Trees for Autumn colour

Plants, Plan Your Garden

Autumn, for me, is the time for trees. When you think of autumn you likely think of the fiery reds, oranges and yellow of the leaves that paint our landscape. The display of warm orange and yellow of the common Beech tree is always a highlight for me. However, you do not have to a garden big enough for a Beech tree to bring some of those beautiful colours into your own space. Here are five of many trees for the best Autumn colour – for any sized garden:

Liquidambar styraciflua (Sweet gum)

This beautiful ‘Maple like’ tree has a great pyramid shape and lush green leaves in summer, but it comes into its own in Autumn. If you are wanting a knockout Autumn display, I don’t think you can beat the Liquidambar. With its leaves starting to change in September and held until December, the vibrant hues of yellow, orange and red really do give this tree the wow factor.

Liquidambars can get to a substantial size but there are smaller variations such as Liquidambar ‘Lane Roberts’. With a more pyramidal shape, and reaching 12m, as a medium sized tree it could be incorporated into a smaller garden. Liquidambars do not like chalky soils but grow well in clay and acidic soils.

Prunus sargentii (Sargents cherry)

Many of the flowering cherries will give a beautiful Spring and Autumn display and with a large variety to choose from you would have little difficultly finding one suitable for your garden. One that is a very reliable variety and suitable for small urban spaces is the Prunus sargentii. With a lovely spring display of rosy pink flowers, it gives you the classic flowering cherry look, but also has reliable autumn colour. One of the first trees to turn, this cherry displays fiery oranges and reds mid-September, giving you early Autumn colour as your summer display is coming to an end.

Sorbus aucuparia (Mountain ash)

Where possible, I feel it is important to incorporate some native planting into a garden and the Mountain Ash is a great addition for autumn display with not only the leaves turning colour, but it is also adorned with vibrant berries. Grown throughout the UK it is a great choice for difficult conditions and with many varieties available with varying berry colour – such as Sorbus aucuparia ‘Streetwise’, with its conical compact habit, orange berries and orange-yellow seasonal colour – it makes a great choice for an urban garden.

Pyrus calleryana Chanticleer (Flowering Pear)

This flowering Pear is a great all rounder with great spring flower, compact habit and a lovely Autumn display. Another benefit of this tree is that it holds its leaf for up to nine months which also makes it a great screening tree. With a compact habit it is ideal for small spaces, giving you a great long-lasting Autumn display of yellow, orange and sometimes red. It can also be used as a great focal point amongst any planting bed. See Alison’s blog post with more Pyrus calleryana Chanticleer information here.

Acer palmatum (Japanese maple)

The Japanese maple is a tree famous for its fiery Autumn colour displays and one of the easiest to grow in a garden no matter what the size. With a wide variety of colours from bright red to buttery yellow available and the tallest varieties only getting to around 8m, as well as needing little to no maintenance they are a very versatile tree.

Happy in a pot, they make wonderful focal plants for patio or courtyard spaces. Best grown in semi shade to prevent leaf scorch, they also make great additions to shady corners of the garden.


Now is the perfect time for planting new trees – assuming the ground is not waterlogged or frozen, so go ahead and add some beautiful autumn colour to your garden! You can find advice on planting trees and shrubs from the RHS here.


Image credits: Andreas Rockstein, Jorge Franganillo, Mark Kent, Couleur, Joan Simon, manuel m.v., Matthew Field, Famartin, Andreas Rockstein, Susanne Nilsson.

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