Planting Shrubs for Fall Colors


Planting Shrubs for Fall Colors

The beautiful, spectacular colors of fall are good for the soul!  They will cause one to stop and pause and enjoy the season. 

If you would like to include some shrubs in your landscaping that turn beautiful fall colors, these are some Natural Plus favorites:

·      Burning Bush (euonymous alatus): Burning bush come in 2 size ranges: dwarf (grow 5-6’ tall) and standard (grow 8-10’ tall). Bushes turn brilliant scarlet red in the fall. They can also be identified by the bark that is square and corky in appearance.

Burning bush starting to turn

Burning bush starting to turn

·      Sumac: There are several varieties of sumac including Staghorn, Cutleaf, and Tiger Eyes. All 3 varieties turn brilliant red or oranges in the fall. Tiger Eyes have a limegreen/yellow color during the summer months. In the fall, staghorn sumac can often be seen along roadways in large groupings of brilliant red.

·      Compact Amur Maple: These have brilliant red fall color and grow about 5-6’ tall. They are the dwarf variety of standard size Amur Maples.


·      Viburnums (Cranberries) – There are many varieties of viburnums, growing from 3 to 15 feet depending on the variety.  Some of the most common varieties are Bailey Compact, Blue Muffin, Redwing, and Wentworth. All turn beautiful shades of burgundy, red, or oranges in the fall.  The berries they produce are also colorful in shades of blue, red, and oranges – favorites of migrating birds.



·      Cotoneaster and Aronia – Both turn beautiful shades of burgundy or reds.  They also produce abundant berries that are pretty and provide food for migrating birds. Aronia berries have recently grown in popularity for human consumption.  They are grown, harvested and sold as a healthy dietary antioxidant.  

Spireas and Barberries : Spireas and barberries come in many sizes and varieties. Spireas are primarily planted for their summer blooms, and barberries are typically planted for their burgundy summer leaf color. However, both give an added bonus of turning to beautiful fall colors of reds, burgundy, oranges, and yellows.




Ornamental vines can add interest and privacy to your landscaping. At Natural Plus we carry a nice selection of vines and can help you choose the right vine for the right place.

 Most vines require a sturdy trellis, arbor, or fence to grow on. At Natural Plus we also carry a large selection of sturdy metal arbors and trellises if you need one. 

 Below are some options you can consider for vines.

·      Clematis – Clematis come in colors of purple, white, magenta (above picture), etc.   Jackmann, which is deep purple, is a favorite of many people. Sweet Autumn has small white prolific very fragrant blooms in August/September. Clematis prefer sun or part sun and grow app 8-12 feet in length.

A honeysuckle vine growing on a trellis on the west side of my home.

A honeysuckle vine growing on a trellis on the west side of my home.

·      Honeysuckle Vines: 2 of our favorites are Kinzleys Ghost and Dropmore. Both do well in sun or part sun, are easy to grow, and grow about 8-12 feet in length.  They do tolerate a considerable amount of shade. The foliage on Kinzleys Ghost resembles eucalyptus with rounded yellow striking blooms. (Check out the Kinzley’s Ghost at Natural Plus now in full bloom.) Dropmore Honeysuckle has orange tubular blooms mid-summer – a favorite of hummingbirds.

·      Wisteria- Wisteria is a very hardy, vigorous vine that will grow 20-30’. They bloom in June with long dangling purple blooms. They prefer full or part sun. (Come and check out the Aunt Dee Wisteria on the old windmill frame at Natural Plus! When it blooms it is stunning!)

Boston Ivy on the small brick building at Natural Plus

Boston Ivy on the small brick building at Natural Plus

·      Boston Ivy – Boston Ivy is one of the few vines that grow best on brick or concrete walls. Foliage is deep green with red fall color. Boston Ivy is commonly seen on older brick homes covering entire sides of the houses.

·      Bittersweet – Bittersweet vines produce orange berries in the fall. Vines can be cut and berries remain intact to make beautiful fall arrangements. Previously a male and female vine was required to produce berries, but nurseries now sell both in one pot.


·      Climbing Roses – John Cabot is a deep red climbing rose blooming mid-summer. Bonica is a prolific bloomer with pink blooms. Vines grow about 8-12’.  All roses prefer full sun.

There are many more options of vines available. We can help you choose the right vine for your situation.

Adding a vine covered arbor as an entrance to your garden is a beautiful way to invite guests to your garden or home!




 Wouldn’t it have been wonderful to have seen the beauty of the original tall grass prairie in Iowa – miles and miles of big blue stem (turkey foot), little blue stem, switch grass, and many more? It must have been stunning! With settlement, the tall grass prairie nearly disappeared. Thankfully, in the past 20 years a lot of prairie restoration has been done on roadsides, farms, and acreages.  In addition, grasses have become an integral part of landscaping at homes and businesses.

 Most varieties of northern grasses are very hardy. They tolerate heat, dryness, hot summers, harsh winters and salt from roadways. Roots go deep! All but a very few varieties of grasses require full sun. A lot of grasses are invasive – in other words -  will spread.

When planting grasses, be sure to research the grass you are planting to make sure it meets your needs. If you are restoring or planting a prairie plot, the staff at Natural Plus can advise you. The folks at Lime Creek Nature Center also are very knowledgable about doing prairie restoration.

