If you live in a climate with four seasons, you might view the coming of fall as the end of your colorful, gorgeous garden. But wait! What if you got to preserve that vivid color throughout the autumn months?
To help you do exactly this, we've selected twelve of the best shrubs and bushes that will add stunning color to your garden during fall. Some of them only bloom in late summer and early fall while others have foliage that turns brilliant shades of red and gold. What they all have in common, however, is the ability to keep your garden blooming beautifully well into the cooler months.
Bluebeard (Caryopteris) is an herbaceous shrub with purplish-blue flowers that grows 1' to 3' tall and 2' to 4' wide. Their spiky flowers bloom in late summer into early fall, making them a stunning autumn addition to your garden. Although Bluebeard is commonly seen with bright or silvery-green leaves, it comes with more colorful foliage options as well, including one with bright yellow leaves.
This shrub is a perennial and needs well-drained soil - it hates wet soil and is prone to root rot. However, it's highly drought-resistant after being established and thrives in full sunlight. Bluebeard grows best in the climates of Zones 5-9.
Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) is a medium-sized shrub with white spike-shaped blooms that appear in mid to late summer and dark green foliage that turns gold in the fall. A densely-growing plant that reaches heights of 5' to 8', it's very popular for planting in borders and the around the foundations of buildings.
With its strong preference for moist, slightly acidic soil, Summersweet is perfect for planting in damp, woodsy areas. Water it frequently during its first year to ensure the development of a deep, healthy root system. It thrives in partial shade to full sunlight in the climates of Zones 4-9.
3. Tea Olive Tree
The Tea Olive Tree (Osmanthus) is a small tree with small, intensely fragrant white blossoms that smell a bit like orange blossoms or jasmine. Their dense growth makes them ideal for hedges and privacy screens, although they also look stunning when planted on their own. Depending on the variety they reach heights of 6' to 30', and their sweet-smelling blossoms don't appear until October.
Tea Olive Trees grow best in the warm climates of Zones 8-10. They prefer full sun to partial shade and moist, acidic, well-drained soil. With their naturally pleasing, rounded shape, they don't need much pruning, but they can be pruned before new growth appears in the spring if you'd like to encourage a particular shape.
4. Burning Bush
The aptly-named Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus) is a shrub originating in China, Japan, and Korea that reveals its truly stunning appearance every fall when its leaves turn a fiery shade of red. It grows to heights of 6' to 7' tall and can be used as a hedge or a stand-alone tree.
One thing to be aware of, however, is that Burning Bush is an invasive species in North America, meaning it can easily take over and crowd out native plants. However, with proper care, you can grow this shrub in the controlled environment of your garden with no issues.
To achieve the most brilliant fall color, your Burning Bush should grow in full sunlight. It can tolerate any soil other than heavy clay but prefers well-drained alkaline soil in the climate of Zones 4-8. Although it needs to be watered deeply throughout the first year to encourage strong, deep roots, it only needs watering during droughts after reaching maturity.
5. Knock Out Roses
Knock Out Roses (Rose radrazz) are one of the most popular types of rose in North America. They come in several colors, but all grow on 3' to 4' tall shrubs full of lush foliage and require minimal care. Since they bloom in cycles of once every five to six weeks until the first hard frost, you'll have brilliant blooms all summer and into the fall as well.
Although Knock Out Roses do best in hot climates, they're hardy in Zones 5-10 and are also highly drought resistant. They grow best in full sun with well-drained soil of any type. Use a high-quality fertilizer after each bloom cycle to keep them healthy.
6. Gardenia Shrub
Gardenias (Gardenia jasminoides) are flowering shrubs with large, sweetly fragrant white flowers, beloved by gardeners in hot climates. They have thick, glossy dark green foliage that retains color all year round. Gardenia shrubs can range from 4' to 8' tall depending on the variety and are perfect planted individually or as a hedge. Or, plant one near a window so that each summer breeze wafting in brings the heady scent of its blossoms!
It's worth performing a soil test before planting your gardenias because they definitely grow best in slightly acidic soil. They also enjoy well-drained, evenly moist soil and two doses of fertilizer each growing season. Most varieties prefer Zones 7-9, but a few varieties can handle climates as cold as Zone 6 or as warm as Zone 11.
