Plant Native Michigan Shrubs
For Fall Colors

Plant Native Michigan Shrubs
For Fall Colors

Do you love fall for its beautiful colors and changing landscapes? If so, you can highlight the beauty of fall even more by planting select native shrubs! This article talks about what types of features can boost fall interest, and what shrubs to plant to add more colors and beauty to your Michigan native landscape this fall.

Why Choose A Shrub?

The focal point of any landscaped area can easily be a well-placed shrub. When considering a native shrub for your landscaping, it is important to choose a variety that will grow well in the area you have chosen. Considering space, sunlight, and water needs is an important first step when selecting a new shrub.

One benefit of shrubs is that they are perennials, meaning they will return year after year. While flowers and blooms can be a common choice for choosing a certain shrub type, some people will focus more on fall colors (sometimes referred to as fall interest).

(Featured Image: manfredrichter via Pixabay)

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What Is Fall Interest?

Fall interest is exactly what it sounds like – interest created by the plant in the fall months. Fall interest, or fall colors, can be created by foliage, berries, seed pods, and expired blooms. The type of fall interest will vary depending on the variety of shrub. Michigan is fortunate to have a multitude of plants and trees with beautiful fall colors!

Fall interest can also be the wildlife that chooses to visit a shrub in the fall. Birds, for example, will often stop by to eat the seed pods of expired blooms. While woodland critters, such as foxes and raccoons, may enjoy munching on the berries of certain shrubs.

Why Plant Native In Michigan?

Planting native is very important for our ecosystem here in Michigan. While ornamental plants are beautiful to look at, they offer very little habitat for our local insects, birds, and wildlife. Replacing some ornamental plants with native species can greatly benefit these inhabitants, giving them more space to live and more food to eat. 

Planting native species is also the easy thing to do – trust me! These plants were literally created to live here, so they are already very well adapted to our climate and soil conditions, and are well-equipped to handle drought or lack of rainfall. This means there is little upkeep on your end!

Four Native Shrubs With Fall Colors:

1. ‘Gro-Low’ SumacRhus aromatica

This one is at the top of the list because it is my absolute favorite! The ‘Gro Low’ variety of Sumac (sometimes referred to as Fragrant Sumac) will quickly grow to reach 2-3’ tall, and can grow up to 6’ wide! This is a wonderful option for ground cover, especially below windows or other features that you do not want blocked by a taller shrub. The best part about this shrub is its vibrant fall colors that change from bright yellow into a deep burgundy as the fall months turn cold.

"Gro Low" Sumac, also referred to as Aromatic Sumac, boasts bold fall colors that transition from goldenrod to deep burgundy in the fall.

2. Ninebark, Physocarpus opulifolius

Ninebark is a unique shrub that boasts several features to earn year-round interest! Starting in the fall, this shrub’s foliage will turn a beautiful goldenrod to orange. Simultaneously, red berry-like blisters start to grow where the expired blooms once rested.

Finally, once all of its leaves have fallen to the ground, the unique bark of this shrub will start to peel layer by layer – revealing a different hue of reddish orange with each reveal. This is where it gets its name! Ninebark is an easy-to-grow shrub that can reach 6-8’ tall in the right conditions.

Click here to view purchasing options and for more information on the native Ninebark shrub!

Ninebark offers multi-feature fall interest, including bright red leaves, berries, and peeling layers of bark that range in colors from yellow to orange.

3. Maple Leaf Viburnum, Viburnum acerifolium

When you hear Viburnum, think VIBRANT! This native shrub comes to life in the fall, boasting spectacular purplish-red foliage that is truly a sight to see. The Maple Leaf Viburnum also helps to attract wildlife in the winter, providing tough-to-find winter food for birds and mammals.

In the summer, this shrub will produce a cluster of small white blooms that are popular among bees and beetles. Tolerating partial shade easily, the Maple Leaf Viburnum is an excellent choice for a location that is tucked under the canopy of trees or in the partial shadow of a structure.

Click here to view purchasing options for Viburnum!

Enjoy weeks of fall color variations with the Maple Leaf Viburnum. Birds will also visit to enjoy the deep blue berries this plant features.

4. Silky Dogwood, Cornus amomum

There are several species of native Dogwoods in Michigan, the Silky Dogwood is perhaps one of the lesser known ones. However, this shrub is not to be overlooked! Growing up to 6-10 ft in height, Silky Dogwoods make a great choice if you’re looking for a taller shrub that can provide shade and habitat to your greater landscaping area.

It is easily pruned, and will produce an abundance of ball-shaped flowers when properly cared for. Once the blooms expire, they are replaced by blue, berry-like drupes that are popular with many species of local birds. Bright red foliage appears at the beginning of fall, turning into a deep burgundy and purple before falling to the ground. This easy-to-grow shrub is a great addition for year-round interest!

Click here to learn more and view purchasing options for Dogwood shrubs!

Silky Dogwood is known for its beautiful fall colors on both the leaves and stems of this plant. Most mature shrubs will also produce small berries from expired blooms that attract birds.

Pick Out Native Shrubs For Your Backyard!

Shrubs can be an easy way to fill out landscaped areas, or add depth to a lawn or meadow. Once established, most native shrubs will require very little upkeep to grow large and full. 

Finding the right shrub to fit your space may feel like a daunting task, but we can help! Check out these related articles on native plants in the midwest: