Sunday, October 20, 2013
Posted By: in Trees

With the onset of autumn we look toward putting the garden to rest for the winter months but while we labour a spectacular display of colour sits just above our heads. These would be trees with great fall colour.

What causes the leaves to change colour in the fall?

Trees for Fall Colour

Weather plays an important role and affects both the colour intensity and its duration. What we have had this year would be considered perfect conditions for a spectacular fall display: a hot dry summer followed by a cool rainy fall. As the days grow shorter and the temperatures drop colours start to emerge beneath their blankets of green. Warm sunny days and cool clear nights trigger one of nature's most spectacular displays. Trees begin their preparation for winter by shutting down photosynthesis in the leaves which reduces the green pigment revealing the colours underneath. In some trees, especially maples, sugars that are trapped in the leaves when photosynthesis stops are turned red by the autumn sunlight and cool nights.

Acer griseum - Paperbark Maple

 

Acer griseum - Paperbark Maple

Highly ornamental small tree with peeling cinnamon coloured bark and small trifoliate leaves of bluish-green. It is a perfect fit for today's smaller gardens. Fall colour can be variations of red, rust and brown. Full sun in well-drained soil. Height: 6-9m Spread: 3-6m Zone: 4

acer palmatum - Japanese Maple Fall Colour

Acer palmatum var. - Japanese Maple

Available in a bewildering variety of sizes, forms and colours they can be single or multistemmed small trees or low shrubs. They are quite happy in either full sun or light shade and tolerate most soil types as long as there is proper drainage (they hate wet "feet"). Fall colour ranges from yellow, orange, red and purple. Height/Spread: Varies Zone: 5

Amelanchier spp. - Serviceberry

Hardy, fast growing upright shrubs to small trees with light grey bark and rounded dark green leaves. White flowers in early spring are followed by edible purplish black berries. Fall colour can be brilliant red, purple-bronze and brick red to yellow. Height/Spread: Varies Zone: 3-4

Katsura Tree - Cercidiphyllum japonica

Cercidiphyllum japonicum - Katsura

Beautiful tree with a dense pyramidal habit in youth becoming more rounded (like the rest of us!) with age. Leaves open reddish-purple gradually changing to bluish-green. Fall colour is yellow to apricot with the added bonus of the sweet scent of candy floss gently wafting through the warm autumn air. Prefers a moist, well-draining soil; will stress and drop leaves during periods of drought. Height: 15-20m Spread: 12-15m Zone: 4

Cornus - Dogwood Fall Colour

Cornus spp. - Dogwood

C. florida, C. kousa and C. nuttallii all make small to medium low-branched trees with upright spreading habits that develop into a rounded crowns. White or pink flowers in spring. Foliage is green through the spring and summer seasons turning red and purples in fall and may last several weeks. All prefer partial shade in cool, moist soils. Height: 6-8m Spread: 6-8m Zone: 5-6

Ginkgo Fall Colour - Maidenhair Tree

Ginkgo biloba - Maidenhair Tree

Unique tree from China with an upright habit that develops into a broad pyramidal crown. Leaves are bright green and fan-shaped; brilliant golden yellow in fall. Full sun in well-drained soil. Height: 15m Spread: 10m Zone: 3

Sweetgum Tree - Liquidambar Fall Colour

Liquidambar styraciflua - Sweetgum

Fast growing tree with star-shaped, dark glossy green leaves and a neat pyramidal crown that becomes more rounded with age. Cork-like greyish brown deeply furrowed bark adds interest through the seasons and especially during the winter months. Fall colouring is fairly consistent and can vary depending on cultivar from yellow to apricot-orange and purple-red. Full sun. Height: 18m Spread: 12m Zone: 5

Japanese Stewartia Tree - Stewartia pseudocamellia

 

Stewartia spp.

Highly desirable small to medium growing tree that forms a pyramidal to oval crown. Bark is sinuous and smooth with patches of soft grey-green over orange-brown. Single petaled white flowers June into July; very elegant. Leaves are dark green through the growing season becoming yellow, red or purplish-red in fall. Sun to partial shade in well-drained soils. Height: 8-12m Spread: 7-10m Zone: 5

Japanese Snowbell Tree - Syrax japonica

Styrax japonicus - Japanese Snowbell

Small to medium growing tree with wide spreading horizontal branches that form a broad-rounded crown. Hanging clusters of fragrant, dainty bell-shaped white flowers; May into June. Leaves are medium to dark green in summer and change to yellow or shades of red in fall. Full sun to light shade in well draining soils. Height: 7-8m Spread: 8m Zone: 5

Some other great trees for fall colour:

  • Betula - Birch
  • Carpinus- Hornbeam
  • Cercis - Eastern Redbud
  • Euonymus
  • Fagus - Beech
  • Fraxinus - Ash
  • Nyssa
  • Oxydendrum - Sourwood
  • Parrotia - Persian Ironwood
  • Pyrus - Flowering Pear
  • Quercus - Oak
Lyle Courtice A.H.

Lyle Courtice A.H.

Lyle is a certified Horticultural Technician (Niagara College), Landscape Designer, Nurseryman and the proprietor of HarkAway Botanicals.

Since 1980 Lyle has worked in both the retail and wholesale sectors of the horticultural trade; he operates his own wholesale nursery, which focuses on an eclectic mix of rare and choice plant material from Asia, Europe and North America. Lyle has appeared on The Canadian Gardener and is a contributing author to A Grower’s Choice (Raincoast books 2001).

His horticultural expertise makes him sought after as a consultant, lecturer, photographer, instructor and writer. An industry veteran, Lyle is esteemed within the horticultural community for his passionate and often humorous enthusiasm for plants.

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