Tree with orange leaves

Orange Fall Color – Types Of Trees With Orange Leaves In Autumn

Trees with orange fall foliage bring enchantment to your garden just as the last of the summer flowers are fading. You may not get orange fall color for Halloween, but then again you may, depending on where you live and what trees with orange leaves you select. What trees have orange leaves in fall? Read on for some suggestions.

What Trees Have Orange Leaves in Fall?

Autumn tops the list of many gardeners’ favorite seasons. The laborious planting and tending work is done, and you don’t have to expend any effort to enjoy your backyard’s stunning fall foliage. That is, if you selected and planted trees with orange fall foliage.

Not every tree offers flaming foliage in autumn. The best trees with orange leaves are deciduous. Their foliage blazes as they wilt and die during summer’s end. What trees have orange leaves in fall? Many deciduous trees can fit into that category. Some reliably offer orange fall color. Other trees’ leaves may turn orange, red, purple or yellow, or a fiery mix of all these shades.

Trees with Orange Fall Foliage

If you want to plant deciduous trees with reliable orange fall color, consider the smoke tree (Cotinus coggygria). These trees thrive in sunny sites in USDA zones 5-8, offering small yellow blossoms in early summer. In autumn, the leaves blaze orange-red before they fall.

Another good option for trees with orange leaves: Japanese persimmon (Diospyros kaki). You’ll not only get vivid leaves in autumn. The trees also produce dramatic orange fruit that decorate the tree branches like holiday ornaments much of the cold season.

If you haven’t heard of the stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia), it’s time to take a look. It definitely makes the short list of trees with orange fall foliage for USDA zones 5-8. For big gardens only, the stewartia can rise to 70 feet tall. Its attractive, dark green leaves turn orange, yellow and red as winter approaches.

The common name “serviceberry” may call to mind a shrub but, in fact, this small tree (Amelanchier canadensis) shoots up to 20 feet in USDA zones 3-7. You can’t go wrong with serviceberry as trees with orange leaves in autumn—the foliage colors are amazing. But it’s also got lovely white blossoms in spring and great summer fruit.

If you live in a warmer area, you’ll love the garden classic, Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) that thrives in USDA zones 6-9. The lacy leaves glow with fiery fall color, along with many other maple varieties.

Get Colorful Fall Foliage with These Trees

Nothing else signals the seasonal shift as beautifully as these native trees By Mike MacCaskey


North America is endowed with special trees, and that’s especially apparent in fall when forests of the northern and eastern areas of the country display colors that are unsurpassed anywhere in the world. Maples, oaks, and sassafras are just some of the many native trees that make a good show.

SUGAR MAPLE (Acer saccharum)
Closing the season with a bang, gray-black branches snake through clouds of yellow and burnt orange leaves in a fall scene that is a familiar herald of the coming winter and entirely miraculous. Photo by: Paul Rezendes.


The native American trees shown here are flat-out gorgeous in fall—several in other seasons, too. Among them, they have blanketed much of the eastern half of the continent for thousands of years, and they adapt well to most gardens. These are not fragile exotics or prima donnas.


Several of the species are very hardy, dominating the boreal and frigid Zones 1 through 4. Most grow well into Zone 8 and a few into Zone 9.


Many of the larger trees require full sun. Dogwood, apple serviceberry, sassafras, vine maple and Franklin tree like some shade.


There are native trees for most any type of soil, but most do best in soil that is well-drained.


Plant in fall where winters are mild (Zones 7 to 9) or in spring once soil can be worked. Choose only nursery-grown plants sold in containers or balled and burlapped. Make the planting hole at least three times as wide as the original root ball and no deeper.


Photo by: David Middleton.

1. VINE MAPLE (Acer circinatum)

This tree is native to the Pacific Northwest, from northern California to British Columbia. In fall the leaves turn orange scarlet or yellow. You’ll usually find it growing in a sprawling, crooked form along streams or under the shade of much taller trees. In the open, it is symmetrical and treelike.

Zones: 6 to 9

Height: Up to 35 feet

Photo by: Mark Turner.

