10 Exceptional Red Foliage Plants for Fall

Ilona Erwin

These plants have exceptional fall color. They are fine examples of how you can include bright red autumn foliage into a variety of garden spaces, from the humble Strawberry plants to the sophisticated Japanese maple.

During the growing season the leaves produce plenty of chlorophyll, but once cooler temperatures signal the coming winter hibernation the chlorophyll is destroyed and other pigments become apparent. If you’d like to see some red in your landscape try planting these choices. [Learn more about changing leaf color] [Anthrocyanins and Purple Foliage]

  1. Red maples (Acer rubrum), especially ‘Red Sunset
  2. Black gum trees (Nyssa sylvatica)
  3. Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum)
  4. Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia), especially ‘Brilliantissima
  5. Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica), if your soil is not alkaline
  6. Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum dissectum), Red Laceleaf especially ‘Crimson Queen’
  7. Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina), or the Prairie sumac (Rhus lanceolata)
  8. Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) is a native vine that turns a bright red.
  9. Strawberry Plants (Fragaria vesca and hybrids)

strawberry foliage

Strawberry foliage by Rebecca_bexxi

A way to best arrange fall foliage effects is to mimic the way nature presents golds and bright oranges next to crimson reds. There are times when the whole is far greater than any particular detail, and this is particularly true of  fall color impact.  So many people are seduced by the Euonymous alatus (Burning bush), with its unusual scarlet color, that they plop it where its color stands out all alone in the yard. It tends to look distracting and out of place…. even though it does create a loud statement.  Far more beautiful is a range of warm harmonies that create a picture of bright fall colors, including scarlets and reds. This is the way I like best to see a fall foliage display. It is also why streams of people love to travel the New England states which hold forth with exciting displays of all sorts of trees vying for attention against the intense blue sky of fall.

In my garden the Chinese dogwood, Cornus Kousa sometimes has delicious dark red foliage, especially beautiful when the sun shines through it.

Cornus kousa

Cornus kousa foliage

Don’t forget red fruits as a way to include more red in the autumn, and even winter, landscapes.
Ten Winter Features to continue crimson into yet another season.

…from My Journal

Surprise of Fall Color | Ten Autumn Features

**Thanks to Rebecca (strawberry foliage) and Simon Dean (sumac foliage) for sharing their fine photos on Flickr.

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Ilona Erwin, author

Meet the Author

Ilona Erwin

I started working on this website beginning in 1998, when it was part of Ilona's Reflecting Pool. Since then I've branched out into a number of online endeavors and work at writing lots of content for my sites. "Ilona's Garden" remains my primary site and is dedicated to home gardener's success.