Best Shrubs for Fall Planting

Six Of The Best Shrubs to Plant This Fall

January 29, 2019
Witch Hazel

The gardening season is winding down. Last call for filling in those bare spots in your landscaping with a shrub or two.

Perennials are beautiful but once they have finished blossoming and are gone by, hardworking shrubs will still be there acting as a backdrop. Fall is a good time for planting and many garden centers are offering deep discounts on leftover trees and shrubs. Now that the weather is cooler, there is less stress on the newly planted shrubs—and on you! Digging planting holes isn’t quite as sweaty a chore in October as it was in August. Since it is autumn and prime leaf peeping time, why not look for something that has great fall foliage to give a final shot of color to your yard before winter.

Recommended Shrubs for Fall

Here are a few shrubs recommended by my local garden center not only for their autumn appeal but other seasons of interest as well:


  • Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) is one of the first shrubs to bloom bearing its fragrant yellow blossoms in late winter. A native plant hardy to zone 3, it can grow to be 12 to 15 feet tall and wide so give it plenty of room. It’s leaves turn bright orange in fall. Look for the reliable cultivar ‘Arnold’s Promise’.  Read more about Witch Hazel, a shrub worth knowing.


  • Fothergilla is in the same family as witch hazel but blooms later, usually in May before its leaves appear. It has honey-scented white flowers that look like fuzzy bottle brushes. There are dwarf varieties that grow to be only 2 to 3 feet tall, standards that are 5-6 feet tall, or you can opt for a large Fothergilla major that will top out at 10 feet tall. They all have orange-red to bright red fall foliage and prefer a spot that has afternoon shade.


  • Smokebush (Cotinus coggygria) is a gorgeous shrub in any season. Purple-leaved varieties such as ‘Royal Purple’ or ‘Velvet Cloak’ turn an even deeper shade of maroon in fall. They can grow to be 15 feet tall and wide and are hardy to zone 5.


  • Blueberries will add not only spring flowers and good fall color but sweet yummy fruit to your landscape as well. ‘Jersey’ is a late season variety that grows to be 6-7 feet tall and bears plenty of fruit. Learn how to plant blueberries.


  • Red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia) ‘Brilliantissima’ is another multi-stemmed shrub that offers interest for all seasons. It has fragrant white flowers in spring that attract a wide range of beneficial insects, glossy red fruits that persist into winter for the birds, and brilliant red fall foliage. This native is a great alternative to  the invasive burning bush (Euonymus alatus). It grows 6 to 10 feet tall and 3 to 5 feet wide.


  • Japanese maples (Acer palmatum) are my favorite little trees. There are many to choose from, some have red foliage year-round while others change to golden yellow, bronze, or bright orange in the fall. They come in a wide range of sizes too, from 3 foot tall dwarf forms to 15 to 20 foot tall trees.


An interesting one to look for is the Full Moon Maple ‘Jordan’. It has yellow-green leaves that turn orange-red in the fall. It grows 15 feet tall and 12 feet wide and does best in a shady location.

Shrubs and small trees are the basic building blocks of your garden and there are many more that will steal the show in any season. Check out what your local garden center has to offer and get planting!

See more about shrubs and trees for a fall garden


About This Blog

Get inspired by Robin Sweetser’s backyard gardening tips and tricks. Robin has been a contributor to The Old Farmer’s Almanac and the All-Seasons Garden Guide for many years. She and her partner Tom have a small greenhouse business and also sell plants, cut flowers, and vegetables at their local Farmer’s Market.