The Best Shrubs and Vines for Fall Color

fall leaves

Adding fall colors into your landscape isn’t just about planting red maples. While they are beautiful, there are several options that offer colorful displays. From shrubs and vines to berries and leaves, you can create a yard that beautifully transitions from the brightness of summer to the richness of fall.

Oakleaf Hydrangea

The oakleaf hydrangea is named after the oak leaves it resembles. In the summer it produces white flowers which fade to a pinkish-brown during the fall. But it is the leaves that have earned it such a following, which can turn, reddish, bronzy-orange, and purplish during the fall. At full maturity, the shrub grows 4 – 6 height with a similar spread.

Witch Hazel

There is both a Japanese witch hazel and a Chinese witch hazel. But the most prized is actually a cross between the Japanese and Chinese, which offers a stunning hybrid that blooms in early spring and offers a bright mix of yellow, orange and red during the fall. To get a brilliant fall display, make sure this beauty it is planted in full sun. 

Virginia Sweetspire

Careful with this one. It is an invasive shrub. You might want to consider planting it in a large pot to keep it from taking over your garden. But the spreading root system delivers a noteworthy fall color that is simply exquisite.

Boston Ivy

A close relative to the Virginia creeper, Boston ivy is another invasive species. A cling vine, it can cause extreme damage to wood and brick structures when left unchecked. It can thrive in both full and partial sun and during the fall, it offers a redish-purple color.

Beautyberry

A plant that lives up to its name, beautyberry is a novelty plant that bears in a stunning purple berry in autumn. But keep in mind that this plant doesn’t offer much in the way of beauty throughout the rest of the year.

Red Chokeberry

Chokeberry shrubs offer another burst of color during the fall. The bright red berries become glossy red in the summer and autumn. During the fall, they turn deeper, almost purple. But keep in mind that they need full or partial sun to thrive, which can be more difficult in the Pacific Northwest.

"Viking’ Black Chokeberry

The 'Viking' black chokeberry produces a white flower in May that is accompanied by dark green foliage. As fall progresses, the foliage morphs into a red and then purple color. The bitter-tasting berries remain on the shrub well into the winter. They offer an emergency food source for birds as other options dwindle.

American Bittersweet

The American bittersweet vine is often confused with the Oriental bittersweet vine. But the oriental version is actually invasive in North America. You want to make sure you plant the American bittersweet variety, which means buying from a reputable nursery. The vine delivers berries starting in summer. Initially green, they develop a yellow husk in fall that eventually peels back to reveal a bright orange berry within. Furthermore, the leaves turn a vivid yellow.

‘Mt. Airy’ Dwarf Fothergilla

A multi-stemmed shrub, during the spring the Dwarf Fothergilla offers a white flower that delivers a beautiful fragrance. In fall, the dark green foliage of summer changes to yellow, orange, and scarlet. It can reach 6-10 feet high and can spread 5 to 9 feet wide, making it a substantial addition to you yard. In order to promote the best fall display possible, you will want to plant it I a bright, full-sun location.

Blueberries

Blueberries thrive in much of the Pacific Northwest, delivering both beauty and deliciousness to your yard. While you will want to prune these bushes from time to time, they can easily thrive with little-to-no attention. Producing a small flower in spring, the berries ripen in late-July – early-August. Just be sure to get them before the birds go to town. As fall progresses, the leaves turn a bright red.

Sumac

Sumac bushes are tall and rangy. They have stunning red fruit heats and deep red leaves during the fall. They also offer a brilliant fragrance during the spring.

Winterberry

Think all holly bushes are prickly? Think again! The winterberry loses its leaves in late fall, revealing clusters of holiday-red berries along its branches.

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