Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes
Larry A. Sagers Regional Horticultural Specialist Utah State University Extension Service Thanksgiving Point Office © All Rights Reserved
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The painted leaves of autumn are metamorphosing the landscapes of Utah. From the highest mountain peaks to secluded backyard gardens, the transformation is moving the green leaves of summer into the most spectacular fall displays.
Jack Frost does not paint these leaves but the process is no less spectacular. Yellow, orange red, purple and all of their brilliant hues and shades color the plants turning them into creations so beautiful they seem to be from another world.
Never forget to plan for fall color in the landscape. Finding the right trees, shrubs and vines to paint your landscape is a fun and exciting process.
Finding these plants and placing them in the right spots in the landscape is like creating a hidden painting that is invisible under the shades of green in the summer. Miraculously as the weather changes, these colors come to light, illuminating the fall garden.
Think fall color and most think of maple trees. The famous New England fall color come from the sugar maples but those trees are not common in Utah.
Fortunately, we have the spectacular Big tooth maple that paints our mountains with red, orange and yellow.
If one kind of maple is good, several are even better. The Boxelder maple might not be everyone’s favorite because of the boxelder bugs but they are showy trees with a brilliant yellow color spiced with orange and red. Likewise, the silver maple has its share of problems but its fall color ranges from deep red to light yellow.
One of the favorite maples for fall color is the vine maple (Acer ginnala). Most cultivars turn brilliant shades of dark burgundy as the temperatures cool although some have wonderful gold, red and orange fall color. The Paperbark maple (Acer griseum) is another small maple with red to bronze fall color.
The Rocky Mountain maple has a brilliant red fall color. It is not a common landscape plant but is well worth adding to the fall color palette.
Red maple is native to the eastern U.S. and has striking red fall coloration. Cultivars ‘Autumn Flame’, ‘October Glory’ and ‘Bowhall’ have the best fall color. These trees grow best on soils that are not too alkaline.
The most common street tree in our are is the Norway maple. It has bright yellow but not spectacular fall color. Some of the named cultivars do show additional color in good years.