10 Best Plants for Fall Color

THE TED LARE LOOK

Fall is nearly upon us and we’re starting to feel that telltale chill in the air during the evenings. Some people lament the end of summer as the end of the growing season, but this couldn’t be further from the truth! Fall offers an opportunity for new plants and colors to shine through for a gorgeous new autumn aesthetic to enjoy for months before the winter settles in. Here are some of our favorite plants to focus on for outstanding fall color:

fiddle-leaf figs placed indoors

Chrysanthemums “Mums”

No fall list would be complete without mention of one of our favorite autumn blooms, the mum. An incredibly diverse bloom, there’s a fall style available for anyone, with variations in both color and shape. With the right care, enjoy them from late summer until the first frost. These are great flowers to incorporate into your garden late in the season to inject new life, vivacity, and color.

Plant in rich, well-draining soil in a location that will receive plenty of sunlight. Try them planted in beds or as a container plant! Some mums can be planted in the spring to overwinter as a perennial, but many gardeners find that it is easier and very cost effective to just purchase them as a fall annual.

Sumac

This shrub or small tree provides great year-round interest, but it truly shines in the fall. Incredibly hardy, it is a foolproof addition to any landscape to step up the foliage and vegetation game. Enjoy the feathery, green leaves in the summer that turn to shades of fiery red when temperatures start to drop. The red fruit even survives into the winter, adding a point of interest to your landscape when the weather is dreary. 

Plant your sumac where there is a natural barrier to prevent the sucker roots from spreading too much so that they don’t take over your landscape entirely. Choose a location that gets plenty of sun and consider mixing in some mulch when planting. This perennial shrub will last for years, providing lots of color and variety to your home, from season to season.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Goldenrod

Goldenrod is the perfect pick for the fall thanks to its autumn-themed colors that simply pop on the landscape. This perennial will return year after year with barely any care required, thanks to its being adapted to our native landscape. Blooming from late summer into fall, this gorgeous flower is a great addition to both native gardens and other landscapes. Although some people think that goldenrod causes hay fever, the real culprit is actually ragweed, which simply blooms at the same time. 

Plant goldenrod in full sun with well-draining soil and enjoy its low-maintenance growing style, requiring minimal, if any, additional watering. Thriving goldenrod plants will need to be divided every 5 or so years.

Pansies

This cold-weather favorite is sometimes forgotten about in the fall and only thought of in the springtime. Planting some pansies, or even pruning to rejuvenate existing ones, is a great way to make the most of the changing seasons and cooler fall temperatures. Pansies thrive in the cooler temperatures of spring and fall, so this is the time of year that they take over for the summer-bloomers. 

If you already have pansies planted, trim them back and treat them with heavy watering and fertilizer to get that skip back in their step. To insert fall life where it’s lacking, plant new pansies to be enjoyed until the first frost.

Toad Lily

Toad lilies add a little bit of exotic flair to the fall shade garden with their tiny orchid like blooms and glossy foliage that is often spotted or variegated.  They grow well in part sun to shade and prefer a moist spot in the garden. Treat them right and they will add some beautiful color the the shade garden during the fall months.  

Iron Butterfly

A native plant to Arkansas this plant will add a beautiful pop of violet purple color to the late summer and early fall garden.  Iron butterfly prefers a sunny spot in the garden but will tolerate a wide range of soils and handle drought conditions making it an extremely tough plant to add to the garden.  The fine needle like leaves will add beautiful texture to the gardens and the blooms will be adored by the pollinators.  

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fiddle-leaf fig plant

Russian Sage

When you want a garden that not only looks good, but also smells amazing, Russian sage is the right choice! This perennial is very attractive, with silvery, green-gray leaves and purple, spiked blooms. Requiring very minimal care, this plant is great to add to the garden and then forget about, simply sitting back to enjoy how the lavender-purple blooms contrast against all our favorite fall colors.

Plant in full sun and well-draining soil—this perennial loves dry conditions. In our area of Iowa, add a layer of pine mulch over the plants in the winter to protect them from the coldest of temperatures; but remember to clear it away in time for spring growth.

Sweetspire ‘Little Henry’

With colorful features spanning three full seasons, Little Henry is one of the best shrubs for brightening up your landscape. Growing to about 3’ tall and wide and offering whimsical, white spring flowers and showstopping orange and red fall foliage, you’ll never get tired of seeing this beauty flourish in your yard. This easy-to-take-care-of plant can take full sun, part shade, and even full shade, if it is not too dense!

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Burning Bush

A commonly planted shrub in the midwest, chances are, you are already familiar with the bold beauty that is the burning bush. And for good reason—the fall color is simply amazing! Nothing else compares to the intense reds it provides in the landscape, truly transforming your yard into a picture-perfect fall getaway. 

Make sure to plant these shrubs where you have lots of space, as they can easily grow to 8’ tall and wide. Plant in full sun or part shade for best results, although they do tolerate full shade.

Serviceberry Trees

Serviceberry trees provide awesome spring and fall color, which is pretty rare among ornamental trees, as most just provide one or the other. Blooming white in the spring and providing a range of color in the fall, from yellow to orange to red—it all depends on the year and the environment around them. Plant in full sun to part shade for best results, but shade can also be tolerated as well. 

Fall is a time to celebrate all the fantastic colors that are available to us and to make the most of the entire growing season, not just the summer. Choose any of these great annual and perennial options for your fall growing season to inject a little color into your landscape!

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The Ted Lare Look

Our garden style and trend blog, dedicated to helping you design and shape your dream home, garden, and outdoor retreat.

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