Looking for ways to add more color to your garden this autumn? Learn how to get beautiful fall foliage color with these easy-care plants.
When we think about garden beauty in the fall, our minds often gravitate toward the vibrant colors of blooming flowers.
However, there’s an often-overlooked aspect of autumnal charm that can be just as captivating: the rich and varied hues of fall foliage.
While many plants lose their leaves as the temperature drops, others undergo a stunning transformation, painting the landscape with shades of red, orange, yellow, and even purple.
There is a world of non-flowering plants that can still bring a burst of color to your fall garden, even if it doesn’t bloom.
Learn what to plant for a stunning fall garden display.
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Why Foliage Matters as Much as Flowers
In the world of flower gardens, foliage color, and leaf shape are the unsung heroes that add depth, texture, and intrigue to the canvas of blooms.
While flowers undoubtedly steal the show with their vibrant hues, it’s the varied palette of foliage that sets the stage for their brilliance.
Leaves of different shades, from lush greens to deep purples, create a captivating backdrop that amplifies the visual impact of the blooms. Moreover, the diverse array of leaf shapes, whether broad and bold or delicate and lacy, introduces a rich tapestry of patterns and forms that enhance the garden’s aesthetic.
The interplay between foliage and flowers creates a harmonious balance, allowing each element to shine in its own right while contributing to a holistic and visually engaging composition.
As the seasons evolve, the changing colors and textures of leaves provide an ever-evolving narrative, ensuring that the garden remains a living work of art, inviting exploration and admiration at every turn.
10 Fall Foliage Garden Plants for a Stunning Display
I’m always chatting about flowers but today, I want to dive into foliage. Because foliage plays an important role in getting year-round beauty in the garden.
Some of these plants bloom, but I love them because you cannot beat their gorgeous foliage in fall.
Here are 10 plants to include in your landscape to keep the color going beyond the blooms.
Maple (Acer spp.)
Maples are iconic for their captivating fall foliage. If you don’t have one in your garden, run to the garden nursery stat and get one because they are beyond gorgeous in the fall.
Varieties like Sugar Maple, Japanese Maple, and Red Maple showcase a symphony of red, orange, and yellow leaves during autumn.
Their vibrant colors light up the landscape, making them cherished choices for adding warmth and beauty to gardens and streetscapes.
We’ve got a few different varieties here in the backyard zen garden that look stunning in fall. The branches weep and the plant blooms incredibly from the moment it leafs out in spring.
You just can’t beat the color and texture they add to home gardens. So if you have some space, consider planting one (or more!) this fall.
Dogwood (Cornus spp.)
While many dogwood species are known for their stunning spring blooms, the red twig Dogwood stands out for its vibrant fall display.
As the leaves turn deep red, the bright red stems create a dramatic contrast. This combination of foliage and vivid twigs makes it a standout choice for fall interest.
But there are lots of other dogwood varieties that produce beautiful fall foliage. They flower in spring and it’s one of those plants that are a true workhorse in the garden.
I don’t have a red twig dogwood here, but we do have a few other varieties that I absolutely love!
Callicarpa, also known as Beautyberry, adds a unique touch to the fall garden with its vibrant purple berries.
These berries appear in clusters along the branches and create a stunning contrast against the backdrop of green or turning foliage.
The bright berries of Callicarpa can persist well into the fall, creating a captivating visual spectacle.
But it’s not just the berries that are beautiful, the foliage changes in fall as well. This gorgeous flowering shrub has a graceful arching habit and looks so beautiful in the landscape.
To be completely honest, the flowers are pretty insignificant but you should grow it for its fall beauty with foliage and purple berries.
I planted it in my former garden and grew it for many years. Sadly, I don’t have one here…yet! It’s on my list to add though this fall.
Oakleaf Hydrangea is beloved for its large, oak-shaped leaves that turn rich shades of burgundy, red, and purple in the fall.
This deciduous shrub’s foliage adds depth and warmth to the autumn landscape. Additionally, some cultivars of Oakleaf Hydrangea produce cone-shaped flower clusters that age to pink or maroon, extending the plant’s visual appeal.
I grew one for well over 10 years in my former garden and it was one of the easiest fuss-free plants to grow. The foliage was gorgeous every single fall and I loved to incorporate it on my Thanksgiving table.
Viburnum (Viburnum spp.)
Viburnums are versatile shrubs known for their attractive fall attributes. Varieties like Arrowwood Viburnum and American Cranberrybush offer foliage that ranges from deep maroon to shades of red and purple.
Some Viburnums also produce berries that transition from green to hues of red or blue-black, adding both color and interest to the autumn garden.
I’ve grown several different varieties through the years. They are easy to grow and look incredible throughout the seasons.
It is a must-have flowering shrub for a low-maintenance garden.
Coral Bells (Heuchera spp.)
Coral Bells are prized for their unique foliage, and their fall transformation is no exception. As temperatures cool, their leaves take on deeper shades of color, ranging from rich burgundy to earthy copper.
