Whenever I ask landscape design clients which types of plants they like, they invariably want plants whose leaves turn red in the fall.
Fortunately there are many trees, shrubs and even perennials that will have you seeing red all autumn long. Below is a list of 23 scarlet-foliaged favorites that perform well in Colorado.
Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry (Amelanchier x grandiflora ‘Autumn Brilliance’). Lovely, airy growth habit, early spring flowers, edible blue berries and unmatched fall color.
Autumn Blaze Maple (Acer freemanii ‘Jeffsred’). Thrilling color that makes everyone want one.
Hot Wings Maple (Acer tartaricum ‘GarAnn’). Yellow to red fall color. The tree’s scarlet samaras (“helicopters”), which hang from the tree in the summer, give the plant its name.
Washington Hawthorn (Crataegus phaenopyrum). Showy foliage and fruit. Watch out for its thorns, though.
TALL SHRUBS (more than 10 feet tall)
Ginnala Maple (Acer ginnala). Can also be grown as a small multi-stemmed tree.
Nannyberry Viburnum (Viburnum lentago). Snowy white flowers in spring followed by edible fruit. Attracts birds and butterflies.
Velvet Cloak Purple Smokebush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Velvet Cloak’). One of my all-time favorites because of its colorful foliage, spoon-shaped leaves and smoky blooms. It can also be grown as a small tree.
MEDIUM SHRUBS (6-10 feet tall)
Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus). Mature height maintainable at 8 t0 12 feet.
Golden Currant (Ribes aureum). Excellent for xeric gardens.
Hedge Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster lucidus). Gorgeous foliage with black berries. A treat for the birds.
Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia). Striking. Use this one in protected locations.
Red Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia). White flower clusters in the spring, red leaves in fall, and red fruits in fall and winter.
Redtwig Dogwood (Cornus sericea). Offers winter interest with its bright red branches.
SHORT SHRUBS (2-5 feet tall)
Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa). Red Chokeberry’s little brother.
Emerald Carousel®Barberry (Berberis ‘Tara’). An under-used shrub. Be the first on your block to plant one.
Gro-Low Sumac (Rhus aromatica ‘Gro-low’). Beautiful, tough, low-maintenance plant for large rock gardens and for covering banks, berms and tree lawns.
Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii). A reliable old standby.
Pawnee Buttes Sand Cherry (Prunus besseyi ‘Pawnee Buttes’). A plant is so tough that it survives being planted along highway interchanges and can be grown in elevations up to 9,000 feet.
Angelina Sedum (Sedum rupestre “Angelina’). A vibrant sedum that turns from yellow to reddish-orange in late fall and stays that color all winter.
Bloody Cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum). Produces lovely magenta-pink flowers and attractive deep-cut leaves.
Fire Chief Coral Bells (Heuchera ‘Fire Chief’). This striking plant boasts wine red leaves not only in the fall but throughout the growing season.
Leadwort (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides). This eye-catching groundcover displays blue flowers and copper-colored seed heads in late summer.
Winter Glow Bergenia (Bergenia cordifolia ‘Winterglut’). This evergreen, leathery-leaved groundcover provides year-round interest.
In case you’re wondering why the Autumn Purple Ash (Fraxinus americana) isn’t on the list, I have three words for you. . .Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). This insidious insect has now been tracked as far west as Kansas, according to the US Department of Agriculture. If it moves into Colorado, many ash trees may be killed by the borer or may have to be destroyed in an effort to slow the insect’s spread.