2. FRANKLIN TREE (Franklinia alatamaha)

John Bartram, America’s first naturalist, and son William found this tree in 1765 on the banks of Georgia’s Altamaha River and named it in honor of Benjamin Franklin. White flowers in late summer; orange-red leaves. The tree needs rich, moist, acidic, and well-drained soil.

Zones: 6 to 8

Height: Up to 20 feet

Photo by: Rob Cardillo.

3. WASHINGTON HAWTHORN (Crataegus phaenopyrum)

Leaves turn orange, scarlet, and purplish in fall; stems are thorny. Glossy red fruits hang on through winter or as long as birds and squirrels allow.

Zones: 4 to 8

Height: Up to 30 feet

Photo by: Mark Turner.

4. APPLE SERVICEBERRY (Amelanchier x grandiflora ‘Autumn Brilliance’)

A small, delicate tree with early white blooms before leaves emerge. Leaves turn orange red in fall. Purple-black fruits are edible and much loved by wildlife.

Zones: 4 to 9

Height: Up to 25 feet

Photo by: David Middleton.

5. RED OAK (Quercus rubra)

One of the dominant trees of the Northern forests by virtue of both size and abundance. Leaves turn crimson, orange, and russet in fall. Acorns serve as a major wildlife food.

Zones: 3 to 7

Height: Up to 75 feet

Photo by: Mark Turner.

6. QUAKING ASPEN (Populus tremuloides)

There are more square miles of this tree in North America than any other. Roundish leaves shiver in the slightest breeze, and turn gold to orange.

Zones: 1 to 6

Height: Up to 50 feet

Photo by: Eliot Cohen.

7. DOGWOOD (Cornus florida)

In the East, spring is largely about dogwoods. In fall, leaves turn red purple; bluebirds love the glossy red berries. Hybrids with C. kousa are more resistant to disease.

Zones: 6 to 9

Height: Up to 30 feet

Photo by: Eliot Cohen.

8. SASSAFRAS (Sassafras albidum)

Female trees produce dark blue fruits that bluebirds, catbirds, vireos, and quail readily consume. Lobed or mitten-shaped leaves turn yellow, orange, scarlet, and purple. Tough to transplant: Plant small containerized trees.

Zones: 4 to 9

Height: Up to 50 feet

Photo by: Jerry and Marcy Monkman.

9. BITTERNUT HICKORY (Carya cordiformis)

This tree is usually first to change leaf color—from green to yellow. Winter buds are bright yellow. Host tree for luna and giant regal moths.

Zones: 4 to 9

Height: Up to 75 feet

Photo by: Rob Cardillo.

10. SUGAR MAPLE (Acer saccharum)

Four states and Canada choose it as their symbol, which says volumes about the significance of this tree. Wildlife food source.

Zones: 3 to 7

Height: Up to 75 feet

Photo by: Susan A. Roth.

11. AMERICAN PERSIMMON (Diospyros virginiana)

Female trees produce edible fruits, though smaller and less tasty than Asian persimmons. Fall color is yellow green in the North, yellow to reddish purple in the South. For best fruit, buy a variety such as ‘Woolbright’.

Zones: 4 to 9

Height: Up to 60 feet


  • There’s no way to predict fall color. The genetics of the plant play a major role in timing and color intensity, but so do weather and various other environmental factors.
  • Best color occurs during autumn when the shortening days are bright, sunny, and cool, nights are cool but not below freezing; and when the trees are healthy and not stressed by drought or pests.
  • Yellow and orange carotenoid colors emerge as the green chlorophyll fades and no longer masks them.
  • Red hues, caused by anthocyanins, develop in fall when sunlight is bright and phosphate moves from leaves into roots. The brighter the sun, the more anthocyanin and the more brilliant the color.

This article was adapted from its original version for use on the web.

Autumn Gardening
Selecting Trees for Fall Color

9 Trees With Spectacular Fall Foliage

The changing colors of leaves is one of the best parts of fall—but what determines which colors will appear?

Leaves change color as the trees stop making chlorophyll, the sun-absorbing molecule that is vital to photosynthesis and gives them their green hue. As the green pigment of the leaves fades, we begin to see the other pigments present. (You can read more about the science of fall colors here.)

