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Every autumn, we are treated to a fleeting but fantastic show from the trees with fall color. While the Northeast is famous for its mountains painted in bright fall colors, almost every region of the country experiences some fall trees that change color before taking a snooze for the winter.
Planting some yard trees with an eye for their autumn color is a great way to treat yourself to a little of fall’s splendor without leaving your home.
Colorful Autumn Trees - Why Do Trees Change Color in the Fall?
Deciduous trees, as we all know, lose their foliage every fall and grow new leaves or needles in the spring–some deciduous trees have needles or scales instead of leaves.
Since deciduous plants and trees have foliage that would be damaged by the cold, freezing temperatures, and harsh winds of winter, the trees with fall color shed them to conserve energy and for self-protection.
All through the growing season, chlorophyll molecules help the tree make sugars out of carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight. This green pigment is the dominant color, giving trees their green-colored foliage.
As autumn approaches, the length of daylight changes, and the temperatures drop. These changes cue these trees that change color to stop the process of making new chlorophyll and start the breakdown of the existing chlorophyll. Other pigments, which are yellow and orange, remain. When the dominant green is gone, the yellows and oranges are revealed, and the leaf appears to change color. Really, those colors were there all along, only masked by the chlorophyll. Red fall colors result from different chemical reactions that create red pigments called anthocyanins. These anthocyanins require sunlight for production, so a rainy, cloudy autumn is likely to have fewer reds and more yellows instead.
Trees with the best fall colors will yield infinite red, yellow, orange, and sometimes even purple shades. You may notice that different leaves on the same fall color tree are not the same shade of yellow or that some leaves display multiple colors. Maples, especially, are often a combination of yellow and red on the same leaf, or orange and red on the same tree.
When Do Trees Change Colors for Fall?
Trees that change colors will often start the process at different times depending on the climate. Changes in temperature and daylight hours will cause most fall color trees to make their changes as soon as late September. By the time mid-October comes around, just about all of the trees with fall color will have their reds, yellows, and oranges on full display.
Colorful Fall Trees: Reds, Oranges, & Yellows. Which Trees Turn Which Color?
So if you are going to paint your yard with fall color, which trees turn yellow, and which trees turn red or orange? While the exact color a tree will turn every fall is somewhat affected by the weather, there are some more consistent performers.
Being the most sought after colored tree, you may be wondering what trees turn red in the fall? Fall color trees that frequently display red autumn leaves include sumac, dogwood, black tupelo, chokeberry, serviceberry, and sweetgum.
Many maple trees will turn red in the fall if conditions are right. White, black, and red oak trees also sometimes turn red, depending upon conditions. If your maple tree is not changing colors, read our blog on how to troubleshoot why.
The iconic sugar maple might be the best-known tree for its stunning orange color in the fall. October Glory Maple Tree turns a brilliant shade of amber in fall. Some hickory may turn orange in the fall as well, depending on the weather.
As we remember from kindergarten, oranges are a combination of yellow and red, so some years your fall color trees will have more orange color than others depending on the weather.
Almost a default fall color, many trees turn yellow with regularity in the fall. Birch, aspen, cottonwood, hickory, ash, and more are reliable yellow fall color displays.
What Are The Best Trees for Fall Color?
We have a few options for trees with the best fall color.
The ‘Autumn Blaze’ maple is famous for its fast growth and brilliant red fall colors. A hybrid of red maple, Acer rubrum, and silver maple, Acer saccharinum, ‘Autumn Blaze’ combines the fast growth of the silver maple with the more robust form of the red maple.
Japanese maples are a great choice if you want a brilliant red fall color but need a smaller tree.
River birch is another sure performer for excellent fall color. Turning a brilliant yellow in the fall, these colorful autumn trees also offer year-round interest for their unique bark and dark green foliage in the summer.
Bald Cypress trees are beautiful, statuesque trees and turn a stunning bronze-orange in the fall. A sure winner if you have a portion of your yard that is a bit wetter.
Check out our large selection of fall color trees and give your yard a splash of color this autumn.