Fall is a lovely time to enjoy another stage of our plants – their changing leaf colours.

We’re all familiar with the famous Canadian maples and their reds, oranges and yellows but did you know that many other plants native to our country put on a good show, too?


Red oak leaves. | © Debbie Oppermann, CWF Photo Club

Trees have height and grandeur that can cause one to stop and admire in any season, but fall colour adds yet another layer to the visual interest they offer. Maples are of course top of the list for so many, with but so, to is our native larch, also called tamarack. These deciduous trees are unusual in that their leaves are actually needles (similar to evergreen firs and spruces). They turn a golden yellow that, when lit up by the sun, can almost appear glowing. Several oak species have brown leaves which do add some contrast but Red Oaks take on, you guessed it, a red shade that is very attractive.


Two species of witch hazel – one turning yellow, the other brown but with yellow flowers. | © Sarah Coulber

Our shrubs are definitely worth some attention, too! They are often small enough to fit the average garden plot and have pretty flowers that we get to delight in and pollinators get to feed on. Those blooms become colourful fruit that feed many species of birds and some mammals. Finally, they grace our garden with autumn foliage.

You can enjoy yellows on Spicebush, Common Ninebark and our witch hazels. You’ll typically see deep reds on dogwoods and Highbush Cranberry. Some have a range of colours with varying shades of salmon, orange and red, as with Fragrant Sumac, our currants like Golden Flowering Current and Chokeberry. One species of witch hazel even sports delicate yellow blooms in the autumn!

Herbaceous plants

Wild geranium leaves becoming red. | © Sarah Coulber

 Some perennials worth mentioning are Wild Geranium whose leaves turn a pinky red and False Solomon’s Seal yellow leaves. Even ferns get in on the act with a Royal Fern turning coppery orange.

Learn more about Gardening for Wildlife.