September is planting time, and what better way to celebrate the season than to plant with fall color in mind — instant gratification! Here are 5 shrubs that provide reliable warm hues to warm up those crisp fall days:
Dwarf fragrant sumac, Rhus aromaica 'Grow-Low'. Full or afternoon sun; very drought tolerant; adapts to a wide range of soils; 3' tall x 6'-8' wide. Inconspicuous flowers followed by small, fuzzy red berries. Glossy green leaves turn red to deep burgundy in color.
Cut leaf staghorn sumac, Rhus typhina 'Laciniata'. Full sun; very drought tolerant; adapts to a wide range of soils; 6-8' tall and wide. Inconspicuous flowers followed by large clusters of fussy red berries that are persistent through winter. Deeply cut, bright green leaves add an attractive texture to the summer garden and brilliant orange and red hues to the autumn landscape. This plant will sucker and colonize, so give it plenty of room to spread!
Vanhoutte spirea (also known as bridal veil spirea), Spiraea x Vanhouttei. Full sun to filtered shade; moderate moisture; adapts to a wide range of soils; 6' tall and wide. A round-topped, vase shape form with arching branches that are covered in clusters of small white flowers in spring. Use as a single specimen or mass for an informal hedge. Showy foliage color most years. Note: many of the smaller spireas have attractive fall color, too.
Dwarf burning bush, Euonymus alatus 'Compacta'. Full or afternon sun; moderate moisture; prefers rich garden soil, but is somewhat adaptable — I have a happy camper growing in my sandy-loam soil; 6' tall and wide (the standard burning bush is larger at about 8-10' tall and wide). Inconspicuous flowers, but interesting "winged" branches provide winter interest on the standard shrub. Both offer vibrant, long lasting red foliage in the fall.
Regent serviceberry, Amelanchier alnifolia 'Regent'. Full or afternoon sun; low moisture; 6' tall and wide. Upright growth with white flowers in early spring before the leaves emerge. Tasty fruits in summer and yellow-orange-red fall color. Truly, a multi-season beauty. (Yes, every once in a while Denver gets a little ice storm!)
Now that I've gotten you excited about planting for fall color, do you want to see my suggestions for shrubs with winter color? Check out my article here.