foliage bursts into a fiery display of reds, oranges, and yellows, creating a striking visual spectacle. This burst of autumn color adds a touch of vibrancy and warmth to your outdoor space, making the diervilla a standout choice for those seeking a foliage-focused plant that shines brightest in the late season.
The Kodiak® Diervilla series presents foliage in black, red, orange, or the chartreuse-green leaves of Kodiak Fresh® diervilla. Its new growth emerges a peppy orange, contrasted by an even tone of lime green on the mature growth. In the summertime, bunches of tubed, yellow blooms arrive for weeks, delighting hummingbirds and cut flower growers. One of the few plants to tolerate dry shade, it will have more vibrant color in partial shade and full sun. Native species. Zones 3-8. 2-3’ tall/wide.
Fothergilla is known for its stunning late-season foliage, which bursts into vibrant shades of red, orange, and gold as autumn arrives. While its leaves are typically green during the growing season, they undergo a dazzling transformation in the fall, creating a striking visual display that infuses warmth and beauty into your garden as the temperatures cool. With its mesmerizing late-season foliage, the fothergilla is a top choice for those seeking a plant that shines brightest when autumn's splendor is in full swing.
If you don’t have the space for a typical 6-10’ bottlebrush shrub, Legend of the Small® Fothergilla x intermedia is a true, small-leaf, small-stature bottlebrush that produces an abundance of bottle brush-like white flowers in spring on an appealing, well-branched mounded habit. Its small bluish-green leaves turn an attractive blend of yellow, orange, and red in autumn. Legend of the Small bottlebrush is a really nice choice for semi-shaded spots in your landscape or garden and pairs beautifully with ferns, coral bells, hellebores, and bulbs. Native species. Zones 5-9. 2-2.5’ tall/2-3’ wide.
Oak Leaf Hydrangea
Oakleaf hydrangeas offer all of the classic autumnal foliage colors you love with none of the acorns! Its oversized, oak-shaped leaves start off as a lush green backdrop throughout the growing season, but when autumn arrives, it's party time! These leaves become a dazzling spectacle, putting on a fiery display of burgundy, scarlet, and even a touch of purple.
Gatsby Pink® Hydrangea quercifolia has perfect lacecap blooms, mounded into large panicles. In summer, the blooms emerge pure white and slowly mature to a captivating dark shade of pink. Often by that time, the oak leaf-shaped foliage has also started to gain its fall color, a rich shade of mahogany-purple. Together this makes an incredibly colorful show and looks perfect when used as a border plant, tall hedge, or in mixed borders with other whimsical natives. Native species. Zones 5-9. 6-8’ tall/wide.
Sweetspire is beloved for so many reasons: it’s native, shade tolerant, deer resistant, has handsome foliage, stunning fall color, and showy, fragrant flowers. As autumn arrives, Sweetspire's green leaves burst into a brilliant display of fiery reds, creating a striking visual spectacle.
Scentlandia® sweetspire improves on the classic varieties with better hardiness so that even gardeners in the colder parts of its hardiness zone can enjoy the fragrance year after year. It also boasts a compact, refined habit and brighter, more consistent fall color. Its brilliant red fall foliage (intensified with a little more sun) makes it an eco-friendly alternative to burning bush. Native species. Zones 5-9. 2-3’ tall/wide.
In the ever-changing canvas of nature, the beauty of autumn foliage takes center stage, and these five remarkable shrubs certainly know how to steal the show. As you plan your garden or landscape, consider the roles shrubs can play to infuse your outdoor spaces with the splendor of fall. With their stunning late-season displays, shrubs exemplify the magic of autumn, turning your garden into a living masterpiece of fall's finest colors.
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