Fall Color: Five Trees to Plant This Fall for Color Next Fall

Sep 18, 2023

Fall is a very special time of the year! Between the apple picking, cooler temperatures, and pumpkin spiced everything, what’s not to love!? It’s also the best time to plant a new shade or ornamental tree! While I’m hard-pressed to choose a favorite tree, here are some of my top choices for trees that provide good fall color and other benefits for your landscape. While this list is not exhaustive, these are some trees that come to mind if you’re in the market for a new tree this fall!


One of the most sought-after trees for fall color and for good reason! Most maples provide gorgeous fall color, as well as being a wonderful shade tree. There are many different types of maples, each with their own benefits.

Sugar maples are very slow growing, but longer lived than other maples. Easily recognized by their fissured bark and magnificent fall color, usually orange with hints of red or yellow. Look for the varieties John Pair, Fall Fiesta or Legacy, you can go wrong with any one of these beauties.

Red Maples are the next most sought after, but not all red maples are created equally. While there are many choices available, the variety Brandywine is my personal go-to. It’s a bit slower growing than other red maples, making for a stronger wooded tree. It’s also a male cultivar, meaning that you don’t get a crop of samaras(helicopters) on your tree, eliminating extra clean up. Fall color on this cultivar is a bright cherry red, fading to a burgundy purple. Magnificent!

Black Gum

Hold your horses, this is not the much-despised Sweet Gum! Black Gum is also known as Tupelo, and well suited to our Missouri climate. While they don’t get as large as they do in the South, they are a nice mid-sized tree.

There are many cultivars that will grow in the KC area, I’ve found that the native strain Nyssa sylvatica tends to be the most consistent grower. I do have a special place in my heart for the variety Green Gable as well. Both selections sport fiery red/orange color fairly early in the Fall. It tends to be one of the first trees to show their color.


Ginkgo trees are long-lived, have few diseases or insect issues, and have beautiful butterfly shaped leaves. One of the oldest trees still in existence, being on the earth for over 200 million years. These living fossils have the most gorgeous, eye searing bright yellow fall color, and seeing a mature specimen is life changing! Use caution when selecting a ginkgo, as females produce a small orange fruit that has a peculiar and unpleasant smell. Make sure that you select a male cultivar if you want to avoid this. Autumn Gold and Presidential Gold are the most common strains that are fruitless.


The most dignified of trees, the mighty oak is a symbol of strength and longevity. Many species living over 200 years, this is a true legacy tree. Planting one now will mean a beautiful shade tree for generations. There is hardly a strain of oak that is not worthy of planting as a shade tree, and Missouri is home to a host of native species.

For the best fall color, Northern Red oak is one of the best, sporting a gorgeous scarlet red.

Swamp White oak has a nice golden yellow, sometimes tinged with orange, while White oak has a beautiful russet-red. Most oaks are beneficial for many insects and wildlife, so planting one has an impact on the native species as well as providing shade for us humans.


Another native species worth planting is the Serviceberry! There are many cultivated strains of this native plant, but perhaps the prettiest one is Autumn Brilliance. It has white blossoms in the spring, followed by delicious edible berries in the early summer. The fall color is a beautiful mix of reds, yellows and oranges and is always a sight to behold! These are available as single stemmed trees, or multiple stemmed like birch. Topping out at 25’ tall and 20’ wide, it makes a wonderful small tree for a side yard or landscape tree.

If you have questions regarding tree planting, please come in to Colonial Gardens and let us help you select the perfect tree for your lawn or landscape!

Thanks for your thyme,


Written By "Trav the Tree Guy" Travis Morcha