35 Fall Plants for Brilliant Seasonal Color

Black-eyed Susan

While wilting summer buds are a sad sight, indeed, cooler temperatures offer gardeners a whole new world of color. Crisp air means it's time for fall foliage and late-season blooms to shine. Seasoned gardeners know that a bit of pre-autumn planning can keep their landscape blazing with crimson leaves and cool-weather blooms all season long. But, where to start? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but if you ask us, you've got to take color into account when it comes to autumn plants. From classic fall shades of red, orange, and yellow to vibrant purple and pink blooms you might associate with warmer temperatures, there's an endless supply of options for colorful fall plants. And with all the entertaining the fall season has to offer, lively cut-flower blooms are sure to come in handy. Read on for 35 of the South's best fall plants—from shrubs and trees with bright leaves to late-blooming fall flowers—that thrive in the crisp autumn air.

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Chrysanthemum Flower

Chrysanthemum Flower
Cheryl Chan/Getty Images

Chrysanthemums say fall as much as turkey says Thanksgiving. Commonly known as mums, these blooms are an all-time fall favorite for a good reason. Available in an array of colors, including orange, red, yellow, and white, these autumn blooms are made for container gardens, pumpkin arrangements, and garden beds alike.

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Y Tng Jun/EyeEm/Getty Images

Dahlia blooms are beautiful and long-lasting, flowering from mid to late summer through autumn. A member of the Asteraceae family, it's no surprise this dramatic, cool-weather bloom is akin to the sunflower, zinnia, chrysanthemum, and daisy.

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Helenium Fall Flower

For a sun-loving perennial with vertical height and tri-color impact, you can't go wrong with velvety heleniums. Also known as sneezeweed, this autumn flower has dark-centered blooms surrounded by bright yellow, orange, or red petals. It is beloved by bees and other pollinators while hated by deer and rabbits.

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October Glory Red Maple

October Glory
Ralph Anderson

What's the most dependable tree in the South for spectacular red fall foliage? 'October Glory' red maple (Acer rubrum 'October Glory'). It grows 50 to 60 feet tall, and you can get it at most garden centers. September is a great time to plant.

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Oakleaf Hydrangea

Oakleaf Hydrangea
HenryPhotos/Getty Images

This Southern favorite offers seasonal displays year-round, but it really shows off in autumn. As a chill hits the air, colorful oakleaf hydrangea leaves can rival neighboring maple trees. The crimson and gold blaze lasts quite some time, too.

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Aster Fall Flower
Photo: King of Wallpapers

When summer blooms begin to fade, asters put on a vivid display. The late-summer and autumn blooms come in a myriad of different shades, including blues, reds, pinks, and purples.

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Southern Living

Hubricht's Bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii) is a fuss-free perennial that combines light blue spring flowers with dazzling yellow fall foliage. Discovered in Arkansas in 1942 by Leslie Hubricht, this native forms a clump about 3 feet tall and wide. Hubricht's Bluestar takes full to part sun and is very drought-tolerant once established.

Photo: Amsonia tabernaemontana, a Bluestar variety similar to the Amsonia hubrichtii

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Southern Living

They may be famous for spring buds, but you won't want to miss the splendor of dogwood in the fall. Among the first trees to show fall color, its leaves turn scarlet as red berries appear. Birds will flock to a dogwood's fruit, making this tree a favorite among birdwatchers.

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Blandy Ginkgo Grove
Photo: Roger Foley

These golden trees of fall are one of nature's oldest stunners. Seemingly overnight, elegant, fan-shaped leaves turn a vibrant, sun-bright yellow that makes even the simplest yard shine.

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Sedum Fall Flower
Gardening with Charlie Nardozzi

For standout fall color that requires very little attention, consider sedum. This drought-tolerant plant has fleshy leaves that hold moisture and clusters of colorful blooms that last late into the season. Depending on your garden, you can enjoy creeping, low-growers or tall, vertical sedums.

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Witch Hazel

Witch Hazel
Getty Images

The angled and zigzag branches on these fragrant shrubs offer bright fall foliage and unique cool-weather blooms. Plus, they're practically maintenance-free.

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Pitcher Plants

Pitcher Plants
Allen Rokach

Admit it: You hate bugs. So grow plants that eat bugs—pitcher plants (Sarracenia sp.). Native to the South, pitcher plants combine colorful flowers with striking, tube-like pitchers that trap and digest insects. They need sun and acid, moist soil.