While some of the panoply of fall hues in a forest depends on factors like weather and geography, different tree species tend toward certain colors when their chlorophyll-green leaves are exposed to the shorter days of fall.

Here are 9 species—some well-known, others slightly more obscure to the non-tree nerds among us—to watch out for if you want to see a full rainbow of foliage colors this fall. And if you’ve got another fall foliage favorite, let us know in the comments!


Colorado’s favorite tree turns a brilliant gold as the weather cools. Genetics play a role in determining when leaves change colors due to the chemical balance within the leaves. Since aspens reproduce by cloning (through a root system that expands underground), you can see which trees are genetically identical—if there are a bunch of bright yellow trees standing out in a forest that’s still largely green, that probably means those trees are all clones.


Also known as the black gum tree, Nyssa sylvatica is one of the first trees to show its fall colors during the year. Before it becomes a solid mass of bright red, its leaves can turn purple, yellow, and orange.


This common tree (whose leaf serves as the Canadian national symbol) turns a host of different colors at the same time. Its leaves turn yellow, orange, red, and every hue in between. The Acer saccharum is native to many parts of the eastern United States and Canada.


A chokecherry shrub in Nevada. Image Credit: Famartin via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

The Prunus virginiana starts out the year with green leaves, but by summer they turn purple. Once fall comes, they morph from red to reddish purple, ensuring a broad range of colors throughout the year.


Sassafras albidum, the tree that lends root beer its flavor, makes for a spectacular fall display. Its three-lobed leaves can turn yellow, orange, red, and even a pinkish color in autumn.


Miss the boat on your fall foliage road trip? The Bradford pear, a landscape tree originally native to China and Vietnam, is one of the last trees to change colors in the fall, morphing into a luscious maroon.


Cercidiphyllum japonicum, a flowering tree native to Japan, turns bright yellow and pinkish red during the fall. Moreover, when its leaves finally drop, the tree has a sweet aroma that passersby liken to burnt sugar or cotton candy.


The tall Fagus grandifolia, found in forests throughout eastern North America, features golden brown foliage in the fall, a color offset by its pale white bark.


Image Credit: Dan Mullen via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Viburnum acerifolium

is technically more of a bush than a tree (it’s related to honeysuckle), but its fall colors make up for its small stature. Late in the year, its sharp leaves turn pinkish-purple.

Need to know when to go on your next foliage-finding adventure? Make sure to check a foliage prediction map.

All images from iStock unless otherwise noted.

Shrubs that Burst into Color for Fall

The best gardens have plants that add color and interest in all seasons. Spring and summer are usually pretty simple to fill with color. It can take a bit more planning to keep the garden looking great late summer into fall and winter. However, with a bit of careful plant selection your garden can brim with interest in every season. This article covers some perennials that will add late summer and fall color. Now we are going to concentrate on shrubs.

Shrubs are a natural source for adding late summer and fall colors, after all fall is known for the colorful foliage of deciduous trees and shrubs. However, fall color in shrubs certainly isn’t limited to foliage. Flowers, seed pods and berries are additional sources of interest. Today’s newer shrubs are powerhouses that can provide interest in multiple seasons. The choices are almost limitless, but here are a few that we feel are especially good performers.

New and improved Hydrangeas are being introduced every year and it seems like there is at least one that works for any situation. Late summer and fall interest are no different, where Hydrangea paniculata shines. Two of the best cultivars are ‘Limelight’ and Little Lime™. They start blooming in mid-summer, when they show off lime-green flowers. As the flowers mature they turn white, then light pink, then deep rose and eventually turn cinnamon brown and persist into the winter where they continue to add value to the landscape. ‘Limelight’ isn’t an especially large plant, although under ideal conditions and without pruning it can reach up to 8 feet tall. With yearly pruning, it can easily be kept under 6 feet tall. The better choice, if you are looking for compactness, is Little Lime™ which tops out at 5 feet tall without pruning. Both are hardy in zones 3 to 9 and do well in part sun to sun. If you are in a climate with hot summers, afternoon shade is helpful more for the impact on moisture than heat. Consistently moist soils will help keep the flowers fresh and looking good for the duration of their bloom. Fire Light™, a brand new introduction for spring 2014, is one to watch for the future. The fall flower color is an especially deep pink. Hardy in zones 3 to 8.

