Many deciduous trees, shrubs and climbers put on a beautiful show in autumn, as their leaves turn gorgeous shades of red, orange and yellow, before falling. Autumn is the time for fruit as well. A variety of climbers, roses, shrubs and trees will bear hips, berries and other fruits, too. A few plants are still flowering in autumn, adding to the colourful displays.
More on autumn colour:
- 10 superb gardens to visit for autumn colour
- Trees for autumn colour
- How to grow autumn crocus
- Trees for small gardens
We’ve picked 10 spectacular plants to grow for autumn colour, below.
Top 10 plants for autumn colour
Amelanchier trees are beautiful, small trees that are attractive in all seasons. In March the branches have star-shaped flowers, just as the coppery pink young leaves unfold. In July the trees are studded with dark red berries. In autumn, the yellowish green leaves turn scarlet and crimson.
Most asters (now called Symphyotrichum) flower in late summer and autumn, bringing welcome late colour to borders. Symphyotrichum ‘Little Carlow’ is one of the best, producing vibrant, light purple flowers. Plant in a sunny, airy position to ensure maximum flowering. After flowering, cut back hard.
Known as the beauty berry, Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii ‘Profusion’ produces large clusters of stunning and unusual purple berries in mid-autumn, overlapping with the golden purple leaf tints and then lingering after leaf-fall.
Judas tree or redbud
Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ is a multi-stemmed tree with purple, heart-shaped leaves which turn a dramatic yellow in autumn. Its deep crimson, pink or sometimes white pea-like flowers give a dramatic spring display before new leaves appear. Cercis siliquastrum (Judas tree) has magenta blossom in spring and apple green leaves that turn butter yellow in autumn.
Autumn crocuses (Colchicum) flower in September and October. The large blooms suddenly appear from bare earth without any leaves – hence the common name, naked ladies. Colchicum ‘Waterlily’ has striking, double flowers with pinkish purple petals. Watch our video guide to growing colchicums.
Cotoneasters give beautiful displays of red berries in autumn. Cotoneaster horizontalis is popular for the characteristic herringbone pattern of its stems, which makes it useful trained across the ground or on a wall.
With colourful fruits and foliage, crab apples look wonderful in autumn. Malus ‘Evereste’ is flushed with red-flushed, orange-yellow fruits in autumn that complement the orange-yellow leaves. It is an excellent tree for smaller gardens, with a pleasant conical shape.
Most nerines are tender greenhouse bulbs, but Nerine bowdenii can be grown outdoors in a warm, sunny border backed by the shelter of a wall. They will reward you with a late display of lipstick-pink flowers. Discover more autumn-flowering bulbs.
Parthenocissus henryana, Chinese Virginia creeper, is less vigorous than other Virginia creeper varieties and can be useful for a north-facing wall in a small garden. Its foliage is more delicate as well, with a velvety texture and silvery-white veins; it turns a fiery crimson in autumn.
Sternbergia lutea is an autumn-flowering bulb native to Greece and the eastern Mediterranean, where it bakes in the hot dry summer weather. Plant in a warm sunny spot, ideally near a warm wall, and shield from winter weather. Ensure good drainage.
More plants for autumn colour
- Acers put on a spectacular show in autumn
- Dahlias will continue to flower until the first frosts, if regularly deadheaded and fed
- Cornus put on a spectacular show before their leaves fall to reveal colourful winter stems
- Euonymus europaeus turns a spectacular shade of red before the leaves fall
- Euonymus alatus also turns a beautiful crimson in autumn
- Chrysanthemums flower well into autumn and are excellent for cutting
- Ornamental grasses are at their best in autumn, and combine well with all kinds of perennials and shrubs
- Japanese anemones flower well into autumn, in shades of pink and white
- Sedums (now called Hylotelephium) look great in autumn and their flat flowerheads contrast well with more upright forms
- Katsura tree – a beautiful tree with attractive autumn foliage – and unexpectedly smells of toffee apples