By Stephanie R. Butcher, Coweta County Extension Agent
Question: I want a beautiful shade tree that will have good fall color. What do you recommend?
Agent: There are many options for shade trees that provide magnificent fall color. Just look around Coweta County and you’ll see plenty of beautiful trees glowing with red, yellow and orange this fall.
Some of my favorite trees for fall color are the tulip poplar, Chinese pistache, dogwood, maple and gingko. This is just a short list, and you may have other favorites, but this will give you a place to start.
Tulip poplars have brilliant yellow foliage in the fall, but their mature size can be 60-80 feet tall. Make sure that you plant it in an area where it can grow.
Chinese pistache have striking colors and a beautiful rounded shape. Their leaves change color and drop quickly, so their color doesn’t last as long as some others, but they are one of my favorites.
Dogwoods have beautiful flowers in the spring and deep red leaves in the fall. When the sun shines through on a crisp fall day, the tree almost glows. They prefer light shade, so don’t plant them in full sun.
Maples can steal the show in the fall. I have seen some fantastic maples in Newnan neighborhoods. One lady once told me that each fall parents will bring their kids by her yard to take pictures underneath her sugar maple. Check out the red maple cultivar, ‘October Glory” or the sugar maple cultivar, ‘Bonfire’.
Gingko trees have a unique leaf shape and are a striking yellow in the fall. If you’re looking for a native tree, then this one might not work for you, but they grow well here. One word of warning about gingkos. The female trees produce fruit that has an undesirable odor, so verify with the nursery that you are purchasing a male tree.
Whichever tree you choose for your landscape, there are several things you should consider before making your final selection.
Always remember, right plant, right place. Decide where you will plant your tree and then consider its mature size. Don’t plant a tree two feet from your home that has a mature size of sixty feet. No matter how beautiful the tree, you will not be happy when the root system begins to damage your foundation or when its limbs begin to scrape against your home.
You’ve heard this from me several times before, but it can’t be overstated…SOIL TEST! Proper soil pH and fertility is extremely important! Soil samples are only $9.00 and you can find details and instructions at ugaextension.org/coweta. If you pay good money for a tree that you plant in poor soil, then you are wasting your money.
Follow proper planting times and planting methods and you will enjoy your tree for years to come. Early to late fall is the optimal planting time for planting container grown trees and late fall is best for balled and burlapped trees. You’ll want to wait until late winter to plant bare root trees.
For more information about planting trees, contact For more information about planting trees, contact UGA Cooperative Extension in Coweta County at 770-254-2620 and ask for the publications, “Shade Trees for Georgia” or “Native Plants for Georgia Part I: Trees, Shrubs and Woody Vines”.
If you see a tree that you like but can’t identify it, you can always email a picture of it to the Extension office for identification. Make sure that you get a picture of the entire tree, a close up of the leaves and a picture of the trunk. Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. The
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