The Q&A Archives: Bushes for autumn color. Bushes with red bark.

Question: Is there a bush that has red bark and is attractive in autumn and winter? Also, what are some shrubs that you would suggest for autumn color? I would prefer to emphasize native American plants but am flexible. I am planning my backyard garden which gets lovely afternoon sun and some morning sun. Thank you for your attention. Margaret Pearson

Answer: There is a small Japanese maple, at about 20 feet tall and wide, Acer palmatum `Sangokaku` with amazing coral red bark and its color intensifies in the winter. The red twigged dogwood shrubs such as Cornus sericea 'Isanti' and Cornus alba "Sibirica" also have red bark with color being brightest on newer growth and most visible in winter.

Some native shrubs noted for excellent autumn color could include Itea virginica, Aronia arbutifolia, viburnums such as Viburnum trilobum 'Wentworth', Rhus typhina 'Laciniata' (R.t. 'Dissecta'). This last one -- the sumac -- is amazing in the fall but is not suitable in my opinion for a small residential space or for a controlled "designed" setting. Finally, highbush blueberries actually have lovely fall color, if you have the right soil conditions that might be something to consider.

The natives Fothergilla major 'Mount Airy' has terrific fall color but does best as an understory plant in morning sun or dappled light all day, and the same for Hydrangea quercifolia.

Winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata)is a deciduous native plant with terrific red berries in winter so you might like it as an accent along with the red stemmed plants. You might also like the fall and winter blooming witchazels -- Hamamelis vernalis and H. virginiana are natives.

I hope this gives you some ideas.

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