Plants for Fall Foliage Color

At Dawn Gardens in Grass Valley the fall color starts at the end of September and continues through December. The trees are the main performers but many shrubs and even some perennials provide fall color before they go dormant for the winter. Here are a few photos showing the transition from green to fall color:

Doublefile Viburnum (Viburnum plicatum ‘Mariesii’)

Rhus typhina ‘Laciniata’

Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina)

The following 3 photos are of Sour Gum (Nyssa sylvatica). The top photo shows 3 trees planted on a mound above the bottom pond at Dawn Gardens. The 3 trees are in different stages of fall color development – still green on the right, full red fall color in the center and mid-stage on the left. The reason for this variation in the timing is seedling variation. These trees were started from seeds and each seedling is a little different in fall color timing, shape, cold tolerance and other aspects. In this way the tree can tolerate different climates and spread its habitat.

The photo below was taken one week after the previous photo.

The photo below was taken 3 weeks after the first photo. Note that the tree in the center is completely dormant.

The photo below was taken 4 weeks after the first photo. This is a good demonstration of how long fall color can last when the trees are grown from seeds.

Nyssa sylvatica fruit and fall color

Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) This is the type of Maple that produces maple syrup.

The above 2 photos are of Acer henryi. The top is growing in the sun and the lower is in the shade. In general fall color is much less pronounced when the plant is in the shade.

Acer truncatum


Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum)


Red Split-leaf Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum ‘Crimson Queen’)  8 years in a pot and then 17 years in the ground.

Video in Rhododendron garden doing a 360 degree circle showing range of fall color in Japanese Maples.

Paperbark Maple (Acer griseum)

Amur Maple (Acer tataricum ginnala)

Persian Parrotia (Parrotia persica)

Ginkgo biloba

Sawleaf Zelkova (Zelkova serrata)

Smoke Tree (Cotinus ‘Grace’)

Purple Smoke Tree (Cotinus coggygria ‘Purpureus’) fall color

Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus ‘Compacta’)

Oak Leaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)

Enkianthus perulatus

Orange Rocket Barberry (Berberis ‘Orange Rocket’) It is orange in the summer but red in the fall.

Fothergilla gardenii

Spirea on December 15.

Chinese Pistache (Pistachia chinensis)

Fruit of Chinese Pistachio. This photo was taken in Alamo, CA and not at Dawn Gardens. The fruit is a little messy when it drops so I planted a male cultivar called ‘Keith Davies’ at Dawn Gardens that does not produce fruit.

Japanese Stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia)

European Beech (Fagus sylvatica). This is the last of the fall color for the year. Photo taken in December.

Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus)

Fastigate Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus ‘Fastigiata’) Even the foliage on the ground looks beautiful.

This is a vine with fall color; it is a grape that does not produce fruit. Its botanical name is Cissus ‘Rogers Red’

Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)

European Cranberry Bush (Viburnum opulus)

Azalea (Rhododendron ‘Hino Crimson’). Some evergreen plants have fall color such as this Azalea. The older leaves turn red but the younger ones stay green. The following photo of Ternstroemia gymnanthera and Cotoneaster parneyi show the same thing.

Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) usually has bright red fall color.

This is Sourwood (Oxydendron arboreum). It has the brightest red fall foliage that I have ever seen.

Bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii) This is a perennial that has fall color as well as a light blue star shaped flower in the spring.

Sporobolus heterolepis. Many grasses are deciduous and have fall color.

Some deciduous ferns have fall color.

Several conifers are deciduous and have fall color:

IMG_3170Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) growing in the bog garden at Dawn Gardens.  It is native to the swamps of SE United States.

IMG_3354Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides)


Pacific Dogwood (Cornus nuttallii) These trees reseed readily. If you want one come to Dawn Gardens and I will give you one.

Korean Dogwood (Cornus kousa)

Video tour through Dawn Gardens from entry gate to house:

Video from fruit tree orchard to Azalea/Rhododendron garden:

Video from Rose garden to grass garden:

Video of grass garden:


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