Shrubs that deliver big color for the fall season

This year when the calendar announced fall on September 21, the weather gods were listening. Quickly the temperatures dropped, and the garden colors began to change.

The bright pink of coneflowers and other summer blooms is fading. Look around your garden; if fall colors are not replacing these summer brights, you have an opportunity to introduce a new color palette. 

Of course, this can be done with annuals and fall favorite perennials such as mums and asters, but there are other options. Let’s talk about shrubs that can offer color to your fall and winter gardens.

Brandywine Viburnum is a perennial shrub I have seen in several garden centers this fall. The bushes are full of pink and blue berries nestled near the shiny green and reddish leaves. 

Talk about fall color!

This shrub can grow 5-6 feet tall and quite wide if planted in full sun. Remember to dig the hole as deep as the rootball and twice as wide when planting. Give it plenty of water through fall because the roots are establishing themselves for the winter months.

The viburnum is a fast-growing shrub. It blooms on old wood or last year’s growth. Speaking of blooms, this is not a one-hit-wonder blooming only in the fall. Look for fragrant white flowers to cover the branches in early summer before giving way to the berries of fall.

The summer flowers will attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. The berries will feed birds throughout the fall and winter. 

Another bush that will give your garden color is the aptly named Beautyberry. This shrub also likes full to partial sun. It is rather non-descript during the summer but is a showstopper during the fall when it becomes covered in bright purple berries. 

The Beautyberry blooms on new growth, so pruning and shaping should happen late in the winter before new growth begins. By pruning the bush late in the season, you will give it more energy to provide new growth – leading to more berries in the fall.

Both of these bushes will self-seed. They are easy to propagate by transplanting the young seedlings. To control the spread, dig and toss any unwanted new starts. 

Brandywine and Beautyberry bushes are deer resistant and require little maintenance. Mulching during the fall will help control the moisture levels during the winter, dry fall, and cold winter temperatures.

There are many other ways to add fall color to the landscape. I’ve been in the car quite a bit the last few weeks, and it’s hard to miss the goldenrod adding yellow to the roadsides. It’s very pretty but very invasive. If you are tempted to plant this, make sure you have a meadow where it can spread. This is not a plant to add to an urban garden.

Russian sage and ornamental grasses are better bets for fall landscapes. These choices will add color and keep pollinators coming to the garden in the fall and winter. There are many varieties of grasses. When shopping, do your research and read the labels carefully for height and color information. 

I’m a fan of mums, asters, coleus, caladiums, and celsius adding color to the garden. But adding a larger shrub that produces vivid color is a step toward creating a garden that will give you results year after year. The color of these shrubs will be as dependable as the change of the seasons.