4 Shrubs for Vivid Fall Colour

As the temperature begins to cool down, the foliage on many trees and shrubs turn into the warm hues of red, yellow and orange. Here's how to add that effect to your garden.

Staghorn Sumac

This exotic looking shrub produces crimson fruit in the summer and beautiful autumn colours on its lush, sharp-toothed foliage. Juicy red fruit on the staghorn sumac can be 3-5mm across when fully mature. They are covered with granular hairs in cone-shaped clusters on the tips of the twigs; during the winter they provide a valuable source of food for animals.

Staghorn sumac is very hardy. You can commonly see it growing along roadsides and fields. Once established they propagate themselves into thickets by their shallow, suckering root system. To prevent spreading, you can surround sumac with grass or cut the growth back from the ground.

Tiger Eyes Staghorn Sumac
‘Tiger Eyes’ Staghorn Sumac

This sun-loving shrub native to Southern Ontario. It provides food and shelter for birds and mammals. The nectar attracts butterflies. Sumac is an ideal addition to mass plantings, hedges, naturalizing and woodland gardens.

This low maintenance plant is adaptable to most soils, including clay which is why it is used in environmental rehabilitation. Any pruning should be done in early spring once the threat of frost has passed.

Other sumac varieties to admire include Fernleaf sumac, Tiger Eyes® Cutleaf Staghorn sumac, and Fragrant sumac.

Dogwood

Red Osier, Pagoda, and Flowering Dogwood are native shrubs to our region and well known for their crimson red twigs. Dogwoods are a favourite in many gardens due to their medium size (they grow between 20-30 feet) and four-season appeal.

In spring they explode with white flowers; some even produce white fruit on exotic red stems. The blossoms give way to vibrant, bright green leaves in the summer.

Dogwoods prefer an area that is well-drained and has nutrient-rich soil. Red Osier dogwoods can tolerate wet soils and survive occasional flooding. In forests, they can be seen growing in the understory of trees, so avoid planting in areas that receive full afternoon sun – it can survive in up to 75% shade.

Silverleaf Dogwood
Silverleaf Dogwood

If you are looking for shrubs with variegated foliage, the Silverleaf dogwood is a beautiful option. It will grow in partial to full sun, flowers from late spring to summer, and burgundy branches provide a punch of colour against snow.

Pruning dogwood can improve their vigour and create more structure. Do it in the spring, after the flowers have faded, so you do not damage next year’s buds.

Ninebark

Common Ninebark is native to Manitoba, Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick and even as east as Nova Scotia.

The drought-tolerant qualities make it a highly desired and distinct low maintenance shrub in many gardens that receives sun to partial shade. From June to July they will flower white/cream to purple/pink flowers. Here are some of our favourite varieties of ninebark for the garden.

Tiny Wine® Dwarf Ninebark is an excellent option if you are looking for a miniature variety for a small backyard or a tiny space needing some colour (even your containers!)

Summer Wine Ninebark
Summer Wine Ninebark

Rich, dark foliage on Summer Wine®  ninebark sure knows how to create thrill in the garden. The tall, upright growth makes it an ideal border plant and will produce beautiful pink flowers in spring.

Coppertina® will provide copper-orange foliage all season, turning to deep bronze in autumn. Very adaptable to acidic and alkaline soils and can tolerate dry conditions once established. Amber Jubilee ™ is another option if you have a full sun location and desire ninebark that will glow with tones of orange, yellow, and gold.

Chokeberry

This shrub is native to Ontario. It is found alongside streams, rocky ridges, and pinewoods.

In summer, the green fruit will begin to appear and will mature to bluish-black berries. The berries are enjoyed by birds (including the cedar waxwing). The berries can be used in jellies, jams and pies. Once autumn rolls around, orange, red and purple tones cover the leaves, and the berries create dazzling contrast.

Brilliant Red Chokeberry
Brilliant Red Chokeberry

Our favourite varieties for the garden include Autumn Magic chokeberry, Brilliant Red chokeberry and Iroquois chokeberry.

By: Kayla-Jane Barrie