5 Small Trees for Brilliant Fall Color
By Danica Dodson, Arlington Parks & Recreation
Posted on October 14, 2020, October 14, 2020

Flowering Dogwood

Fall is a magical time of year, filled with vibrant leaves changing color and falling to the ground. If you want to bring some color to your landscape, there are many beautiful trees that look great in any season and don’t take up much space. APRD’s Urban Forestry Land Manager, Wendy Pappas, suggests these five small trees that you can plant to bring brilliant fall color to your own backyard.

  1. Flowering Dogwood

    The Dogwood tree is not only beautiful in the fall, but offers interest in every season all year long. In early spring, Dogwood can bloom in many different colors of white, pink, red, and anything in between. In summer, leaves will turn bright green. Fall will bring another gorgeous range of leaf color from red to deep purple. In the winter, Dogwood will grow bright red berries that birds love to eat. This is an ornamental tree that can grow up to 40 feet tall in optimal conditions. Most will grow to around 25 feet, though there are smaller varieties available. Dogwood trees are suited for USDA hardiness zones 5-9 and they do best in shade and soil that is more on the acidic side. One important note about Dogwood is that this tree loves water and cannot handle drought.
  2. Winged Sumac

    Winged Sumac trees like full sun and can grow anywhere from 7-15 feet tall and 10-20 feet wide. Much like Dogwood, this tree offers year-round beauty. Sumac blooms clusters of white flowers in the summer and grows berries in the winter. This plant has show-stopping fall color and turns a brilliant shade of red as autumn arrives. It is hardy in USDA zones 4-9, adaptable to many different soil types, and able to withstand drought. It’s important to note that Winged Sumac will reproduce rapidly if conditions are favorable.
  3. Witch Hazel

    While many people consider Witch Hazel to be a shrub, it can be grown as either a shrub or a tree. This plant prefers full sun or partial shade and has moderate needs for watering. Overall, Witch Hazel is a very low-maintenance plant and you won’t need to prune very often. It can grow anywhere from 15-20 feet in height and width, and is very forgiving and adaptable with regards to soil type. Witch Hazel grows beautiful yellow flowers and the leaves turn yellow in fall as well.
  4. Crepe Myrtle

    This Southern staple is a summer and fall favorite, and for good reason. This fast-growing tree usually blooms from July to September and flowers can range in color from white, red, pink, purple, or even almost orange. Depending on variety, Crepe Myrtles have brilliant fall leaf colors including red, orange, and yellow. Suited for USDA hardiness zones 6-10, this plant loves full sun and works in many different types of soil. Crepe Myrtles can be anywhere from 2-30 feet tall depending on variety. There is some potential for various issues that you could run into with this plant, including Crepe Myrtle bark scale and powdery mildew.
  5. Bottlebrush Buckeye

    This small tree will grow up to 12 feet tall and 15 feet wide. It is suited for USDA hardiness zones 4-8 and cannot handle drought conditions, so regular watering is important. The Bottlebrush Buckeye tree will bloom white, wispy flowers in June and July, and leaves will turn a bright yellow color in fall. Full to partial shade is ideal for this tree, and you won’t need to do much maintenance. The Bottlebrush Buckeye is very resistant to disease and tolerant of insects. 

Do you have a favorite fall tree? Not only do these bloom beautiful flowers in the spring, but they also offer the gorgeous fall vibrancy that everyone looks forward to all summer! If your conditions are right, try planting one or more of these small trees to bring unmatched beauty to your landscape this fall.

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