Top 10 Trees and Shrubs for Great Autumn Color

With a little research, you can plant trees and shrubs which provide a gorgeous autumn show. Here are five trees and five shrubs that aren’t fussy and offer fantastic fall color to gardens in different hardiness zones. Check your zone with the Plant Library Zonefinder.

Populus tremuloides, Quaking Aspen


(Populus tremuloides)

Famous for their pale, birch-like trunks and leaves that tremble in the slightest breeze, aspens’ brilliant yellow fall color attracts sightseers to the Rockies every year. They mature to around 60 feet (18m) and spread by runners to form attractive clumps. Zones 1-7.

Populus tremuloides, Quaking Aspen

Acer saccharum, Sugar Maple

Sugar Maple

(Acer saccharum)

This queen of autumn color can grow to 100 feet (30m ). They turn from yellow to orange to red, and drop carpets of colorful leaves. Bear in mind that their powerful shallow roots can heave driveways and sidewalks. Zones 3-8.

Acer saccharum, Sugar Maple

Fagus sylvatica, Beech


(Fagus sylvatica)

This graceful tree has smooth gray bark and delicate twigs, with bronze yellow autumn foliage that turns a pinky tan and persists on the tree. They bear attractive small nuts. Height is around 60 ft. (18 m.) Zones 3-9.

Fagus sylvatica, Beech

Chinese Pistache Pistacia chinensis, Chinese Pistache

(Pistacia chinensis)

Chinese pistache is drought resistant with finely divided foliage that turns bright orange and red in the fall. Awkward looking when young, they mature to a graceful 25 ft. (7-8 m.) or more, and are tolerant of pollution and poor drainage. Zones 6-9.

Pistacia chinensis, Chinese Pistache

Taxodium distichum, Bald cypress

Bald Cypress

(Taxodium distichum)

These Southern swamp giants can adapt to almost anywhere, but like moisture. They are a type of evergreen that drops its leaves in fall, giving a gorgeous rusty-red show. They can be 70 feet (21m) and larger. Zones 4-10.

Taxodium distichum, Bald Cypress

Cotinus coggygria, Smokebush


(Cotinus coggygria)

This 15-foot (4.5 m) shrub has big feathery seedheads that look like purple to pinkish smoke, and gorgeous fall colors. Different varieties turn a variety of fiery orange hues, from yellow-orange through orange-crimson. It’s hardy almost anywhere. Zones 4-11.

Cotinus coggygria, Smokebush

Hamamelis vernalis, Witch Hazel

Witch Hazel

(Hamamelis vernalis)

Easy care Witch Hazel is good for moist, shaded, woodsy areas, and comes in many shapes, colors, and sizes. The shrub’s fragrant, yellow, spidery flowers bloom in winter, usually after leaves, from yellow to crimson, have dropped. Zones 4-9.

Hamamelis vernalis, Witch Hazel

Vaccinium corymbosum, Blueberry


(Vaccinium corymbosa)

Blueberries are handsome shrubs that turn crimson in the fall. There are three basic types that thrive in different zones from Ontario to Florida. They like acid soil, and do very well in containers. Produces delicious edible berries! Zones 3-10.

Vaccinium corymbosum, Blueberry

Acer palmatum, Japanese Maple

Japanese Maple

(Acer palmatum)

This dainty shrub, or small tree, is famous for its five to seven-pointed leaves that turn fiery red to deep maroon in fall. There are many varieties of different sizes, shapes, and colors. They love mulch, and look great in containers. Zones 5-8.

Acer palmatum, Japanese Maple

Cornus sericea, Red Twig Dogwood

Red Twig Dogwood

(Cornus sericea)

Known more for its brilliant red bark after the leaves have fallen, this twiggy shrub is short; 3-4 feet (1m). While there are three different types, the variegated Asian kind is popular, with white flowers in spring, and variegated leaves. Grows anywhere, but great for sunken, wet areas, and the color is better in full sun. Zones 2-9.

Cornus sericea, Red Twig Dogwood

Do you have
any favorites that weren’t included on our top 10 list? Share your go-to trees
and shrubs that provide beautiful autumn color in the comments section below.

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