10 best shrubs to plant this fall

Posted on: October 3, 2019 | Written By: Doug Oster | Comments

The bright orange flowers of a kerria shrub showed up for a second time at the end of the summer. It was a wonderful surprise as the blooms have a showy, intense color.

Kerria is an easy to grow shade loving shrub that might bloom twice during the season.

Kerria is an easy to grow shade loving shrub that might bloom twice during the season.

Kerria is easy to grow in part shade, and it’s underused in the landscape. The flowers are less spectacular if exposed to full sun. The plant can reach up to 10 feet tall and wide, so it needs room to sprawl. It has a wonderful weeping habit that makes it showy year round. Another benefit is that branches that reach the ground will often root on their own through layering, creating a new plant, which can easily be moved to another spot in the garden. It’s carefree and has never needed water in my garden.

Tips for planting success

Fall is the best time to plant shrubs, as the cool weather is conducive to root growth as opposed to top growth. The plants can be added to the garden in the spring, but they need more care as they are putting on foliage, preparing to flower and expanding the root zone. That’s a lot to ask of any plant.

For fall planting, dig a hole at least twice as wide as the root ball and incorporate some compost in with the native soil. Be sure the shrub is planted exactly as deep as it was in the pot, assuring the root flare of the top of the plant is visible. Shrubs can die if they’re planted too deep. Keep the plant watered if rain is scarce. Let the hose run for around five minutes under the plant a couple of times a week until the ground freezes.

A couple of inches of mulch will keep the soil evenly moist and stop frost heaving during thaws. Make sure the mulch doesn’t touch the base of the shrub. It should look like a donut, not a volcano.

All of the shrubs discussed here are easy to grow, beautiful and will return season after season.

Plant these shrubs

Weigela

'Spilled Wine' weigela is from Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs.

‘Spilled Wine’ weigela is from Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs.

Weigela is a spring bloomer that comes in many shapes and sizes. It’s a member of the honeysuckle family, so that’s a testament to its toughness. Masses of tubular flowers are produced in shades of red, pink, yellow and white depending on the cultivar. The most prolific blooms come in full sun, but the plant can be happy in part shade, too. Many of the variegated varieties actually look better in some shade. ‘My Monet’ is a stunning dwarf variety with pinkish, white variegation and pretty pink flowers.

Witch hazel

Witch hazel is an early bloomer and deserves a place in every garden.

Witch hazel is an early bloomer and deserves a place in every garden.

I can’t imagine my garden without witch hazel. There are many yellow-blooming natives that will flower at the end of winter. Some varieties have red flowers. Seeing a tree bloom before the snow crocus bulbs emerge is spectacular. It will happily grow anywhere from full sun to part shade, and it’s often an understory tree in the wild. There is a wide range of varieties available, some blooming in early winter, but most putting on a show in February.

Hibiscus

Perennial hibiscus have large blooms at the end of the season.

Perennial hibiscus have large blooms at the end of the season.

The large, dinner plate-sized blooms of hardy hibiscus in September are a welcome sight. It’s always nice to have plants in the landscape that extend the season when they are at their peak as other plants start to fade. This sun lover also will take some shade and will be happiest in good soil amended with compost. The plant puts on big buds that might be as beautiful as the flowers, which open quickly. The ‘Summerific’ series from Proven Winners offers a lot of different foliage and flower colors.

Rose of Sharon

You either love or hate rose of Sharon.

You either love or hate rose of Sharon.

Along the same lines is the much hated (but also sometimes loved) rose of Sharon. It’s often hated for its invasive nature but loved for its ease of growth. There are varieties now that are sterile (hopefully) and have variegated foliage along with double flowers. As a rose of Sharon lover, I’m always looking for another one for the garden.

Hydrangeas

These 'Annabelle' hydrangeas are reliable bloomers that put on a show in the summer.

These ‘Annabelle’ hydrangeas are reliable bloomers that put on a show in the summer.

Forget about mophead hydrangeas (H. macrophylla) … grow something that will bloom for you every year. H. arborescens is an indestructible version of the plant that flowers every season without fail. ‘Annebelle’ has large, pretty white flowers and grows to about five feet tall and wide. I have four growing along the outside of the vegetable garden in deer country that get nibbled, but always produce flowers. They are growing in consort with ‘Invincibelle Spirit,’ a tough, pink-blooming variety. Portions of the proceeds of this variety go to breast cancer research.

Rhododendrons and azaleas

Rhododendrons and azaleas are best planted in part shade.

Rhododendrons and azaleas are best planted in part shade.

Rhododendron and azaleas are best planted as understory plants. Although they are seen out in full sun and as foundation plantings, their natural habitat is in the woodlands and happiest in acidic soil. Both are favorites of deer, especially the buds in the winter. There’s a wide color spectrum for the flowers of both, and most are evergreen. When searching out something for the landscape, visit a good nursery to find a unique variety that will stand out in the garden for decades to come. Both plants benefit from an application of the organic fertilizer Hollytone from Espoma in the spring.

Carolina allspice

Carolina sweetshrub 'Hartlage Wine' has big glossy leaves and large flowers.

Carolina sweetshrub ‘Hartlage Wine’ has big glossy leaves and large flowers.

Carolina allspice is making a comeback in both home and public gardens. This native shrub can get nine feet tall and enjoys a little shade in the afternoon. The reddish, purple flowers have a beautiful fragrance in the early summer. ‘Hartlage Wine’ has bigger flowers than the straight species. I saw the variety blooming at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium and had to have one in the landscape, but I also grow the native variety.

Spirea

Spirea 'Double Play Painted Lady' is a reblooming spirea from Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs.

Spirea ‘Double Play Painted Lady’ is a reblooming spirea from Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs.

I’ve got two old-fashioned spirea shrubs that bloom in traditional white but also other cultivars with chartreuse foliage and pink blooms. There are more different spirea cultivars out there than you could imagine. This tough plant will bloom in the sun or with some shade.

Lilac

'Bloomarang' is a lilac that can bloom three times in one season.

‘Bloomarang’ is a lilac that can bloom three times in one season.

Lilacs might be a one-trick pony, but boy is it a great trick. The carefree nature of the plant and the amazing fragrance of the flowers make it an all-time winner. There are countless different varieties with wonderful color choices. It’s pretty easy to find something unusual and pretty. Even though ‘Bloomerang’ doesn’t have the intense fragrance of traditional lilies, it still smells pretty and can bloom three times a year.

Plant some shrubs this fall because they will bring beauty and joy to the garden for many years to come.

 

Doug Oster is editor of Everybody Gardens, a website operated by 535Media, LLC. Reach him at 412-965-3278 or doster@535mediallc.com. See other stories, videos, blogs, tips and more at everybodygardens.com.

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Doug Oster is manager and editor of Everybody Gardens with a passion for gardening and a love of sharing is experiences with other gardeners. You will also find Doug’s gardening contributions in the Tribune-Review each week. He’s an Emmy Award winning producer, television host and writer. Oster is co-host of The Organic Gardeners Radio show every Sunday morning at 7 a.m. on KDKA radio in Pittsburgh. Oster’s Outstanding Documentary Emmy was awarded for Gardens of Pennsylvania, a one hour special he conceived and produced for the PBS affiliate WQED. Doug appears every Thursday morning on KDKA-TV’s Pittsburgh Today live at 9 a.m. “Gardening is fun, he says, enjoy every day spent outside tending vegetables, flowers, shrubs and trees.”