Saying goodbye to summer can feel sad. But with the arrival of autumn, we can look forward to crisp, cool days, cosy evenings in – and, of course, the blazing colours this season is so famous for.
As the leaves turn various shades of red, yellow, and gold, and jewel-like berries appear on branches, there are still many vibrant flowers to be found. So if you’re looking to bring some autumn colour to your home and garden, you’ll have lots of options.
Whether you want to turn your garden into a beautiful sea of crimson, russet, bronze, and gold, or bring warmth and vibrancy to the interior of your home, here are 10 of the best plants for autumn colour.
Outdoor plants for autumn colour
If you love the look of fiery foliage, it’s difficult to beat an Acer. Also known as maple trees, Acers are deciduous trees or shrubs that are famous for the spectacular display they put on each autumn.
There are many different types of Acers – though if you’re looking for leaves that’ll turn a flaming, fiery red, you might want to opt for the Japanese maple tree.
Other Acer options include ‘Sango-kaku’ – the coral-bark maple – known for its beauty throughout the year. With vibrant green leaves in summer; deep yellow leaves in autumn; and bare, bright red stems in winter, this tree will look lovely all year round.
Acers are compact trees and non-invasive growers, and while larger varieties look lovely in gardens, smaller varieties grow happily in containers and look beautiful on patios or balconies. They grow best in lightly shaded positions and do really well beneath the shelter of taller deciduous trees. Just be aware that their delicate leaves need protection from strong winds or blazing direct sun.
For more information on Acers, have a read of this RHS guide.
2. Crab apple
Another tree that comes into its own in autumn is the crab apple. With red-flushed fruits and warm orange leaves, these eye-catching trees have gorgeous autumn foliage, and their beauty continues well into winter. Their fruits also provide food for birds in the cold winter months, so they’re a smart option if you want to attract wildlife.
The Malus ‘Evereste’ crab apple is an excellent tree for smaller gardens, and its rosy orange fruits look magnificent against the deep yellow leaves. Malus ‘Indian Magic’ is another option, with bronze-tinged leaves and small coral-coloured flowers that appear in autumn, and last until early spring.
If you don’t have much space, the Malus ‘Red Obelisk’, with its slender conical spread, is ideal. For more on the best types of crab apples, head over to Gardens Illustrated.
If you’d like to add a more unusual colour to your garden, you might want to think about callicarpa.
Better known as the beauty berry, this deciduous shrub has clusters of pretty pink flowers in spring and summer – and when autumn rolls around, clusters of deep violet, bead-like berries appear on the purple-tinted leaves.
Even after the leaves have fallen, the glossy, gorgeous berries remain, injecting colour and beauty into your garden well into winter.
Plus, the beauty berry looks lovely throughout the year. The young leaves are often a bronze-purple colour, turning to deep green in summer before darkening to golden-purple in autumn. You can also cut the berry-laded branches to make striking flower arrangements for your home.
These shrubs thrive in dappled shade. For more on growing callicarpa, you might want to have a read of this information from Gardeners’ World.
Another plant that has beautiful, colourful berries is the pyracantha; a popular and hardy shrub that’s often grown as hedging, trained against a wall or fence.
Because it’s evergreen, it guarantees your garden always has some colour, even in the drab winter months. In autumn, an abundance of bright red, deep orange, or vibrant yellow berries appear all over its foliage. The berries remain throughout winter, and frothy white blossoms take centre stage when spring arrives.
If you want red berries, go for the ‘Red Column’ variety of the pyracantha, and if you’d prefer orange, opt for ‘Golden Charmer’. The ‘Flava’ variety produces bright yellow berries, and ‘Saphyr Rouge’ has clusters of coral berries.
Due to its dense, prickly stems, pyracantha also makes a great security fence. To find out more about growing pyracantha, check out this guide from the RHS.
5. Katsura tree
Another excellent autumnal option is a tree that smells as good as it looks: the katsura tree. Officially called Cercidiphyllum japonicum, the katsura tree originates from Japan, and this medium-sized deciduous tree looks fabulous during the autumn months when its leaves turn pink, yellow, and orangey-red.
Its smell is also a major plus. When autumn comes around, the fallen leaves give off a lovely sweet aroma – a scent of toffee apples, burnt sugar, or candyfloss, depending on who you ask!
