Fall weather is fully with us now, with some regular rain and cooling temperatures. This set of circumstances is what is needed to produce fall foliage color, along with a shortening of the day.
There are a number of non-native trees that will develop good fall color here. I’ll begin with one of my favorites, the Pomegranate (Punica granatum). This tree can be a little tender here the first few years it is planted, so perhaps locate it in a protected spot near the south side of the house or in a courtyard. It grows as a multi-stemmed small tree to 20’ high and wide, and in fall turns a beautiful banana yellow.
The ever-present Bradford Pear (Pyrus calleryana) is another tree that can be counted on to provide stunning burgundy foliage in the fall. It is fast growing to 30 feet by same, and has lovely white blossoms in spring. But the structure of the tree, with narrow “crotches” between trunk and limb, makes it likely to break in storms, and the tree is not long-lived (perhaps 25 years). It also drops tiny pear fruit in late spring which can be messy on hardscape.
The Chinese Pistache (Pistacia chinense) is a medium sized tree which forms an umbrella-like canopy to 40-50’ high by 30’ wide. The medium to fine textured foliage colors shades of orange, red-orange, and crimson. You’ll want to purchase a male cultivar; the female form has a multitude of berries which fall and can stain patios and walkways.
The Lacebark Elm (Ulmus parviflora) is a relatively fast growing tree to 40-50’ high by wide. The small dark green leaves turn yellow orange to reddish brown in fall. Some cultivars are nearly evergreen in mild winters, however, so choose them carefully if fall color is what you desire. Another attribute of this tree is the beautiful exfoliating puzzle-like mottled bark, and also that it is resistant to Dutch Elm disease.
The Thornless Honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis) grows quickly to 50-70’ high by 40-50’ wide and turns a golden yellow in fall. It has very fragrant but not showy flowers in spring, and provides light, open shade which allows grass to grow well beneath it. ‘Shademaster’ is probably the best cultivar, but a newer variety ‘Sunburst’ is notable for its yellowish-green foliage.
I’ve left the Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica cultivars) for last, though it is probably one of the best trees for fall color in our area. In years past many types developed problems with mildew on leaves, but many newer cultivars are resistant. Many have beautiful exfoliating bark, a long period of bloom, and are very drought-tolerant. Some of the best for disease resistance and fall foliage color are: ‘Acoma’, ‘Basham’s Party Pink’, ‘Choctaw’, ‘Commanche’, ‘Conestoga’, ‘Hopi’, ‘Muskogee’, ‘Natchez’ (best all-around), ‘Osage’, ‘Pecos’, ‘Seminole’, ‘Souix’, ‘Tuscarora’, ‘Tuskegee’, ‘Yuma’, and ‘Zuni’. You can find a great list with photos, flower color, growth habit, disease resistance, fall color, and bark noted at http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/databases/crapemyrtle/crape_myrtle_varieties.html . In my next two or three columns, I’ll finish this ongoing treatise with shrubs, grasses, vines, and groundcovers which exhibit good fall color in our Horticultural Zone 8b climate.