10 Best Fall Color Trees - Good Fall Color Trees

Large Red Fall Color Tree
(Image credit: kujawski)

While spring may win the prize as the most fragrant season, a good argument can be made that fall brings the most visual delights to the garden with autumn-colored trees. Fall foliage can light up your backyard with fiery shades of crimson, yellow, and orange if you pick good fall color trees. The fall foliage trees for your region depend on your hardiness zones, but there are fall color changing trees for every region. Here are 10 of our favorites.

Best Fall Color Trees

Fall color changing trees turn autumn into a kaleidoscope of reds and yellows. For the best fall colors, try planting a few of these good fall color trees:

  1. Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)- The ginkgo would be an incredible tree even without its stunning fall color. Its fan-shaped leaves are gorgeous and unique and its helped identify fossils dating from some 270 million years ago. It thrives in USDA hardiness zones 3 through 8.
  2. Japanese maple ‘Viridis’ (Acer palmatum var. dissectum ‘Viridis’) – These diminutive weeping beauties offer a sea of deeply lobed green leaves in summer that turn into a fireball of brilliant colors in autumn. Japanese maple ‘Viridis’ thrives in USDA zones 5 through 9. 
  3. Red maple (Acer rubrum) – A tall, tough tree that is hardy to USDA zone 4, the red maple makes a great backyard shade tree. Beautiful all year, it is particularly gorgeous in fall when the leaves turn a vibrant shade of scarlet. 
  4. Red Rocket crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica ‘Whit IV’) – With huge clusters of red flowers in the summer months and magnificent red and yellow fall leaves, this crape myrtle is a stunner. It thrives in USDA zones 6 through 9. 
  5. Sugar maple (Acer saccharum)- Perhaps the most famous maple tree, the tall sugar maple is best known for its sweet syrup. Fall color is another reason to plant one, since as summer ends, the leaves turn amazing shades of yellow, burnt orange, and red. Plant it in hardiness zones 3 through 8.
  6. Kentucky coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioicus)- With so many good qualities, the coffeetree should be better known than it is in USDA zones 3 through 8. Drought resistant and adaptable, it offers flower clusters in spring as well as great fall color in autumn when the compound leaves turn canary yellow. 
  7. Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum) – With fragrant summer flowers that look like lilies-of-the-valley and green foliage, sourwood are attractive trees for small to medium-sized gardens in USDA zones 5 through 9. They are also one of the best fall color trees with leaves turning intense shades of crimson, purple, and yellow. 
  8. ‘Eddie’s White Wonder’ dogwood (Cornus kousa) – This Korean dogwood cultivar is a little gem, with huge, white, star-shaped flowers in spring and fabulous fall color, when the green leaves turn strawberry-red. It is hardy to zone 5.
  9. Persian ironwood (Parrotia persica) – For even colder climates – down to USDA zone 4 – this small specimen has everything necessary to please in fall and winter. Persian ironwood’s leaves turn every sunset shade in fall, and winter shows off its exfoliating bark. 
  10. ‘Raywood’ ash (Fraxinus oxycarpa) – This tall ash tree’s round canopy casts great summer shade. In autumn the dark green, lance-shaped leaves turn a striking wine red. These drought tolerant trees are hardy to zone 6.

Find the Perfect Tree for Your Space

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.