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Plants and Trees With Foliage That Turns Red

Updated on August 29, 2019
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Diana was a member of the Royal Horticultural Society. She & her family all love gardening. She enjoys photographing & painting plants too.


It's Not Only Flowers Which Make a Colourful Garden--Leaves In Different Shades Make a Good Display Too

After my list below of five spectacular trees and shrubs which turn red according to the season, you'll see photographs of them which I have taken locally in London where I live, together with useful information about each one.

I love gardening and like to plan how to make my garden look as attractive as possible, working out colour schemes and ensuring that there is always some interest throughout the year.

Here's a List of 5 Shrubs and Trees With Foliage That Turns Red

1. Pieris (also known as Pieris Japonica and Lily-of-the Valley-Bush)
2. Virginia Creeper (also known as Parthenocissus Quinquefolia)
3. Staghorn Sumac (also known as Rhus Typhina Tree)
4. Japanese Maple (also known as Acer Palmatum)
5. Red Maple Tree (also known as Acer Rubrum)

Size Matters More In Some Gardens Than Others

Pieris is a low shrub.

Virginia Creeper is a narrow climber.

The three trees are much larger and not

necessarily suitable for a small garden.

The Area Where I Live In London Is a Blaze of Glory in Autumn

Just take a look and enjoy the trees, even if you have no plans to duplicate them on your own land.

1. Pieris With Golden Orange Leaves


Pieris (also known as Pieris Japonica and Lily-of-the Valley-Bush)is an evergreen shrub in the Ericacea family and has a dense rounded shape. Like heather. camelia, rhododendrons and azaleas, it needs acidic soil. This should be well drained but moist and can be light, sandy, heavy or clay.

In early spring it produces white flowers and spectacular red leaves which slowly fade to pink, pale green and then to darker green. I call it a good value plant because it is low maintenance and has a long period of colourful interest from February through to May and doesn’t need to be pruned, but if it looks a bit spindly the best time to cut it back a bit is after it has flowered in late spring.

Pieris grows best in dappled sun or half shade in a sheltered area protected from cold wind as it is onlyhalf-hardy. As an acid loving plant, it should be fed only with ericaceous feed and mulched with peat or composted pine leaves annually . Depending on the variety, it grows about 4 metres (12 ft) high and about 3 (9 ft) metres wide but the one in my garden (as shown in the photograph) is only about 2 metres (6ft.) high after several years.

Planting time is March or November/December/January.

The nectar and pollen-laden flowers are attractive to bees.

2. Virginia Creeper


Virginia Creeper (also known as Parthenocissus Quinquefolia) is a fast growing climbing plant with pointed leaves which start off green and gradually turn bright red from August through autumn.

It is a hardy deciduous plant, losing its leaves in late autumn and growing fresh leaves in spring. It grows vigorously, reaching a height of 20-30 m (66-98 ft.) if not kept under control, and can climb a smooth surface by means of tendrils that have tiny adhesive pads. These can stick to walls and be difficult to remove, although when the plant is cut back, the pads gradually deteriorate.

Virginia creeper is fully hardy and will grow in full sun or shade, in fertile well-drained soil which can be chalk, clay, or loam. Until it has established itself over a period of about 2 years, it needs support.

Because of its rampant growth, it may smother other plants, and it needs regular pruning especially in early winter, and in summer if necessary, to keep it under control and stop it growing too far up walls and over roofs, guttering and windows, smothering more delicate plants as it spreads.

Here is a somewhat bad review of this beautiful climber grown in Canada

Quite eye-opening really, but it's wise to know the downside too:

Planting Virginia Creeper? Beware!

3. Staghorn Sumac or Rhus Typhina Tree


Rhus typhina (also known as staghorn sumac) is a deciduous upright large shrub or small tree, with yellow flowers in summer followed by clusters of red fruit on the female plant and with leaves which turn brilliant red and orange in autumn before shedding.

It is fully hardy and needs full sun in moist but well drained soil which can be sand, clay, chalk or loam. Its eventual height is 5m (15 ft) and eventual width 6m (18 ft).

As it can be invasive and spreads by suckers, it may be unsuitable for small gardens, and it’s best not to plant it near a lawn. Its spread can be limited by inserting a non-perishable barrier round the roots and if you keep chopping the suckers out.

4. Japanese Maple (Acer Palmatum)


The above Japanese Maple (also known as Acer Palmatum) has deep red foliage in spring and summer which turns bright scarlet in autumn. As it only grows to a height of about 3 m (9 ft.) in 20 years, it is suitable for a small garden. There is a range of Japanese Maples to choose from, and most are are slow-growing and usually 1-2m (3¼ft-6½ft) in height or less.

They grow best in dappled shade in a sheltered position in slightly moist well-drained soil, preferably but not necessarily acidic. When planting, it is best to use ericaceous compost which encourages vibrant coloured foliage.

Pruning is not necessary unless there are damaged branches and should only be done when the tree is dormant from November to January, as otherwise it might bleed sap which would weaken the tree.

5. Red Maple Tree


Red Maple tree (Acer rubrum) is the same family as the Japanese Maple, but is quite a lot larger.

It has leaves which start off green and turn brilliant red in autumn. Some cultivars grow 40 – 70ft high and 30-50 ft wide but other varieties may be half that size.

They can be problematic, with strong roots that may grow above the soil surface, raising pathways and making lawn-mowing difficult.

They need moist acid or neutral soil in full sun or part shade and will not flourish well if they are short of water.

If you decide to plant one of these trees, be careful to check that the autumn leaf colour will be red and not pale orange, if you particularly want red, as the different cultivars do vary considerably.

Bearing In Mind Their Possibly Invasive Propensity, Would You Grow Any of These In Your Garden?

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© 2019 Diana Grant


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