The katsura tree is a spreader, so it’s best to have a good amount of room. When young, the tree forms a conical shape, but it’s fast-growing and can spread to six metres.
To learn more about the katsura tree, why not head over to Gardeners’ World?
6. Autumn crocuses
If you’re looking for colourful flowers rather than trees or shrubs, what about the autumn crocus or the Colchicum?
These large blooms appear in September and last until late November, giving your garden a striking pop of colour. These goblet-shaped violet flowers appear out of nowhere – from the bare ground without any leaves – which is why their nickname is ‘naked ladies’!
In the spring, the leaves look lovely but don’t be alarmed when they wither away – they’re just getting ready for their grand autumn show! If you’ve bought these flowers too late for them to bloom in the ground, you can keep them indoors and plant them in the spring to enjoy their colours next autumn.
To find out more about autumn crocuses, you might want to have a read of this RHS guide.
The guelder-rose is another deciduous shrub that’ll brighten up your garden throughout the year. It has vibrant green, maple-like leaves that turn beautiful shades of red and purple in autumn and, in spring, the bushy foliage is cloaked with clusters of small, fragranced flowers that are a brilliant white.
In the autumn months, glossy, translucent red berries also appear all over the foliage, attracting and feeding all kinds of birds, including bullfinches and mistle thrushes.
In winter, the guelder-rose’s berries are a favourite food of waxwings, which are pretty, pinkish-grey birds that come to the UK from Scandinavia. So if you’re hoping to attract wildlife, this shrub is an excellent choice!
For more on the guelder-rose, you can visit Gardening Know How’s website.
If you’re looking to bring some autumn colours into your home, one of the best indoor plants is definitely the Amaryllis.
These bulbs are also incredibly easy to grow, so they’re perfect if you don’t have much gardening experience. All they require is good soil, water, and indirect light – and their exuberant blooms will make an appearance six to eight weeks after planting.
These big, showy flowers are some of the most dramatic indoor plants, and with a wide array of colours – from bright red to warm orange and pink – you can always pick a selection and put on a seriously colourful display. If you plant in early October, the flowers will appear in November and last until Christmas.
For more on growing amaryllis, why not head over to the Gardeners website?
Crotons might not be the most unusual plant – though they’re popular for a reason. Not only are these houseplants really easy to grow, but their large, leathery green leaves are splashed with autumn colours like scarlet, orange, and yellow.
The ‘Eleanor Roosevelt’ variety has thin leaves that are often burgundy coloured, and mottled with deep yellow, while ‘Oakleaf’ has glossy, leathery bronze leaves with scarlet, yellow, and orange veins.
Crotons are easy to care for, though be sure to keep them away from draughty windows. It’s also important to know that all parts of this plant are poisonous, so if you have pets who like to munch on plants (or curious children or grandchildren!), you should be extra careful.
For more on caring for crotons, you can visit Almanac’s website.
10. Paddle plant
Finally, why not think about adopting a succulent? Officially known as kalanchoe thyrsiflora, this unusual-looking plant is a real head turner that grows in a rosette of round, flat leaves.
The leaves are a cool green when kept inside. But if your paddle plant gets enough sunshine in winter, the edges of the leaves turn a glorious deep red, treating you to lovely seasonal colours.
Paddle plants often bloom with fragrant yellow flowers in spring, so if you’re lucky this plant will give you a treat twice a year. Like most succulents, it grows best in strong light and thrives when placed in a sunny spot for summer. Just be careful its leaves don’t scorch if there’s a heatwave!
For more on caring for paddle plants, check out the Guide to Houseplants website.
You don’t have to head to woodland or a park to enjoy the beautiful colours of autumn – and as this article shows, you don’t even need to leave your own home!
If you have a garden, you can plant all kinds of gorgeous trees to brighten up your lawn, from the sweet-smelling katsura tree to the striking beauty berry. If space is at a premium, there are many shrubs small enough to keep in pots on patios and balconies too.
And, if you don’t have a garden, there are all kinds of attractive houseplants you can buy that’ll inject some warm autumnal colour into your home.
For more gardening ideas and inspiration, you can visit the home and garden section of our website.