We often look to the mighty trees for fall color, but our shrub understories hold just as much magic. Autumn is the time both for planting shrubs and admiring their radiant hues. If you’re wondering what to plant this year, check out these bushes that blaze with warm colors as the temperatures begin to cool!
Little Henry Sweetspire
This sweetspire blazes crimson red for weeks in the autumn, but the leaves are only half of the story. In early summer, it bursts with fireworks of white flowers that bathe the air in sweet perfume before the lush green leaves take the spotlight. Rising 2-3′ in a compact shape, this three-season-star makes a perfect addition to any garden or outdoor room.
Low Scape Mound Chokecherry
The chokecherry is known for its abundance of astringent berries—it’s the most prolific wild berry on the plains—but this low-growing variety will win your heart with its spring blossoms and fall leaves. In the spring, it blooms with a profusion of ivory flowers. In autumn, the green leaves turn scarlet with undertones of maroon and hibiscus. The dark plum berries stay on the bush for winter interest, feeding any hungry birds. If you’re feeling bold, you could nibble a few yourself, but the primary advantage of this variety is its 12-16″ mounded shape—ideal as a small ornamental shrub.
You don’t need to wait until the fall to enjoy the bright leaves of this barberry. Though it displays tiny yellow flowers in the spring, they are outperformed by the radiant fall foliage! The leaves stay vermillion all summer long with an undergrowth of light green that blushes orange in autumn. This bush stands at a height and spread of 3-4′ with characteristic barberry branches that rise individually into the air.
Yuki Cherry Blossom Deutzia
Another low-growing stunner, the Yuki Cherry dazzles with fuchsia blossoms in spring, and its green leaves deepen to sangria purple in the fall. With a mounded shape of 1-2′ at maturity, it makes an excellent shrub for ground cover, containers, and a garden border. This beauty rarely needs pruning, except for the occasional haircut after it flowers. It loves the sun, resists deer, and attracts hummingbirds, with its bell-shaped flowers.
Tiger Eye Sumac
The Tiger Eye brings a distinctive character to the landscape with golden, fern-like leaves and a multi-leveled canopy. Its horizontal branches are reminiscent of the ginkgo tree, while at the same time recalling the lush woodlands of northern Illinois where sumacs grow wild. This shrub rarely suckers, making it stress-free to maintain, and displays gorgeous burgundy seed heads amidst its 6′ canopy. The fall season sees its most spectacular displays as the chartreuse leaves change to bright peach and crimson.
Larger than perennials, but shorter than trees, shrubs play a key role in blending the different layers of the landscape. Their role becomes all the more impressive in autumn when they compliment the golden canopy of trees and reveal dazzling colors of their own. If you’d like to add rich color to your landscape, drop by our garden centers in Carpentersville and Bloomingdale to find the best shrubs for your yard!
Platt Hill Nursery is Chicago’s premier garden center and nursery.