Native Shrubs with Brilliant Fall Foliage

By Kerry Ann Mendez

Rather than consider fall a farewell to another growing season, we should celebrate its unparalleled brilliance from foliage, berries, bark and stems. Last month I wrote about fall blooming perennials. Now it's time to showcase native shrubs with dazzling leaves.


Commonly called Bottlebrush, this member of the Witch Hazel family has pretty creamy white, fragrant flowers in spring, but it's the red, yellow and orange fall foliage that really draws the ahhs. Heights range from 3-8 feet and they will prefer a sun to part sun location in Zones 4-8.

Clethra alnifolia

Summersweet is named for its heavenly fragrance in late July and August. Their white or pink bottlebrush flowers will be highly attractive to pollinators and the foliage turns a gorgeous buttery yellow in fall. Heights will range from 2.5-8 feet and you'll get best results in a sun to part shade spot in Zones 3-8. A deer resistant choice!

Rhus aromatica

'Gro-Low' Sumac is a groundcover shrub (18-24" tall) with shiny, dark green leaves that turn bright burgundy-red in fall. Its yellow-green pendant flowers in spring will be followed by red fruit. 'Gro-Low' is a fantastic problem-solver for slopes and banks with poor, dry soil. Plant in sun to part sun in Zones 4-9.

Vaccinium corymbosum

Highbush Blueberry provides three seasons of interest between white spring flowers, yummy summer berries and stunning red foliage in the fall. Cultivar heights range from 4-12 feet. Plant in full to part sun in Zones 3-8.

These are just some of the sensational natives that we carry at Estabrook's. Stop by the nursery and see the "foliage fireworks" for yourself!

About the Author

KERRY ANN MENDEZ is an award-winning garden educator, author and design consultant based in southern Maine. Her latest book is The Budget-Wise Gardener. You'll now find her at Estabrook's consulting on garden design, answering your gardening questions and much more. Plus, don't miss her Garden Webinar series!

Kerry Ann Mendez