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Spanish Bluebell

Spanish Bluebells
aimintang/Getty Images

Plant the best spring bulb no one seems to know about—the Spanish bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica). It stands 15 to 20 inches tall, loves our climate, and spreads steadily into glorious sweeps. It comes in white and pink, but blue 'Excelsior' is my favorite.

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Persimmon Tree

Persimmon Tree
Jennifer A Smith/Getty Images

With stunning deciduous foliage, which turns a vibrant red and orange in fall, and sweet fruits, persimmon trees are true charmers. Plant in full sun and you're sure to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

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Southern Living

If grass won't grow in a damp, shady area in your yard, grow moss instead. Moss stays green all year and doesn't need mowing, watering, fertilizing, or spraying. Mosses native to your area work best since they'll tolerate your climate best. So if someone you know loathes moss, generously take it off their hands.

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Confederate Rose

Confederate Rose
Ralph Anderson

You can't get more Southern than the Confederate rose (Hibiscus mutabilis 'Plena'), a shrub with late-summer and autumn flowers that change from white to pink to deep rose as they age. You often get all three colors at once. Cuttings root easily in water.

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Plentifall Pansies

Plentifall Pansies
Courtesy Ball Horticultural Company

Sick of pansies that turn to mush with the first fall freeze and don't bloom again until spring? Plant Plentifall pansies instead. These are among the first trailing pansies, each spreading 18 inches. Plant them in the ground to form solid sweeps, or let them cascade from containers. Plentifall pansies survive below-zero temps with little damage, so they should bloom for you from fall through spring.

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Andrei Berezovskii/Getty Images

Think blueberry bushes are just for summer picking? Think again. These shrubs are ablaze with color come cooler months. Leaves change to red, orange, or yellow combinations that offer a welcomed bonus to the plant's summer fruit.

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Smoke Bush

Smoke Bush
Marina Denisenko/Getty Images

Expect beautiful hues from this deciduous shrub come fall. The smoke bush, or Cotinus coggygria, turns orange, yellow, or a purple-red shade when the temperature drops, depending on the variety.

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Globe Amaranth

Globe Amaranth
Amarita/Getty Images

Clover-esque with colorful round buds, globe amaranth, or Gomphrena, is a reliable bud through the first hard frost. This versatile annual adds seemingly non-stop buds to garden beds and containers alike.

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Known for their clusters of tiny, five-petaled tubular blooms, this ground cover or filler plant is anything but boring. Verbena is a heat-loving plant that continues to bloom through fall. Butterflies love this bright bloom, so prepare for frequent, friendly visitors.

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Justus de Cuveland/Getty Images

Who can resist a plant that flowers in fall with pointed, two-lipped petals reminiscent of turtle heads? Chelone are native American wildflowers commonly known as Turtlehead for their striking resemblance. These hardy, low-maintenance blooms enjoy partial shade and offer lovely late-season color.

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Allison Miksch

These long-blooming, often-fragrant annuals and perennials grow about one foot tall and twice as wide. Also known as pinks, these fall beauties come in many colors and work well as a border or potted blooms.

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Southern Living

Spider lily (Lycoris radiata, pictured) and Surprise lily, also known as naked lady (Lycoris squamigera), send up foliage in the fall, which remains through spring, and then disappears. In August and September, spikes of flowers standing anywhere from 12 to 24 inches tall appear seemingly overnight without leaves. Spider lily has bright red flowers with long stamens that resemble spider legs. Surprise lily has pink, trumpet-shaped flowers. Both are easy to grow, spread into drifts, and last for generations. Bulbs are usually available by late spring.

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Steve Bender

Celosia's flame-like blooms are a real showstopper. This easy-to-grow annual, also known as Cockscomb, shows off with either upright plumes or bright twists that bloom in summer and fall.

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Variegated Solomon's Seal

Variegated Solomon's Seal
Photo: Ralph Anderson

Variegated Solomon's seal grows from a rhizome that slowly spreads to form a colony and is easy to divide. Arching stems up to 20 inches high carry rich green leaves edged in white. It has small, white, bell-shaped flowers suspended beneath the stems in spring. In October, the leaves turn bright yellow and fade to tan. Give this plant-rich, woodsy soil.

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Japanese Maple

Japanese Maple Tree with Fall Color
Getty/Kamal Zharif bin Kamaludin

Japanese maple is the perfect tree for most yards. It grows rather slowly and doesn't get big, so you'll hardly ever have to prune or move it. It comes in multitudinous forms—upright, weeping, dwarf, etc.—and leaves may have smooth edges or be finely dissected. Foliage often emerges in one color in spring, changes to another in summer, and finishes brilliant red, orange, or yellow in fall. For the best color, plant in full sun to light shade in fertile, well-drained soil.

