Native Plants With Seasonal Appeal
Having a colorful garden all year long is easy when you rely on native plants. Besides offering year-round beauty, natives are generally more insect- and disease-resistant than other plants. Here's a list of some of our favorite natives that are especially colorful in the fall.
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Need a low growing tree with curb appeal in every season? Check out Serviceberry, Amelanchier canadensis, also called Shadblow. This rugged native tree grows 15 to 30 feet tall and thrives in full sun to partial shade. Zones 4-8
Fall: Spectacular bright red and orange foliage lingers late into the autumn.
Winter: Smooth pale gray bark provides interest, often on multiple trunks.
Spring: Fragrant, white, pendulous flowers smother branches.
Summer: Delicious red and purple berries add color and attract songbirds.
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Heat and drought won’t stop Boltonia asteroids from putting on a breathtaking display in your fall garden. This native perennial develops masses of white, pink, or lilac asterlike flowers in the late summer and fall that will attract hordes of butterflies to your garden. It can grow 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide, so give it plenty of space in your flower border. Boltonia prefers full sun and may need staking to prevent it from flopping over on its neighbors. Zones 3-10
Fall: Hundreds of gorgeous white, pink, or lilac create a mass of color.
Winter: Faded flower heads add interest and attract songbirds.
Spring: This early riser features bright green leaves.
Summer: The perennial’s large size and green leaves make it an excellent background planting.
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A Southeastern native, Fothergilla has a lot to offer for modern landscapes. Growing just 1 to 4 feet tall and 2 to 4 feet wide, this compact shrub can be tucked into a perennial border or a narrow foundation planting. It prefers rich, slightly moist, acidic soil and a sunny to partially sunny location. It’s prized for its white, bottlebrushlike spikes of fragrant spring flowers and spectacular fall foliage. Zones 5-8
Fall: Leaves turn shades of red, orange, and scarlet.
Winter: Twiggy habit adds interest in landscape.
Spring: Early, fragrant white flowers with yellow centers add garden appeal.
Summer: Plants produce thick, blue-green leaves.
Incorporate Natives Into Your Landscape
Learn how easy it is to add gorgeous, hardworking native plants to your landscape.
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Sometimes the smallest native plants are the most colorful. Wintergreen, for example, grows only 6 inches tall, but this gorgeous groundcover packs a big punch of color all year long. Thriving in partial to full shade, wintergreen, Gaultheria procumbens, prefers rich, slightly moist, acidic soil. It likes cool summers; in the wild, wintergreen grows on the forest floor from Tennessee to Minnesota. Zones 3-8
Fall: Berries mature and turn bright red; foliage takes on purplish hue.
Winter: Red berries and green foliage persist through winter.
Spring: Small white bell-shaped flowers appear on the plants.
Summer: Red berries begin to form that attract wildlife.
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Native to eastern North America, snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus, is a pretty, low-growing shrub that gets its name from the clusters of white, waxy berries that decorate the plant in fall and winter. Snowberry grows 3 to 6 feet tall and wide and thrives in sun or partial shade. Once established, snowberry spreads by suckers and will form a handsome privacy screen or hedge. Zones 3-7
Fall: Clusters of pale green berries ripen to pure white.
Winter: White berries persist through winter, dangling on bare stems.
Spring: Small, bell-shape pink blooms cover the plant.
Summer: Flowers continue through summer.
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New England Aster
Migrating Monarch butterflies will flock to your fall garden when you add clumps of New England aster, Symphyotrichum novae-angliae, to your flower garden. A prairie native, New England aster is heat- and drought-resistant with few insect or disease problems. It's an easy-care perennial that grows 3 to 6 feet tall and is smothered in pink-purple flowers in the late summer and fall. Pinch back the stems in mid to late June to encourage more compact growth. Modern cultivars with shorter stature and different shades of bloom are also available. Zones 4-8
Fall: Plants are smothered in bright, star-shape flowers.
Winter: Faded flower heads attract songbirds.
Spring: Narrow green leaves appear early.
Summer: Attractive flower buds look like small powder puffs.
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Birds and butterflies will feed with relish when you grow Arrowwood viburnum, Viburnum dentatum. This super-easy native shrub grows 10 feet tall and wide and thrives in sun or partial shade. It also has no insect or disease problems and looks terrific in the landscape all year long. Zones 3-8
Fall: Leaves turn yellow, orange, and red. Some berries may remain on the plant for an extra jolt of color.
Winter: Straight stems look great in the winter garden.
Spring: Flat-topped clusters of nectar-rich white flowers attract butterflies.
Summer: Bluish-black berries dangle from the branches in late summer, attracting hungry songbirds.
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Prized for its exuberant autumnal show of orange, red, or yellow leaves, Sugar Maple, Acer saccharum, is also one of the best native shade trees for large gardens, street-side plantings, or parks. These hardy natives grow 40 to 80 feet tall and thrive in full sun or partial shade. Newer varieties are available in different shapes and sizes. Zones 3-8
Fall: The leaves turn brilliant shades of orange, red, and yellow.
Winter: Handsome gray bark adds interest all winter.
Spring: Winged seedpods hang from branches.
Summer: Large green leaves create cooling shade.
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A popular landscape plant in Southern gardens, Yaupon Holly offers plenty of year-round interest. This handsome broadleaf evergreen shrub can grow 10 to 20 feet high with an attractive irregular branching habit. Yaupon holly, Ilex vomitoria, thrives in full sun or partial shade, and will slowly spread to form a thick hedge. Male and female plants are required to form berries. Zones 7-9
Fall: Bright red berries ripen and attract hungry songbirds.