It is possible that Brandywine™ Viburnum nudum is the perfect plant. It has glossy foliage which turns dark maroon-red in fall. It blooms with white flowers in spring which become clusters of vivid pink and blue berries in fall. It will have good berry set without a pollinator plant, but adding a pollinator (‘Winterthur’ is a good one) will really amp up the number of berries. It is a native plant that has good deer resistance and it attract birds. It grows up to 6 feet tall, is hardy in zones 5-9, prefers sun to part sun and does best with moist, well-drained soil. If pruning is necessary, do so shortly after flowering. However, leave the flower clusters so that you are able to enjoy the fall berry display.

Red Wall™ Parthenosisus (Virginia creeper) is another native plant with great fall color. The foliage is deep green through spring and summer, then turns fire-engine red in the fall. It does produce blue berries in fall, but it’s the red foliage color that is its calling card. It is fast growing and salt tolerant and can quickly turn a fence into a mass of foliage and amazing autumnal focal point. It is hardy in zones 3-9 does best in shade to part shade.

Caryopteris begins flowering in late summer showing off blue to purple flowers through fall. The shrubs are drought tolerant, once established, not very tasty to deer and are attractive to butterflies. They are hardy in zones 5-9, prefer a sunny location and good drainage. Petit Bleu™ has dark green, glossy foliage and tops out at only 30 inches tall. Sunshine Blue® II gets about 4 feet tall and has the added interest of golden yellow foliage all season. The contrast of blue flowers with the sunny foliage is gorgeous. The newest addition to our lineup of Caryopteris is Lil Miss Sunshine™. This plant was created by crossing Petit Bleu™ and Sunshine Blue® II which resulted in a compact, 36 inches tall, shiny,yellow foliaged plant with loads of amethyst-blue flowers. How can you not love that!

Ghost™ Weigela starts out with green foliage and deep reddish-pink flowers in spring. Light pruning will encourage repeat blooming throughout the summer and often a second heavy bloom period in fall. Over the course of the summer the foliage becomes butter-yellow. It is deer resistant, about 5 feet tall, prefers a sunny location and is hardy in zones 4-8. It is best with well-drained soil, but can adapt to a range of soil types.

Itea is an often over-looked native plant with truly outstanding fall foliage color. While other Iteas tend to be quite large, Little Henry® is well-behaved, getting only 3 feet tall or so. In addition to the brilliant fall folige, white, lightly scented flowers appear in summer. In nature, it is usually found in moist areas, but once established can be quite drought tolerant. It is a versatile plant, doing will in both sun and shade, although fall foliage color is best when the plant is grown in a sunny locale. It is deer resistant, the butterflies love it and it is hardy in zones 5-9.

Purple Pearls™ Callicarpa (beautyberry) is another shrub that produces a copious show of purple berries in fall that appear after the pink flowers fade away. The foliage is deep green, tinged with purple. The purpling is most pronounced in fall when the berries appear. This shrub is about 5 feet tall, prefers full sun and well-drained soil. It is deer resistant and hardy in zones 6-8.

While Abelia, in general, provide fall interest – they begin to flower in mid-summer and continue until frost – Ruby Anniversary™ is an especially showy fall plant thanks to glossy ruby-red fall foliage. A fairly large plant, up to 6 feet, it is deer resistant, fragrant and attractive to butterflies. It is best in sun to part sun and is hardy in zones 5-9.

From blazing foliage, to pretty flowers and showy berries, shrubs are a great way to add interest to your late summer and fall garden.