The foliage’s texture remains appealing even as it changes, adding depth and dimension to the autumn garden.
There are lots of different varieties too that have beautiful foliage color that adds texture and interest to gardens throughout the growing season.
I’ve got a few Peachberry Ice and Apple Twist varieties here that I absolutely adore from Proven Winners and Walters Gardens.
As an added bonus, I opt to decorate in late summer, early fall with huecheras instead of chrysanthemums so I can get that autumn color palette earlier without having to spend money on garden mums too early.
Sedum (Sedum spp.)
Sedums are not only known for their drought tolerance but also for their captivating fall foliage.
As the weather cools, their succulent leaves undergo a metamorphosis, transitioning from greens to captivating shades of russet, burgundy, and even deep purple. Their changing colors lend a sense of warmth and coziness to the autumn landscape.
While I am a HUGE fan of sedum autumn joy, there are lots of other sedums to enjoy as well that are equally as fun and easy to grow.
Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra)
The elegantly arching blades of Japanese Forest Grass take on a new persona in the fall. Initially green, the leaves of this ornamental grass transform into shades of golden yellow or fiery orange, creating a visual feast for the eyes.
The grass’s graceful movement and changing hues add an ethereal quality to the autumn garden.
I wasn’t able to grow this in my former garden because I didn’t have enough shade space for them. But I grow it here. And let me be the first to tell you how GORGEOUS it is to grow.
From the chartreuse blades of grass that add texture and movement to shadier spots to their changing fall foliage color, it can’t be rivaled.
It’s a must-have if you have some shady spots you’d like to brighten up!
Spireas are versatile shrubs that truly embody the essence of a multi-season garden. While they are known for their stunning spring blooms that adorn the landscape with delicate flowers, their contributions don’t end there. These shrubs continue to delight throughout the growing season, culminating in a vibrant display of fall foliage.
As spring arrives, spireas burst into life with clusters of flowers that range from white and pink to deep rose hues, depending on the species and variety. These blooms attract pollinators and offer a splendid start to the gardening season. However, spireas’ allure extends well beyond their spring blossoms.
What sets spireas apart is their ability to bring color to the garden at various stages. As summer progresses, their foliage maintains its color while creating a refreshing backdrop for other plants.
But the real magic happens in the fall when spireas undergo a breathtaking transformation. Their leaves turn shades of fiery red, orange, and even purple, imbuing the landscape with warmth and drama.
Whether as standalone specimens or as part of mixed plantings, these shrubs prove that they’re not just a fleeting sight but an integral component of a vibrant and lively garden year-round.
Barrenwort, scientifically known as Epimedium, is a lesser-known perennial that quietly earns its place in the autumn garden. While not as flamboyant as some fall foliage stars, this plant brings a unique and delicate charm to the landscape as the seasons change.
This perennial is celebrated for its dainty, heart-shaped leaves that flutter in the wind and create a lush ground cover during the growing season. However, it’s during the fall that barrenwort’s hidden beauty truly comes to light.
As the temperatures cool and the days shorten, the epimedium’s foliage takes on warm and inviting hues before it wraps up for the season.
The leaves, which were once a fresh green, transform into shades of bronze, copper, and burgundy. The subtle shift in color brings a touch of sophistication to the garden, offering a subdued yet elegant contrast to the more vibrant autumn foliage of other plants.
Barrenwort’s fall foliage isn’t a bold blaze of color, but rather a quiet and refined display that adds depth to the garden’s overall composition.
For those who appreciate a more understated approach to fall landscaping, barrenwort proves that sometimes, it’s the gentle transitions that leave the most lasting impressions.
Until moving here, I hadn’t grown it before. But now that I do? It’s an easy plant to grow that creates a manageable groundcover and looks beautiful throughout the growing season with a gorgeous finale in fall.
More About Foliage Fall Ideas
Do you have a favorite plant that has incredible foliage in the fall? I would love to know more in the comments below.
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Garden Supplies I Use
I’m often asked about the garden supplies and tools that I use most. From pruners to deer repellents, here are some of my favorites in no particular order.
- I like to use a good-quality garden soil, compost, and perlite when planting.
- I have used this deer repellent with great success. But now, I’m all about this deer repellent that is systemic instead of topical. This means the plant takes it in as opposed to it just smelling bad.
- Hands down this is my favorite hand-weeding tool. You can use to get underneath roots, loosen soil, and it cuts down on the weeding time because you work much faster.
- But I also love this long, stand-up weeding tool to really get around roses from afar.
- I like to use THIS ORGANIC FERTILIZER for roses because the blooms are more prolific and it’s organic.
- You’ll need a sharp set of pruners when working with plants and flowers. I buy a few so I can stash them around.
- Where pest and disease problems are concerned, I generally use this insecticidal soap or neem oil to help control infestations depending on the issue.
- This is my favorite set-and-forget slow-release fertilizer for houseplants, annuals, and container gardens.
- Whenever I stake my peonies or other plants, I generally use these grow through garden supports because they work really well and keep the blooms upright.
