Although the warm sunshine will soon be slowly fading, Autumn is definitely not a time of doom and gloom – the leaves of trees and shrubs can be dazzling. Late flowing perennials and shrubs can look beautiful at this time of year too.
We often get asked to ensure a year-round display of colour in our garden designs. It’s entirely do-able, but does require a bit of careful planning, as well as some pragmatism – accepting that colour doesn’t have to always come from flowers! Autumn in particular is a great time for beautiful, eye-catching leaf colour, and likewise berries provide another way to add to the Autumn colour palette.
We’ve listed some top plants for autumn colour below, linking through to the RHS website for further information for those varieties that are of interest.
Top Plants for Autumn Leaf Colour
Liquidambar styraciflua (and its varieties) – This is an upright tree with Maple like leaves and a lovely red autumn colour
Parrotia – In early spring these trees are covered with red flowers, whilst in autumn the leaves turn yellow, red and purple.
Acer (various) – The leaves of different Acers turn different colours, but whatever acer you have you should get a stunning display of autumn leaves.
Prunus sargentii – This tree has bright orange and red leaves in autumn, along with pink flowers in spring.
Euonymus alatus – This spreading shrub has neat green leaves all year, which turn a brilliant red in autumn.
Cotinus eg ‘Royal Purple’; ‘Golden Spirit’ – Cotinus leaves often colour well in autumn, e.g “Royal Purple” leaves are deep purple and become redder in autumn.
Ceratostigma willmottianum – This shrub has blue flowers in late summer and then red leaves in autumn.
Berberis (deciduous varieties) – There are lots of deciduous varieties of Berberis, each with lovely autumn leaves.
Acer palmatum ‘Osakazuki’ & ‘Senkaki’ – These are acer shrubs, which have beautiful autumn leaves. Osakazuki leaves turn from green to orange-scarlet in autumn, whereas Senkaki leaves turn from green to yellow.
Cornus mas et al – many Cornus have colourful autumn leaves. Cornus mas has purple leaves in autumn.
Hamamelis – Hamamelis (Witch Hazel) leaves colour well in autumn and the shrub also has yellow, orange or red flowers during the winter.
Enkianthus (needs acid soil) – The leaves of these shrubs often colour well in autumn. For example Enkianthus campanulatus turn bright red, orange and yellow.
Spiraea japonica ‘Firelight’ – This shrub has leaves that begin dull red-bronze, which become green and then turn to reddish-purple in autumn.
Top Plants for Autumn Flower Colour
Sedums – There are many varieties of Sedum but they all give star shaped flowers in summer or autumn.
Rudbeckia – This type of perennial has large orange or yellow daisy-like flowers.
Liriope – Dense spikes of flowers appear on these plants in autumn, followed by black berries.
Japanese Anemones – Pink or white flowers appear on Japanese Anemones from midsummer to autumn.
Aster – Asters have solitary daisy-like flowers, which appear in late summer and autumn.
Helenium (second flush) – These perennials have large daisy like flowers, which are very bright and colourful.
Caryopteris – These shrubs usually have small blue flowers in autumn.
Hebe ‘Autumn Glory’ – Deep purple flowers grow from the summer until late autumn.
Abelia – These plants have funnel/trumpet shaped flowers, which appear in summer and autumn.
And, of course there are other, more widely known shrubs which flower in the autumn, such as Roses, Fuchsias for example.
Climbers and bulbs
Late flowering varieties of Clematis are brilliant for an Autumn-flowing trellis or bare fence – try Clematis tangutica for example.
Image Credits: ahisgett (Acer), Drew Avery (Japanese Anemones), wallygrom (Sorbus), dave-pemcoastphotos.com (Acer), wallygrom (Euonymus), goforchris (Berberis), col&tasha (Hamamelis), Steenbergs (Rudbeckia), cm195902 (Aster), wallygrom (Caryopteris), Marianne Bevis (Fuschia), Just chaos (Nerine).