Patent Info: ‘Limelight’ Hydrangea paniculata PP: 12874 Can. PP: 2319; Little Lime™ Hydrangea paniculata ‘Jane’ PPAF Can. PP: 3914; Fire Light™ Hydrangea paniculata ‘SMHPFL’ PPAF Can. PBRAF; Brandywine™ Viburnum nudum ‘Bulk’; Red Wall™ Parthenocissus quinquefolia ‘Troki’ PPAF; Petit Bleu™ Caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Minibleu’ PP: 14674 Can. PP: 2317; Lil Miss Sunshine™ Caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Janice’ PPAF Can. PP: 3911; Ghost™ Weigela florida ‘Carlton’ PP: 20025 Can. PBRAF; Little Henry® Itea virginica ‘Sprich’ PP: 10988; Purple Pearls™ Callicarpa ‘NCCX1’ PPAF Can. PBRAF; Ruby Anniversary™ Abelia chinensis ‘Keiser’ PP: 21632 Can. PP: 3910; Sunshine Blue® II Caryopteris incana ‘SMNCVH’ USPPAF.

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Shrubs and Other Plants with Incredible Fall Colors

As if adjusting to the colder temperatures, windy conditions, and sudden storms isn’t enough, fall also sees the demise of many plants and lots of foliage decay. The whole thing is slightly depressing, but one of the best ways to cheer up is to take a walk or drive where the seasonal color is radiant.

Bringing these seasonal tones into your landscape can also buoy you and any passersby with grin producing gold, scarlet, rust, burgundy, and more vivid hues. Although the color show is brief, planting specimens with definite seasonal changes that occur at different times of the fall will extend and enhance the total effect.

Why Leaves Change Colors

Leaves change color in fall as part of senescence. This is a process the plant undergoes to get ready for winter. The leaf colors plants display in autumn are actually there all year but show up in fall due to diminished warmth and sunlight, which reduces chlorophyll. While preparing to drop leaves to reduce respiration and winter damage, plants also reduce production of chlorophyll, the substance that makes leaves green, and store nitrogen in roots.

The fact that the tree is just trying to protect itself is interesting, but the amazing thing for us is the palette in which it achieves its goals. We can use that palette to our advantage to create a painting of intense color in our landscapes.

Reliable Fall Beauty Through Trees

One of the best known species for seasonal color is the maple. There are many varieties, and each produces a distinct color show. However, maples aren’t the only performers on this stage. Trees like gingko blaze showcase rich yellow tones, and burning bush euonymous turns hot pink like a flamingo. Other possible subjects for permanent autumn displays might be katsura, witch hazel, redbud, sourwood, sassafrass, aspen, or sweetgum.

Placing plants that turn amazing colors in fall in your landscape turns a ho hum pre-winter garden into a thing of stunning beauty. Select species that are hardy in your zone, and select natives whenever possible. The natural beauty of your local forests can give you a cue as to which plants feature the tones you want and which plants will thrive in your area.

Seasonal Color with Shrubs

You can bring fall into your garden with both trees and shrubs. Shrubs offer easy maintenance due to their short stature, but they can be some of the biggest stars of the autumn display.

Sumac is a common plant that comes in several cultivars. Each has unique fall color that ranges from maroon to golden yellow with pink stems. Fothergilla is known for its scented blooms, and if planted in full sun, it rewards yet again with scarlet foliage in October. Common witch hazel develops yellow edged with orange leaves, while oakleaf hydrangea leaves melt from orange to deeply pinkish red. Golden spicebush, pink highbush blueberry, and maroon Virginia sweetspire are easy to grow colorful fall choices, while smokebush may achieve every color of a sunset all at once on the plant. Red twig dogwood may be a bit of a disappointment with leaf color, but once the foliage has dropped, the brilliant scarlet-orange stems provide a stark but beautiful contrast from the natural landscape.

Double Down with Both Foliage and Fruit Interest

If you want to double your color displays, choose plants that have both foliar color and berries. The berries often attract birds, which is fun to watch, but some of their hues out-compete the brilliant leaf displays.

Viburnum is a knock out for fall color. It’s leaves turn rich pinks and reds while the pink and blue berries persist as long as animals leave them alone. Pyracantha leaves turn rich golds and oranges with bright red glossy berries. Nandina or heavenly bamboo is evergreen, but its leaves take on russet tones among the green and the plants produce clusters of red berries. Coralberry, beautyberry, and cotoneaster are a few other specimens with fall foliage and colorful berries.

