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Get Fall Color Garden Style

Craving fall color in your landscape? Add drought-tough and colorful trees and shrubs for fall color now and in the future.

Many of the trees and shrubs included on the WaterSaver Landscape Coupon plant list are not only fabulously drought tolerant and tough, they also provide excellent fall color. Get plants that will provide fall color this year and for the next 20 years?

The two shrubs that provide the best fall color — Barbados cherry and muhly grass, specifically gulf muhly — are not traditionally thought of as fall color.

Barbados cherry (Malpighia glabra) features pinkish flowers in the fall, resulting in bright red fruit that lasts through November and December. Very adaptable to many sites, this South Texas native should be on everyone’s Christmas list.

Gulf muhly is one of the many muhly grass species available on the market. This particular species, Muhlenbergia capillaris, produces feathery, pink to ruby flower spikes in the fall. It does best in full sun and a slightly heavy soil.

Three trees also provide outstanding fall color, but two may be a challenge to find.

  • Mexican buckeye (Ugnadia speciose) may not be a true buckeye, but it has much better fall color. Purists may look down on its yellow color, but it is consistent in most years. Found in the better local nurseries.
  • Roughleaf dogwoodCornus drummondii, is seldom found in the nursery, but well worth the effort for it produces reddish-purple colored leaves. It does prefer shaded, moist locations, but it’s the only dogwood native to South Texas.
  • Crape myrtle provides masses of flowers in the summer and outstanding orange to red colored leaves. Check the Texas A&M website as some cultivars are better than others with their fall color.

Check out the advanced search on the Find a Plant section of this website to get a full list of fall-ready plants.

Mark Peterson
Mark Peterson
Mark A. Peterson is a conservation project coordinator for San Antonio Water System. With over 30 years of experience as an urban forester and arborist, Mark is probably the only person you know who actually prunes trees for fun. When not expounding on the benefits of trees and limited lawns, you’re likely to find him hiking San Antonio’s wilderness parks or expounding on the virtues of geography and history to his friends.
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