Plant Fall Trees and Shrubs Now

Lynn Coulter
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planting shrubs

The summer flowers are finished, but your fall garden doesn’t have to turn brown and drab. The cooler temperatures are ideal for planting new trees and shrubs that bring bright gold, scarlet, burnt orange, and other autumnal colors to your landscape.

Dig into our list below to find suggestions for your garden, then learn how to plant a shrub or tree.

Great trees to plant in fall

Leyland cypress: These fast-growing evergreens for zones 6 to 10 make excellent windbreaks or privacy screens, or they can be pruned to use as shrubby hedges or Christmas trees. Give them full to partial sun and soil that drains easily, and they can reach 35 feet to 50 feet tall.

Sugar maple: Hardy in zones 3 to 8, sugar maples can soar to 70 feet in cool, moist climates. (Gardeners in zones 7 to 9 can grow shorter Southern sugar maples.) These sun-loving, deciduous trees turn brilliant yellow-orange and red in autumn.

Eastern redbud: Trees planted near the street can suffer from air pollution, but redbuds, which grow to 35 feet, can tolerate urban stress. Their pink-lavender flowers attract butterflies in spring; in autumn, the foliage turns purplish. If you garden in zones 6 to 9, try a drought-tolerant Western redbud. Eastern Redbuc Tree

Yellow poplar: Also known as tulip tree, these are great shade trees that like full sun to part shade and top out at 60 feet to 90 feet high. In autumn, the leaves become yellow-gold. These big trees are best used in landscapes and large lawns.

Fruit trees: Gardeners in mild winter climates can plant fruit trees now and harvest luscious pears, peaches and apples for years to come. (If you’re in zones 3, 4, or 5A, it’s usually better to plant them in spring.) Your Home Depot Garden Center associate can help you find the best varieties for your region.

apple tree

colorful Shrubs for fall planting

Oakleaf hydrangea: These native shrubs brighten the landscape with their showy flowers and foliage that changes from dark green in summer to red, bronze and purple in fall. Few pests or diseases bother the plants, which are hardy in zones 5 to 9A. Oakleaf hydrangeas grow 6 feet to 10 feet tall and prefer shade or morning sun with afternoon shade in hot climates. Grow them near woodlands, as specimen plants, or hedges.

oakleaf hydrangea

Nandina: While nandina can be invasive in some regions, a new cultivar for zones 6 to 10, ‘Blush Pink,’ lacks the flowers and fruits that allow other types to spread. This dwarf evergreen matures at 2-by-2 feet. Grow it in full sun to bring out the bright lime color of its summer foliage. By fall, the leaves turn pink and red.

nandina 'Blush Pink' 

Viburnum: Flowering viburnums take full sun to part shade; some thrive in full shade. By autumn, the foliage turns reddish-purple or bronze, yellow, and red, depending on the variety, and colorful berries appear. While most viburnums need moist, well-drained soil, others tolerate drought once they’re established. You can find viburnums for hardiness zones 2 to 9.

Staghorn sumac: ‘Tiger Eyes’ is a dwarf cultivar of Rhus typhina, or staghorn sumac, a deciduous shrub with chartreuse to yellow leaves that turn gold, scarlet and orange in autumn. The plants, which grow to 6 feet and take full sun to part shade, are hardy in zones 4 to 8. Butterflies often visit staghorn sumacs, which are beautiful when grown with darker colored plants.

red twig dogwood

Red twig dogwood: Once these deciduous shrubs drop their leaves in fall, red twig dogwoods reveal attractive red stems and white or bluish-white berries that last into winter. Best grown in zones 2 to 8, they tolerate part shade, but put on their most colorful show if planted in full sun. Use these fast-growing shrubs as hedges or to attract birds.

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