University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
climates are noted for their brilliant displays of fall leaves,
maples. When many think of fall leaf
colors they think of trees, and perhaps shrubs, but not perennials even
many provide fabulous fall colors in landscapes.
in mind that the fall foliage display will vary among climates and
years. Mild, cloudy or rainy falls often result in
rather dull colors other than yellow.
Cool and clear days often result in bright reds, oranges, and purples.
Early frosts may stress leaves so that their developing colors, even if
subsequent weather is fine, wont be as bright.
If your fall colors are often dull, consider plants with colored leaves
all season that remain, and may intensify, with cooler fall
yellow to gold fall perennials consider bluestars (Amsonia), daylilies,
Siberian iris, and upright sedums. While
these are best in sun, for yellow in
shade you may plant Solomon's seals (Polygonatum)
and many ferns.
ornamental grasses provide yellow or gold leaves in fall. These
include selections of the moor grass (Molinia),
Japanese silver grass (Miscanthus
sinensis), and some bluish
switchgrasses such as 'Cloud Nine' or 'Northwind' that turn gold in
fall. Less hardy (USDA zone 5) for gold are
fountain grasses (Pennisetum
alopecuroides) such as 'Cassian' and
red fall perennials in sunny sites consider some geraniums such as
and 'Rozanne', some sedum such as 'Dragon's Blood', Bowman's roots
some euphorbias including the new 'Bonfire', and even some
peonies. Some of the brightest red fall
leaves are on
marginally hardy (USDA
zone 5) in the north. Bergenias, foamflowers, and foamy bells
provide some red leaf color in shade gardens.
grasses with reddish fall leaves include the marginally hardy (USDA
Japanese blood grass (Imperata)
and some of the switchgrasses (Panicum)
such as 'Rotstrahlbush', 'Shenandoah', and the new 'Ruby Ribbons' from
University of Connecticut. Flame grass (Miscanthus
purpurascens) turns tones of red and burgundy in sun, softer
peach colors in part shade. The less
hardy (USDA zone 5) Japanese Hakone grass (Hakonechloa) provides great yellow
stripes during the growing season, turning reddish in the fall. For a
grass effect don't ignore annual purple millets such as 'Purple
'Purple Baron', or 'Rubrum'-- the tender
perennial purple fountain grass (Pennisetum
leaves make good combinations with those that turn red or yellow.
perennials with purple leaves include
several sedum such as 'Purple Emperor' and 'Postman's Pride', black
such as 'Hillside Black Beauty' or 'Brunette', and the many dark-leaved
forget to consider backgrounds and partners for fall foliage. A white
light-colored wall, or silver foliage provides a nice contrast to reds
purples. Perennials with silvery leaves
include artemisias and lamb's ears (Stachys
byzantina). A rich green
background, such as from
evergreens or even a dark fence, sets off light colors and
Hellebores, Japanese pachysandra, and gingers
(Asarum) partner well under
and around taller yellows.