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Common Witchhazel

Common Witchhazel
Steve Bender

This large, native shrub is multitrunked and grows about 15 feet tall and wide. It thrives in sun or light shade and well-drained soil. Large leaves turn bright yellow and gold before they drop in fall. When they do, they reveal clusters of fragrant, bright yellow flowers resembling eyelashes all along their branches. 'Little Suzy,' a compact selection growing four to five feet tall, is especially floriferous.

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American Beautyberry

American Beautyberry
Steve Bender

A feast for the eyes as well as the birds, the native American beautyberry bears tiny pink flowers in summer that give rise to imposing clusters of bright purple berries in late summer and fall. The shrub grows about six feet tall and wide and thrives in sun or light shade in either well-drained or moist soil. It becomes open and unkempt with time, so prune it back by half or more in winter.

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'Ruby Slippers' Oakleaf Hydrangea

‘Ruby Slippers’ Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Ruby Slippers’)
seven75/Getty Images

'Ruby Slippers' is a compact selection of the native oakleaf hydrangea. It grows about 3-4 feet tall and wide. Upright spikes of showy flowers open white in late spring to early summer and then age to reddish-pink. Large, oak-shaped, deep green leaves turn pink, scarlet, and burgundy in fall. Give this shrub light shade and acid, well-drained soil.

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Black-Eyed Susan

Black-eyed Susan

With bright yellow blooms lasting through October, this cheery plant practically ensures a smile. Sturdy and easy to grow, these flowers first bloom in early summer. Cutting encourages them to rebloom late in the season. A member of the sunflower family and also known as coneflower and Rudbeckia fulgida sullivantii 'Goldsturm', butterflies, bees, and a variety of insects enjoy this summer and fall floral. Plus, deer usually steer clear.

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moria heirloom bloom
Alison Gootee

This chrysanthemum is one of many variations of the popular fall flower that can keep a grower occupied year round. This moody flower can skew toward lavender or gray.

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Primrose Tennis

Primrose Tennis Heirloom Blooms
Alison Gootee

This mum variation is a long-lost variety being brought back by Harmony Harvest Farm in Weyers Cave, Virginia. When this bright chrysanthemum is in full form, it resembles its namesake ball shape. We might just be serving up this beauty in our next bouquet.

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Apricot Courtier

Apricot Courtier Heirloom Bloom
Alsion Gootee

Another beautiful, vintage mum, its warm orange petals are a bright spot on a traditional fall color palette. In full bloom, the cushion is large and lush.

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River City

Rive City Heirloom Blooms
Alison Gootee

This enchanting flower proves there is nothing quite like a mum when it comes to Fall florals. Featuring narrow, salmon-colored petals that curl, this mum benefits from being pruned lightly.

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  1. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Dahlia.

  2. Mahr S. Helenium, Helenium autumnale. University of Wisconsin Horticulture Division of Extension.

  3. University of Maine Cooperative Extension. Red Maple (Acer rubrum) Fact Sheet - Signs of the Seasons: A New England Phenology Program.

  4. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Hubricht’s Amsonia.

  5. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Amsonia tabernaemontana.

  6. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Common Dogwood.

  7. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Sedum.

  8. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Common Witchhazel.

  9. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Pitcher Plant.

  10. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Spanish Bluebell.

  11. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Persimmon.

  12. Moss W. Growing and Caring for Moss. The National Gardening Association Learning Library.

  13. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Confederate Rose.

  14. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Blueberry.

  15. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Smokebush.

  16. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Globe Amaranth.

  17. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Verbena.

  18. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Chelone.

  19. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Dianthus.

  20. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Spider Lily.

  21. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Naked Ladies.

  22. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Cockscomb Celosia.

  23. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Variegated Solomon’s Seal.

  24. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Japanese Maple.

  25. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Hamamelis virginiana 'Little Suzie.'

  26. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. American Beautyberry.

  27. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Oakleaf Hydrangea.

  28. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Black-Eyed Susan 'Goldsturm'.

  29. Longwood Gardens Plant Explorer. Chrysanthemum x morifolium 'Moira'.

  30. Longwood Gardens Plant Explorer. Chrysanthemum x morifolium 'Apricot Courtier'.

  31. Longwood Gardens Plant Explorer. Chrysanthemum x morifolium 'River City'.

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