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Dwarf burning bush (Euonymus alatus ‘Compactus’): just one of many shrubs with fall interest.

Gardeners are so used to planting shrubs in the spring that they forget fall is also an excellent planting season. And it’s actually the best season for planting shrubs that show fall color.

If your garden is looking rather ho hum right in the fall, consider adding shrubs (and trees) with brilliant fall foliage or colorful fall berries. Garden centers and nurseries offer a wide range of both in the autumn season… and although they sell the same plants in the spring, if you shop then, you’ll only see their spring leaves and flowers, not their fall effect. By picking plants for fall color when they are at their most colorful, you’ll get a much better idea of their potential.

Also, many nurseries, eager to clear their stock before winter, start offering colorful fall shrubs at unbeatable prices towards the end of autumn. It’s a win win situation!

Pick the Spot, Then the Plant

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Make sure you buy a shrub that fits into the space available.

Pick out the areas in your garden where you feel you need a bit of fall punch. Do a quick calculation of how tall and wide you want the plant to be (you certainly won’t want to get stuck in the hamster wheel of constantly pruning back an overly large shrub to make it fit!) and of the general growing conditions (exposition, drainage, soil quality, hardiness zone, etc.) and, notes in hand, head off to the nursery looking for the right plant.

Once there, you’ll discover an added bonus of fall plant shopping: the spring rush is now long over and nursery employees have more time to serve you in the fall, plus the ones who remain (the summer student crowd having gone back to school) are usually the most knowledgeable. They’ll be able to help you pick out exactly the shrub for your needs.

Doing the Deed

20161011dPlanting shrubs in the fall is exactly the same as planting them in the spring: dig a hole to the depth of the root ball, remove the pot, settle the plant in the hole, backfill with soil (you can add compost, fertilizer or mycorrhizal fungi if you feel it’s necessary), tamp down lightly, then water well. You may want to mulch the root area with a few inches of chopped leaves (always good for any planting). Just make sure you get the planting done at least 2 weeks before the ground freezes so the roots will have time to settle in.

Tomorrow in this blog, a 3 lists of shrubs with fall interest to help make your choice easier.

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

2 comments on “Now’s the Time to Shop for Colorful Fall Shrubs

  1. I will look forward to tomorrow’s suggestions because burning bush is considered invasive here in NH. We had them in KS, and they are truly gorgeous this time of year. 🙂

    • A non-invasive (sterile) variety has been developed, but I have yet to hear of it being released to the public. Maybe in a year or two. Where I live, burning bush isn’t hardy enough to self-sow well (the seedlings get killed) and invasiveness is not a problem.

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