At a time of year when we're surrounded by beautiful fall color, you may be wishing you had some of this color in your own yard. But what are the best choices.
Here are questions about fall foliage with answers from horticulturists at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.
Q: Which trees have colorful fall foliage?
Shade trees that possess excellent fall foliage include:
Freeman maple (Acer x freemanii),
Red maple (Acer rubrum),
Sugar maple (Acer saccharum),
Black maple (Acer nigrum),
White oak (Quercus alba),
Red oak (Quercus rubra) and
Freeman maples are hybrids of red and silver maples. Their leaves vary from orange to red in fall. The red maple cultivars Red Sunset and Redpointe have dark red foliage in fall. The fall foliage of sugar maples varies from yellow to orange to reddish orange. ‘Commemoration,’ ‘Legacy,’ and Fall Fiesta are excellent sugar maple cultivars.
Black maples are similar in appearance to sugar maples, but are more heat and drought tolerant. The leaves of black maples turn yellow to orange in fall. In fall, the foliage of white oaks is often reddish brown, while red oaks have wine red foliage.
Other possibilities include ‘Moraine’ sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Moraine’) with foliage that varies from yellow to red to purple, yellowwood (Cladrastis kentukea) with yellow fall foliage, and ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) cultivars ‘Autumn Gold’ and ‘The President’ with golden yellow fall color.
Small trees with colorful fall foliage include:
Sserviceberry (Amelanchier x grandiflora),
American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana) and
Redbud (Cercis canadensis). The fall foliage of serviceberry and American hornbeam varies from yellow to orange to red, while redbud leaves turn yellow in fall.
Q: Which shrubs have colorful fall foliage?
Several deciduous shrubs have colorful fall foliage. The winged euonymus or burning bush (Euonymus alatus) has red foliage in fall.
The fall foliage of fothergilla (Fothergilla spp.) varies from yellow to orange to red.
Common witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana) has yellow leaves in fall.
In autumn, the foliage of Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica) varies from yellow to orange to reddish purple.
Spicebush (Lindera benzoin), staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) and blackhaw viburnum (Viburnum prunifolium) have yellow, red and reddish purple foliage respectively.
Q: Do any perennials have colorful fall foliage?
A: Most perennials are grown for their attractive flowers, but several ornamental grasses have striking fall color:
Switchgrass (Panicum spp.) cultivars with colorful fall foliage include ‘Rehbraun’ (reddish brown), ‘Rotstrahlbusch’ (burgundy red) and ‘Prairie Fire’ (wine red).
In fall, Miscanthus cultivars ‘Purpurascens’ and ‘November Sunset’ have orange-red and golden orange foliage respectively.
Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) has yellow to burnt orange fall color.
The little bluestem cultivar ‘Blaze’ has orange to reddish purple fall color, while ‘Blue Heaven’ develops a burgundy red color in autumn.