If you just want to add a few ornamental grasses for your home or business landscaping Natural Plus can advise you and we carry a nice variety of grasses. There are many choices in grasses for the home landscape. Some grow only 1-2’ and others grow 10-12’ or more.

Some of the more popular grasses that are being planted in home landscapes and businesses now are:


·      Karl Foerester Feather Reed – Plumes reach about 5-6’ tall. Plants get about 2-3’ wide and stay in a clumping shape – not invasive


·      Prairie drop seed – grow about 2-3’ tall and have delicate arching stems

·      Flame grass – grows 8-10’ tall and foliage turns a beautiful burgundy red in the fall


·      Switch grasses – have arching feathery seed heads – grow about 4' tall

To care for grasses in the home landscaping, water the first season and then they are usually self-sufficient unless there is a prolonged dry period.  Plumes add an artistic look above snow in the winter, and it’s best to wait to trim grasses back to the ground until after May 10.

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Fall Blooming Perennials

Fall perennials can add vibrant color to your yard or landscaping. Many are also butterfly and hummingbird favorites.

Some of the summer perennials will hold their blossoms or color into early fall.  These include hibiscus, coreopsis, Russian sage, black eyed susans, coral bells, some cone flowers, and others. These can be planted for summer color but will last into early fall.


Of these late summer/early fall perennials, the hibiscus is a Natural Plus favorite.  Many people are surprised that they are hardy. New north varieties do very well. They emerge late – mid June – but by mid August are up to 4’ tall and wide and have very large plate size blooms in colors of reds, pinks, and whites. Some varieties have reddish leaves. Plants often have 10-15 blooms at one time. They are truly stunning. Plant in full sun. After the growing season, wait to trim hibiscus back until spring as stems are hollow and more prone to freezing if trimmed back in the fall. Mulch before winter.


Russian Sage is always an easy to grow good choice for summer and early fall color and is heat and drought tolerant. Russian Sage grows about 3’ tall with striking purple blooms and is often used as a background plant. Plant in full sun.


Later fall blooming perennials will add striking color to the late fall garden and will attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Some Natural Plus favorites include:

·      Sedums – Large 5-6” clusters of blooms top these sturdy flowers. There are many varieties to choose from with most plants growing from 12-24”. Plant in full sun. They bloom into late fall. One plant might be host to 50 or more butterflies on a beautiful fall day.  


·      Asters – These are an excellent substitute for mums that are very borderline hardy in north Iowa. Purple Dome is a Natural Plus favorite. It grows about 18-24” and is covered with deep purple blooms until a hard frost. These are also butterfly favorites. There are many other varieties of asters including Wood’s Blue, Wood’s Pink, Alma Potschke, etc. Plant in full sun.

·      Pink Turtlehead – Turtlehead is native to wet woodlands and stream areas making it a good choice for wetter areas and rain gardens. Blooms emerge in late August and are deep rosy pink amid dark green leaves. Unique blooms resemble that of a turtle head. Plants grow 2-3’ tall. Plant in full or part sun.  

·      Joe Pye Weed- Plants grow 5-7’ tall and have large fragrant mauve-pink flower clusters that are also a butterfly favorite. A dwarf variety, Little Joe, grows 3-4’. Plants grow best in moist areas in full sun to partial shade. These are also good choices for rain gardens.

·      Helenium – also known as sneezeweed.  A native - plants have bright yellow to red daisy-like blooms. Despite it’s name the plant does not cause hay fever or sniffles. Native Americans believed the plant actually cured fevers and head colds.

Enjoy and savor the vibrant colors, sights, and sounds of fall. 

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Hydrangeas bloom in July and August and many varieties will continue to give beauty clear in to fall. There are many hydrangeas to choose from and they are easy to grow.  Here are some of our favorites.

Tree Hydrangeas :  Tree hydrangeas offer a small tree for those spots where you need something smaller in size. Most grow 8-12 feet tall and 6-12 feet wide. Some common varieties include Limelight (mint green blooms), Pee Gee (white/pink), and Strawberry Sundae (white/pink). Most require part to full sun.


Bush Hydrangeas:

·      Annabelles – Annabelles are a favorite because they grow in sun or shade. They have prolific large round white blooms and are easy to grow.  They grow 4-5’ tall.

·      Endless Summer Varieties: These hydrangeas have beautiful large powder blue blooms. Most varieties grow 3-4 feet. They prefer part shade. Fertilize with a miracid fertilizer to keep blooms blue. If you forget to fertilize they will still bloom but blooms will be pink in color instead of blue.

·      Other bush hydrangeas: There are many varieties to choose from. Some include PeeGee, Strawberry Sundae, Angels Blush, and Quick Fire. These hydrangeas grow from app. 5-8 feet tall and bloom with large blooms that usually open white and fade to light pink or deep pink/red as they mature. Most prefer full sun. Blooms can be dried for fall arrangements.


·      Dwarf Hydrangeas: Many of the older larger varieties of hydrangea now come in dwarf sizes of 3-5 feet. Some varieties include Baby Lace, Bar Harbor, Bobo, and Hamptons. If you are short on space or need a smaller plant these are a good choice. Most prefer full or part sun.

Hydrangeas can add dramatic beautiful color to your landscaping. After planting they are low maintenance. Trim in the spring to shape them and trim in the fall to remove spent blooms. Be sure to choose the right size and variety for your spot. At Natural Plus we can advise you which varieties will work best for your spot. 

Enjoy your summer garden