If you ask people their favorite thing about autumn, it’s a good bet that many would say the colors on the trees. Leaf colors in fall add a unique beauty that you only get to enjoy for a few weeks a year. Some trees make the most of this fleeting color show, putting out the most vivid and impressive colors of them all. We’ve collected a list of the most vibrant fall trees if you want to change the hue of autumn in your yard.
10 of the Most Colorful Fall Trees for Your Yard
There are many trees with leaves that change color once autumn rolls around. Choose from these fall favorites if you’re looking for the most brilliant color show.
Maples are probably the most famous of the changing autumn trees. When people schedule fall color tours, they’re likely going somewhere that boasts an abundance of maples. Sugar maple tree colors include bright yellow, burnt orange, red, or sometimes a mix of hues. This tree does best in medium-moist, well-drained soil with full sun to partial shade.
Many species of maples put out fall colors that can spruce up a yard. Red maples even have something red for any season: buds, blossoms, leafstalks, and leaves. In autumn, you can expect leaves ranging from red-orange to brilliant crimson. And if you haven’t had much luck growing trees before, the red maple tolerates a wide range of soils, making it easier to grow than some.
If you like yellow, you’ll enjoy river birch trees in the fall. In fact, most birches turn a gorgeous shade of yellow when the temperatures start dropping! The river birch turns a glorious golden-yellow that you can enjoy alongside its unique peeling white bark. River birches tolerate far wetter soils than many other trees and like full sun to partial shade.
Black tupelo, also known as black gum, has the honor of not only consistent but varied fall colors. It’s one of the best choices if you want a vibrant autumn, showcasing everything from yellow and orange to red and purple. It can even have multiple colors on the same branch, making this tree a standout when it comes to fall foliage. The black tupelo also has an added benefit; its late-spring flowers are an important food source for bees. Like the river birch, it can tolerate moist to wet soil.
Beech trees turn a beautiful bright-to-golden yellow or vivid orange during the fall season, but that’s not their biggest draw! Homeowners love the American beech because its leaves change later in the season and hold on to the tree longer than most other species. When the leaves finally do drop, the beech’s smooth silver bark is beautiful all winter. American beeches can be a little picky about their growing conditions; well-drained soil is a must. For the best chance at a flourishing tree, plant if your yard is moist and slightly acidic.
Versatility is the name of sassafras’ game! Sassafras leaves in fall range from yellow to orange-red to scarlet, and even deep purple. It also produces a lovely, aromatic smell and can grow in northern and southern states. Plant this tree in acidic soil that’s moist, but well-drained, and give it full or partial sun to let it thrive.
If the maple is the tree that “leaf peepers” travel to see in the northeast, the quaking aspen is THE fall foliage tree for the American West. Colors range from yellow-green, through the iconic golden yellow, and into light yellow-orange. Plus, quaking aspens get their name from the way their leaves dance in the wind; it’s as beautiful to listen to as it is to look at. They thrive in cold to mild climates and moist, acidic soil ranging from sandy to well-drained clay.
When it comes to oak tree fall color, the Shumard oak can’t be beat. Its glossy green leaves turn a rich, stately red that you can enjoy for decades from this long-lived tree. If you’re looking for a low-maintenance urban tree, the Shumard oak is perfect. This tree can adapt to drought, air pollution, compacted soil, and poor drainage.
This medium-sized tree is great for homeowners with smaller yards that still want to enjoy a colorful fall. The flaring bunches of narrow leaves turn an intense crimson or red-purple. More rarely, your sourwood may turn yellow during fall. You can also enjoy the sourwood’s fragrant lily-of-the-valley-style blooms in midsummer. For the best results, plant in well-drained, slightly acidic soil. However, with regular tree health care, a sourwood tree can also thrive in drier, neutral soil.
Okay, so it’s not a tree, but we can’t talk about vibrant fall leaves without mentioning the brilliant burning bush fall color! If you’d rather fill the space in your yard with a shrub over a tree, the burning bush earned its name from the brilliant red it turns in autumn. It does the best in well-drained loamy soil and shade, but it’s not a very picky plant. This bush can also thrive in full sun and most soils.
Why Do Tree Leaves Change Color in the Fall?
Changing leaves are an important part of a deciduous tree’s life cycle. Unlike evergreens, which keep green needles or leaves year-round, deciduous trees need to drop their leaves and enter a period of rest during winter.
In the summer, leaves are green because of chlorophyll, a pigment in plant cells that allows them to absorb sunlight to eat. As the temperature drops and trees receive less sunlight, the chlorophyll breaks down. For yellow and orange leaves, the chlorophyll breaks down and fades to show the original color of the leaves underneath the sun-absorbing pigment. Red and purple colors come from leaves with sugars and tannins that react to form new pigments.
Care for Your Colorful Trees with Help from the Best
If you want your trees to keep producing vivid fall colors, provide them with the care they need to thrive. Your local Monster Tree Service offers services from regular soil care that gives your tree all the necessary nutrients to trimming overgrowth to promote leaf and blossom growth. Get started helping your trees flourish when you call (888) 744-0155 or request an estimate online.