7. Butterfly Bush
The Butterfly Bush (Buddleja) is a shrub with long spiked flowers that look a little like lilacs in a variety of stunning colors. It gets its name from the fact that adult butterflies absolutely love its nectar, especially from the lavender-colored flowers.
The dwarf varieties are diminutive at 18", while the regular types can grow to heights of 7' tall. If you're in North America, just be sure to purchase a Butterfly Bush variety that is native to the southwestern U.S. instead of varieties that originated in Africa or Asia and are invasive outside their natural habitat.
The Butterfly Bush can grow in climates as cool as Zone 6, and remain evergreen all winter in Zone 8 and warmer. They thrive in full sun and slightly acidic, well-drained soil and should be watered frequently during their first year of growth. Prune them in late fall or early spring to encourage blossom production and maintain their shape - just be sure to leave the new growth.
8. Encore Azalea
The world's most popular reblooming azalea, the Encore Azalea (Rhododendron 'robles') is appropriately named since it blooms in spring, summer, and fall! This hybrid azalea will give you big, beautiful, tropical blooms on a 4' to 5' tall shrub with bright green foliage. It's a popular choice for hedges, garden borders, and beneath trees. Check out our article What to Plant Under Pine Trees? and you'll see that they're a great pair for pine trees.
Azaleas grow best in slightly acidic soil, and the Encore Azalea is no different. They also prefer well-drained soil with occasional deep soaks of water and partial shade, although they can also do well in full sun. Unlike many other azaleas that need warmer climates, Encore Azaleas grow well in Zones 6-11.
9. Yuletide Camellia
The Yuletide Camellia (Camellia sasanqua), native to China and Japan, is a medium-sized shrub with glossy, narrow leaves and fluffy red and fuchsia blossoms. It's a great way to add color to your garden in cold weather; the foliage is evergreen, and the flowers only bloom in the middle of winter. The Yuletide Camellia reaches heights anywhere between 5' to 10' tall and is often used as a hedge or an accent plant.
This flowering shrub prefers the milder temperatures of Zones 7 to 10. It grows best in partial shade but can also adapt to full sun, and appreciates moist, acidic, well-drained soil. It can be grown in the ground or in containers and should be protected from cold winds that could damage its buds and blossoms.
Pyracantha (Pyracantha), also known as firethorn, is a large evergreen shrub full of thorns and small white flowers that turn into red berries in the fall. Since it keeps its berries throughout the winter, it makes a picturesque addition to any garden. It quickly grows to 8' to 10' tall and is often used as a hedge, windbreak, border, fence, or as part of a rock garden.
For best results, grow your Pyracantha in average, well-drained soil in a sunny spot. It should be watered frequently during its first year, tapering off as it reaches maturity. The mild climate of Zone 7-9 is its preference.
The Bougainvillea is a shrub originating in South America that blossoms profusely with pink and red blooms. Known as a "flowering machine", it can bloom year-round in tropical conditions. However, its growing season often extends into the colder months and is actually more spectacular during winter in some warm locations. It's a versatile plant that can become a hedge, grow as a bonsai or topiary, climb a wall, or thrive in a pot.
Bougainvilleas aren't picky about the type of soil they grow in - they just need it to be well-drained. They need regular fertilization, particularly during their blooming season, and they also need lots of water. They grow best in Zones 9-11 but need to be brought indoors for the winter in a climate that is any colder.
12. Nandina Shrub
The Nandina shrub (Nandina domestica), also known as a heavenly bamboo or sacred bamboo, is actually not bamboo, but an evergreen with leaves that seasonally turn various colors and red berries. It's native to China and Japan, where it's also immensely popular, and can grow to 7' tall.
Depending on the variety, the foliage can be a variety of vivid colors including lime green, turquoise, crimson, pink, or copper. It's a beautiful shrub that adds color to the garden year-round, but be aware that it's toxic to most pets and is also considered invasive in several parts of the U.S.
Nandina shrubs prefer acidic, well-drained soil that gets either full sun or partial shade. The soil should be moist to the touch, but never soaking wet. It grows well in the temperature to warm climates of Zones 5 to 10.
You can also check out our article called 22 Small Evergreen Trees for Landscaping if you'd like to get additional inspiration for planning a garden that looks incredible no matter the season.