5 Great Plants for Beautiful Fall Color
A gardening couple shares their top performers for fall color in the garden.
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A 19th-century grist mill and an old farmhouse grace the Griffiths' 30 acres just south of Atlanta. Elizabeth and Gene Griffith have planted shrubs, trees, perennials and vines that show their best in the fall.
Plantings of evergreen and deciduous hollies, American beautyberry, ornamental grasses and asters create cozy areas on the large property and attract birds and butterflies with their abundance of berries and brilliant color. Both Gene and Elizabeth have a penchant for unusual small trees that show good fall color. Two of Gene's favorites are the Chinese pistachio tree with its yellow orange fall color and Rhamnella with its light yellow hue.
Outside the farmhouse door, Elizabeth has planted an angel's trumpet that greets guests with its profusion of scented blooms. She also creates striking floral arrangements with the red, purple and white berries of viburnum, beautyberry and deciduous hollies.
Some of the top performers in the Griffiths' fall garden are:
Narrow leaf blue star (Amsonia hubrichtii)
The plant: Amsonia hubrichtii adds interest to the perennial border for three seasons. Light blue flowers appear in late spring. The green, feathery foliage turns golden yellow in fall. It reaches three feet tall and about as wide.
How to use it: Plant in the middle to back of a perennial border or as a low-growing hedge with an evergreen backdrop.
Cultivation: Amsonias grow best in average, well draining soil in full sun to part shade. Cut back plants by about half after flowering to keep stems upright and shape the plants into a nice foliage mound. Hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 9.
Source: Plant Delights Nursery
American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)
The plant: American beautyberry is a striking deciduous native shrub. The small spring flowers eventually form into showy clusters of plum purple berries. Birds are attracted to the berries. It grows to six to eight feet tall and about as wide.
How to use it: Use in a mass planting with an evergreen background or as a specimen. Plant in a wildlife-friendly garden or native garden.
Cultivation: American beautyberry grows best in full sun or partial shade and a moist, well draining soil. If planted in full sun, provide additional watering. It tolerates a variety of soil conditions. It can be cut back to encourage enhanced fruit production. Hardy in USDA Zones 6 to 10.
Source: Niche Gardens
Angel's trumpet (Brugmansia 'Charles Grimaldi')
The plant: Angel's trumpet is a striking tropical that features fragrant, trumpet-shaped flowers that dangle amidst large green leaves. 'Charles Grimaldi' produces 12-inch, peach yellow flowers in late summer to fall. The plant reaches about eight to ten feet tall by the end of the growing season.
How to use it: Use in containers that can be placed outdoors during the warm season and moved indoors for the winter. In climates where it overwinters outside, plant in the ground. The frost will kill it down to the ground. Mulch heavily or let the dead stems remain until cutting it back in spring. Then watch it grow back out next growing season.
Cultivation: Angel's trumpet needs full sun and regular feeding to consistently produce flowers. Plant in a moist, well draining soil. Hardy in USDA Zones 7b to 10. Note: This plant is poisonous, so be sure to keep it away from children and pets.
Source: Logee's Greenhouses
Japanese hydrangea vine (Schizophragma hydrangeoides) 'Moonlight'
The plant: Although not technically a hydrangea, Japanese hydrangea vine has flowers that resemble those of a lace cap hydrangea, and its growing requirements are similar. 'Moonlight' is a climbing vine with heart-shaped leaves that are silver-green in color with prominent green veins. It has large clusters of delicate white flowers in mid to late summer. Note: It may take a few years to produce blooms. It has golden-yellow leaf color in fall, and its reddish-brown stems add winter interest. Plant size can reach 30 to 40 feet long.
How to use it: Use it to cover a wall, fence or arbor. Or, plant it at the base of a tree to grow up the bark without harming the tree.
Cultivation: 'Moonlight' grows best in partial shade with moist, acidic soil. Hardy to USDA Zones 5 to 9.
Source: Digging Dog Nursery
White-berried American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana 'Lactea')
The plant: This native beautyberry has clusters of white berries in late summer to fall. The leaves are lighter green than the purple-fruited varieties, and the plant has a more upright habit. This shrub reaches six to seven feet tall.
How to use it: Use it as a specimen in a perennial border or in a mass planting. Use in cutflower arrangements.
Cultivation: This white beautyberry prefers full sun to partial shade and moist, well-draining soil. If planted in full sun, provide additional watering. It tolerates a variety of soil conditions. It can be cut back to encourage enhanced fruit production. Hardy in USDA Zones 7 to 10.
Source: Niche Gardens
Interior designer Susanne Hudson lists her favorite plants in her 3-1/3-acre garden.