Top 10 Trees for Fall Color

There are few sights more breathtaking than red, orange, maroon, and yellow trees in fall, bursting with fiery fall color before the cold sets in. While there are a million and one reasons to love trees, the beauty and vibrancy they bring to our landscape is definitely at the top of the list. To sweeten the deal even more, trees significantly increase the value of your home, so if your yard is looking a little sparse, now is a perfect time to get a new sapling in the ground. 

The mild temperatures of fall are perfect for planting fall trees, because the hot summer weather can actually shock the roots and stress out the tree. Just make sure to apply a layer of mulch across the soil surface around the base of the tree to help insulate it during the colder months, and consider a tree wrap to keep it warm through the winter while it’s still young and vulnerable.

If you’re looking for a tree that delivers on vibrant, show-stopping fall color, look no further than these top ten trees to plant in the Midwest:

Autumn Blaze Maple: As the name suggests, this dazzling maple turns a blazing red shade once the temperature begins to dip. Another bonus with this variety is the speed of growth—it grows nearly four times faster than the standard red maple, around 3 feet per year if its soil conditions are ideal. At maturity, it will reach up to 40-60 feet tall, and 40-50 feet wide.

October Glory Red Maple: For some ultra-dramatic fall color, the October Glory will not disappoint. Its dark green leaves turn a rich crimson red and stay that way for several weeks, creating a brilliant contrast against the green, grassy landscape. Its another comparatively fast grower, and will reach about 40-50 feet high, with a more narrow spread of 25-35 feet.

Tulip Tree: Not only does this fabulous ornamental tree produce lovely yellow tulip-like flowers in late spring, but it turns a magnificent yellow shade in the fall. This tree—a member of the magnolia family—will light up your landscape with an ethereal, golden glow, so it’s rightly earned a reputation for being one of the best trees for fall color. It’s pretty colossal in size, too: it reaches up to 90 feet tall! One thing to keep in mind about the tulip tree is that its branches are a little more flimsy than most, and its flowers tend to drop, so you may need to do a bit more yard cleanup throughout the year, especially after a windy day. That being said, we certainly think this specimen is worth a little extra effort to enjoy its beauty. 

Princeton Elm: This is another favorite that really delivers on that warm, golden glow we just can’t get enough of. As soon as September rolls around, you’ll swear King Midas stopped by for a visit. It reaches up to 50-70 feet high, and 30-50 feet wide. The Princeton variety is certainly one of the tougher elms out there, with a much better resistance against Dutch Elm Disease and beetle infestations.

Sugar Maple: This list just wouldn’t be complete without mention of the sugar maple in fall—it’s pretty much the kingpin of fall color. Its characteristic pointed leaves turn fire engine red, just like the one on the Canadian flag. It earned its name from the sweet sap it produces, which is used to make—you guessed it—delicious maple syrup. They’re a little slower to grow, creeping up by about 1-2 feet per year, but eventually they’ll reach up to 75 feet tall and 50 feet wide.

Sweet Gum Tree in the Fall

Sweet Gum – Is a deciduous tree reaching heights of about 70 feet and a spread of 50 feet. Brilliant shades of yellow, orange, red, and purple make up a kaleidoscope of fall foliage. While very beautiful in any sunny landscape – however some gardeners develop a love hate relationship with the Sweet Gum tree for is messy habit of dropping prickly “gumball’ seed pods and requiring rich, acidic soils.

Autumn Gold Ginkgo: The distinctive fan-shaped leaves of the ginkgo tree are beautiful all year round, but they’re especially gorgeous in the fall when they transition to a vivid lemon yellow. Gingko trees are actually conifers, so they have male and female trees. We definitely recommend getting a male tree over a female tree, because the females produce fruit that are notoriously stinky. Slow but mighty, they’re one of the toughest and longest-lasting trees around, so the gusty winds of the midwest won’t faze them. Air pollution and salt from the streets won’t do much damage either, so if you live in the city, the gingko is a great option. At full maturity they can reach as high as 80 feet, so make sure you plant it in a spot with ample space.

Amur Maple: The glossy leaves of this Asian maple jump from one side of the color wheel to the other, starting out as a vibrant lime green, and then switching over to a bright tomato red. They’re really incredible during the early fall months when the leaves haven’t fully changed over, and the tree is covered in swirls of green, orange, yellow and red. In spring, little red flowers appear, and in the winter the stems appear red too, so there’s certainly no shortage of visual interest at any point throughout the year. It’s a bit on the smaller side, reaching 18 feet high and spreading 10 feet wide at maturity, so it’s a perfect fit for adding a pop of fall color to the front yard. 

River Birch: Is prized for its marvelous peeling bark texture in white, brown, and tan. These mature trunks offer sought after winter interest. The River Birch shines golden with outstanding yellow leaves – great for crisp fall color. River Birch is reaches a mature height of about 60 feet – with a more so rounded shape of finely textured leaves.

Burning Bush – This shrub made it to our fall color list as we couldn’t ignore the fiery tones offered by the Burning Bush. A perfect choice for wanting a compact garden shrub which turns brilliant reddish pink colors in fall. The warty brown bark and harvest gold branches are extremely showy and add significant winter interest as well!

Honorable Mentions

If you’re new to tree planting and need some guidance, don’t hesitate to visit us at one of our locations in St John, IN, or Frankfort, IL. One of our experts will be happy to help walk you through the necessary steps for successful tree planting. Now, go grab a pumpkin spice latte and soak in all of this beautiful fall color outside before winter sneaks up on us!

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