Choose the right plants, and autumn can be a spectacular time in the garden.
Many deciduous trees, shrubs and climbers put on a beautiful show before their leaves fall, and there are hips, berries and fruits to enjoy, too. Plus, of course, there are plenty of flowers to keep the colour going.
Browse our suggestions for 10 unusual autumn shrubs.
Discover 10 spectacular plants for autumn colour, below – add some of these beauties in your garden for a wonderful autumn display.
Top 10 plants for autumn colour
Amelanchier lamarckii is beautiful, small tree that is attractive in all seasons. In March the branches have star-shaped flowers, just as the coppery pink young leaves unfold. In July the tree is studded with dark red berries. In autumn, the yellowish green leaves turn scarlet and crimson.
Sunlight shining through coppery-pink and pale-yellow foliage of snowy mespilus
Most asters (now called Symphyotrichum) flower in late summer and autumn, bringing welcome late colour to borders. Symphyotrichum ‘Little Carlow’ is one of the best, producing vibrant, light purple flowers. Plant in a sunny, airy position to ensure maximum flowering. After flowering, cut back hard. Discover more autumn-flowering perennials.
A pale-purple flower of aster ‘Little Carlow’
Known as the beauty berry, Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii ‘Profusion’ produces large clusters of stunning and unusual purple berries in mid-autumn, overlapping with the golden purple leaf tints and then lingering after leaf-fall. Discover more shrubs that look good in autumn.
Vivid-purple berries and golden foliage of beauty berry
Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ is a multi-stemmed tree with purple, heart-shaped leaves which turn a dramatic yellow in autumn. Its deep crimson, pink or sometimes white pea-like flowers give a dramatic spring display before new leaves appear.
Heart-shaped russet leaves of the Judas tree
Autumn crocuses (Colchicum) flower in September and October. The large blooms suddenly appear from bare earth without any leaves – hence the common name, naked ladies. Colchicum ‘Waterlily’ has striking, double flowers with pinkish purple petals. Watch our video guide to growing colchicums.
Pink-purple, double flowers of crocus ‘Waterlily’
Cotoneasters give beautiful displays of red berries in autumn. Cotoneaster horizontalis is popular for the characteristic herringbone pattern of its stems, which makes it useful trained across the ground or on a wall.
Red berries and tiny evergreen leaves of cotoneaster
With colourful fruits and foliage, crab apples look wonderful in autumn. Malus ‘Evereste’ is flushed with red-flushed, orange-yellow fruits in autumn that complement the orange-yellow leaves. It is an excellent tree for smaller gardens, with a pleasant conical shape.
Rosy fruit and yellow leaves of crab apple ‘Evereste’
Most nerines are tender greenhouse bulbs, but Nerine bowdenii can be grown outdoors in a warm, sunny border backed by the shelter of a wall. They will reward you with a late display of lipstick-pink flowers. Discover more autumn-flowering bulbs.
Showy pink nerine blooms
Parthenocissus henryana, Chinese Virginia creeper, is less vigorous than other varieties and can be useful for a north-facing wall in a small garden. Its foliage is more delicate as well, with a velvety texture and silvery-white veins; it turns a fiery crimson in autumn.
Coppery leaves of Virginia creeper
Sternbergia lutea are autumn-flowering bulbs that come from Greece and the eastern Mediterranean, where they are baked in the hot dry summer weather. Plant them in a warm sunny spot, ideally near a warm wall, and shield them from winter weather. Give them good drainage, too.
Bright-yellow flowers of Sternbergia lutea
Bright-red, deeply-serrated leaves of acer ‘Dissectum Atropurpureum’
More plants for autumn colour
Acers put on a spectacular show in autumn – discover 10 acers to grow.
Dahlias will continue to flower until the first frosts, if regularly deadheaded and fed.
Cornus put on a spectacular show before their leaves fall to reveal colourful winter stems
Euonymus europaeus turns a spectacular shade of red before the leaves fall.
Euonymus alatus also turns a beautiful crimson in autumn.
Chrysanthemums flower well into autumn and are excellent for cutting.
Ornamental grasses are at their best in autumn, and combine well with all kinds of perennials and shrubs.
Japanese anemones flower well into autumn, in shades of pink and white.
Sedums (now called Hylotelephium) look great in autumn and their flat flowerheads contrast well with more upright forms.