Other fall fruiting plants can add more interest. Pomegranate fruits cling to wintry stems as the foliage turns golden and falls away. Persimmon is another plant with persistent orange fruits and greenish gold fading leaves.

Vertical Appeal with Vines

Climbing plants bring seasonal color up the side of the house, ambling over a trellis or leaning against an old barn.

Virginia creeper is a well-known climbing plant with fiery red fall foliage and red berries in autumn. Porcelain berry has variegated leaves that simply turn gold to brown and fall off, but the berries range in tones from blue to bottle green and pink all on the same plant. Purple leaf grape is fairly self explanatory regarding leaf color, but it also produces blue-black grapes. American bittersweet has deeply yellow fall foliage and orange berries, while Boston ivy is a blaze of reddish purple. Climbing hydrangea needs a little help staying vertical, but the attractive leaves turn golden, orange, and purplish red in fall. Even hardy kiwis get in on the color display with clinging chubby, fuzzy fruits and leaves that turn autumn hues.

Developing an autumn-colored garden may take some time and planning, but in the end, you can have a swath of glorious hues across your landscape during a time where much of our traditional color is finished. By adding in plants with persistent fruits, you can extend the period of display, making fall a glorious celebration of life.

Best Places in the U.S. to See Fall Foliage

Why autumn leaves turn red

Turning red might allow leaves to stay on a tree for longer.Getty

Autumn leaves turn fiery-red in an attempt to store up as much goodness as possible from leaves and soil before a tree settles down for the winter. The worse the quality of soil, the more effort a tree will put in to recovering nutrients from its leaves, and the redder they get.

That’s the conclusion that Emily Habinck from the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, came to after looking at trees in a flood plain and in an adjacent upland area. The soil in the upland area was low in nutrients, and the leaves there were bright red. In the floodplain, where the soil was packed full of goodness, the autumn leaves remained yellow.

“In a nutshell: the redder a leaf is, the more nutrients it is going to recycle,” explains Habinck, who presents her findings at the Geological Society of America’s annual meeting in Denver, Colorado, today.

It’s not easy being red

Unlikely as it may seem, colour changes in leaves are not fully understood — at least not when it comes to the redder hues.

As autumn approaches, trees begin to break down the green chlorophyll in their leaves and redistribute the nutrients contained there to their trunk and roots. This keeps them going throughout the winter, when sunlight is sparse.

The yellow colour seen in some autumn trees results from the loss of chlorophyll simply unmasking the yellow carotinoids that were there all along. But red coloration comes from a pigment called anthocyanin, which has to be made afresh as autumn takes hold.

Why trees would bother to spend energy doing this as things are winding down for the winter has been widely debated. Some researchers have suggested that these pigments act as antioxidants, which help a tree combat harsh conditions. Others say it helps to attract birds that can then disperse fruits. Or it might increase leaf temperature, helping to protect from the cold.


Some people have observed that trees tend to turn redder when an autumn is particularly bright and cold. In 2001, William Hoch, now at Montana State University, Bozeman, suggested that the pigment acts as a protective sunscreen, helping to keep leaves on the trees for longer so that more nutrients can be harvested from them. Photosynthesis becomes more difficult as chlorophyll is broken down, and leaves become more susceptible to damage from the Sun. Damaged leaves will fall more quickly, and rid the tree of a nutrient supply.

Hoch did a study in which he made mutant trees that couldn’t produce anthocyanins. These dropped their leaves while they were still green when exposed to the high-stress environment of bright light and cold temperatures. The mutant trees were much less efficient at storing up nitrogen for the winter.

Habinck’s study of natural sweetgum and red maple trees in a nature preserve in Charlotte supports this notion. Trees in the upland areas, where soils don’t have much nitrogen, had much redder leaves than the trees in the flood-plain environment.


“A plant on a nutrient-poor soil is going to be more concerned about keeping the nutrients it has,” says Hoch. So it will turn red to stop its leaves dropping prematurely.

Habinck’s supervisor, Martha Eppes, now wants to look at satellite data to see whether there is a wider correlation between tree colour and soil type over large areas.


The pigment anthocyanin does not contain nitrogen as this story previously stated. This has been corrected.

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