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Enjoy a beautiful day! xo
Want to learn more about me?
I’m a master gardener who’s been gardening and growing things for over 25 years and author of the best-selling book, The Bricks ‘n Blooms Guide to a Beautiful and Easy-Care Flower Garden. With a deep passion for gardening, I enjoy helping others find their inner green thumb with all things plants and flowers, as well as finding ways to bring the outdoors inside their homes.
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Even if you get a frost, it’s a great time to plant for next year’s garden. Nurseries continue to sell their stock off at a discount in fall. And as long as the ground is not frozen we can still plant!
With the leaves falling, I want to show you how there’s still color in my gardens through the foliage.
Certain plants are meant to be at their peak this time of year and I wanted to highlight some in case you want to add to your gardens.
There may not be much stock left at the nurseries, but even better deals can be had with what’s left.
Now is a great time to finish purchasing next year’s plants, dividing and moving things around to tweak the beds.
In my neck of the woods, a lot of tree foliage has fallen.
There are some trees with foliage left, but the woods behind my house are looking pretty sparse.
Front Garden Tour
Although perennials are starting to die back, their foliage during that process can add more color to the borders.
The bright yellow foliage in this bed is from Balloon Flower.
Sedum Autumn Joy is still performing well – the blooms have deepened more as they start to dry out and the foliage is starting to yellow.
The fall decor on the front porch is still going strong.
I’m hoping it will hold out until Thanksgiving but I’m not sure the Mums and pumpkins will make it 3 more weeks.
Keep your fingers crossed because we are hosting!
Everything is in full bloom here and looks incredible!
The Ornamental Kale, Cabbage, Pansies and Mums are doing great!
I’m surprised that even the pumpkins are still in good condition – neither the squirrels or my dogs have messed with them!
Fallen leaves are covering the beds.
They will get cleaned out sometime in the next few weeks so that they do not accumulate around my perennials all winter long.
View from my front porch at sunset.
I love how the cornstalk and Maple Tree look with sun setting behind it.
The fall colors are amazing!
There is a lot of fall color happening in the well garden.
Smoketree is turning a bright orange and my neighbor’s Maple looks stunning behind it.
The yellowing foliage from my other plants compliments the crimson and orange hues – so gorgeous!
This Oak Leaf Hydrangea does not disappoint!
It is slowly deepening to a beautiful crimson.
Backyard Garden Tour
I intentionally planted this border with fall foliage color in mind.
It is amazing how much color is still happening!
One of my gardening friends gave me this Hellebore years ago.
It is just about to bloom. I love the lacey green foliage on this beautiful perennial.
The plant in the foreground is one of my Blueberries.
Isn’t that fall foliage color incredible?
The Burning Bush is slowly deepening to a crimson color.
I love how it pairs with Ornamental Grass.
When I picked Snowball Spirea up at the nursery a few weeks ago, I knew I would love the foliage color in the landscape.
How fantastic is that bright orange color?
The shed garden looks amazing right now!
Sedum Autumn Joy and the Ornamental grass together with the foliage in the woods is just gorgeous!
What Do You Think?
Don’t you just love all that fall color?
I am so happy I added some new shrubs and trees to the beds and can’t wait to see how they look next year!
In the next week or so, I’m going to tuck more bulbs in the beds for early spring color before the ground freezes.
I’m a little late getting it done, but better late than never!
Do you consider fall foliage when choosing plants for your garden?
If so, do you have any favorites you’d like to share?
I hope you enjoyed this week’s garden tour and chat about achieving fall color with foliage. I really appreciate you joining me and following along! If you missed a few tours or want to see how the garden has progressed during the growing season, you can see them here:
- 1st Week – Bulbs and Early Spring Perennials
- 2nd Week – Cool Season Vegetables and Spring Flowers
- 3rd Week – Growth, Change and Everblooming Design
- 4th Week – Growth and Transition in the Spring Garden
- 5th Week – Container Gardens and Outdoor Living Spaces
- 6th Week – Adding Color with Annuals
- 7th Week – The Importance of a Tidy Border
- 8th Week – How to Create a Hummingbird Garden
- 9th Week – Spring to Summer Transition
- 10th Week – Summer Perennials, Pest and Disease Control
- 11th Week – Summer Gardening and Patriotic Decor
- 12th Week – Caring for Gardens While On Vacation
- 13th Week – How to Create a Butterfly Garden
- 14th Week – Midsummer Flowers
- 15th Week – Summer to Fall Transition in the Garden
- 16th Week – Tidying Up the Late Summer Flower Garden
- 17th Week – Preparing the Flower Garden for Fall Plantings
- 18th Week – Best Plant for the Fall Garden
- 19th Week – Fall Garden Tip that Will Save You Money
- 20th Week – Easy Fall Garden Maintenance Tip
- 21st Week – Preparing the Garden for Winter
- 22nd Week – Dividing and Transplanting in the Fall Garden
- 23rd Week – Planting Next Year’s Garden in Fall