Winter: Gray-green leaves and irregular branches look good all winter.
Spring: Small, fragrant, greenish white flowers develop in March and April.
Summer: Berries begin to form, adding interest and color to landscapes.
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Talk about a fantastic fall finale for your garden! Winterberry, Ilex verticillata, sports hundreds of bright red berries that appear in the autumn and persist through winter. It's a deciduous native holly that prefers slightly wet, acidic soil and a sunny or partially shady location. The plants grow 4 to 12 feet tall and wide and are easily pruned to fit any size landscape. The berry-filled branches look terrific in holiday arrangements and will also lure hungry songbirds to your garden. Like other hollies, you need a male and female plant to produce fruit. Zones 3-9
Fall: Bounties of bright red berries ripen on the twigs and the foliage may turn dark red before dropping.
Winter: Berries persist through winter; interesting vertical branches add visual appeal.
Spring: Small greenish-white flowers appear in mid-spring.
Summer: Handsome dark green, toothed leaves provide contrast to nearby flowers.
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Native to the Midwestern prairie, Little Bluestem grass, Schizachyrium scoparium, thrives in hot and dry locations and makes a colorful addition to any landscape. Growing 2 to 4 feet tall, Little Bluestem forms upright clumps of handsome blue-green foliage that’s topped with feathery seed heads in the late summer and fall. Zones 3-9
Fall: Foliage turns a brilliant bronze-orange hue.
Winter: Purplish seed heads persist through the winter.
Spring: Bright blue-green foliage appears early.
Summer: Seed heads begin to develop over vertical foliage.
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For four-season color you can’t beat Redbud, Cercis canadensis. This low-growing tree thrives in sun or partial shade and grows 20 to 30 feet tall. It’s not fussy about soil type and has few insect or disease problems. As a rule, though, redbud can be hard to transplant, so buy young specimens and let them develop in place. Zones 4-8
Fall: Foliage turns red or yellow in a bold fall finale.
Winter: Pretty horizontal branches often hold papery seedpods.
Spring: Pinkish-purple flowers burst into bloom before the leaves appear.
Summer: Large, bright green, oval leaves dance on the wind.
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When it comes to outstanding fall color, few plants can compare with Goldenrod, Solidago speciosa. An easy-care native, goldenrod can be found growing wild along roadsides and meadows throughout much of the country. Today, however, modern hybrids of this tough plant are available that retain the hardiness of the wild species but with bigger and better flowers. Goldenrod grows 2 to 3 feet tall and prefers full sun and well-drained soil. Contrary to popular belief, goldenrod does not cause hay fever. It just happens to bloom when the pollen of other plants is in the wind. Zones 3-8
Fall: Golden yellow flower heads burst into bloom and attract bees and butterflies.
Winter: Faded flower heads add structural interest.
Spring: Narrow green foliage appears early.
Summer: Vertical flower heads add interest in the garden.
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Joe Pye Weed
Looking for a colorful perennial that can take care of itself? If so, Joe Pye Weed, Eutrochium purpureum, should be on the top of your shopping list. This vigorous and handsome native plant flourishes in slightly moist soil where it can grow 5 to 7 feet tall. Joe Pye Weed is a fast-growing plant that forms thick clumps in full sun or partial shade. Use Joe Pye Weed along stream banks, forest edges, or open meadows. It’s deer resistant and a favorite plant of hungry butterflies. Zones 4-9
Fall: The plants are covered in an explosion of nectar-rich blooms.
Winter: Faded flowers linger on the plant even in the snow.
Spring: New dark foliage appears early in the season.
Summer: Vanilla-scented, mauve flowers begin to appear.
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Red Twig Dogwood
One of the best shrubs for fall and winter color, Red Twig Dogwood, Cornus alba, is a snap to grow. This fast-growing multi-stem native is actually prettier after pruning because the new growth is more colorful than the old. Use Red Twig Dogwood as a hedge or privacy screen or as a specimen plant tucked behind a flower border. Songbirds love this plant, too, and will flock to your garden to feast on its juicy fall berries. Zones 2-8
Fall: Clusters of blue-black berries dangle from colorful stems.
Winter: Coral-red bark glows in the winter landscape.
Spring: Bright green foliage sprouts off the red branches.
Summer: Small yellowish-white flowers appear from June to August.
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One of the first shrubs to turn red in the fall, Sumac, Rhus, is a quick-growing native that’s ideal for woodland edges, erosion control, or wildlife gardens. There are a variety of wild and cultivated species to choose from, but all are super easy to grow in sun or partial shade. Sumac prefers dry soil and is deer and rabbit resistant. These rugged shrubs grow 4 to 15 feet tall, depending on species. Zones 4-9
Fall: Large heads of maroon berries form at the tips of the branches. Every leaf turns bright scarlet.
Winter: Handsome vertical, spikey branches and faded fruit clusters persist through the season.
Spring: Large, palm-like, dark green leaves add garden interest.
Summer: Small greenish-yellow flowers appear in clusters.
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It may not have the most appealing common name, but Turtlehead, Chelone glabra, is a reliable fall-blooming perennial that thrives in moist, partially shaded locations. Turtlehead grows 2 to 3 feet tall and the snapdragon-like, nectar-rich flowers attract butterflies and other pollinators. Once established, turtlehead will form thick clumps that might require staking if the plants are grown in too much shade. Zones 3-8
Fall: White flowers with pink highlights cover the plants through October.
Winter: Faded flowers often remain on the plant.
Spring: Bright green foliage emerges.
Summer: Pinkish flower buds begin to appear.