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Alternatives to Burning Bush for Fall Color

Burning bush is so named for its brilliant red foliage display in autumn. But we sometimes get questions asking why their shrub fails to color up, with leaves that remain green until they drop from the plant.

Fall color or lack thereof is affected by a number of factors, including genetics of the plant and environmental conditions such as temperature, soil moisture, nutrition, and sunlight. If a particular specimen fails to perform over multiple years it is likely that the plant lacks the genetic disposition for good fall color. This is not likely to improve over time.

Burning bush, also known as firebush, is considered an invasive plant in many states and is listed as a medium threat on the Indiana Invasive Species Council invasive plant list. https://www.entm.purdue.edu/iisc/invasiveplants.html

This could be an opportunity to consider replacing burning bush with one or more of the following alternative shrubs with attractive fall color. Note that some cultivars are selected for fall color. You can take a “tour” of these plants and more at the Purdue Arboretum Explorer website, http://mlp.arboretum.purdue.edu/.

Additional alternatives to invasive species in the landscape are discussed in Purdue Extension Bulletin ID-464 https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/ID/ID-464-W.pdf

 

Photos courtesy Purdue University Arboretum

Common Name

Botanical Name

Bottlebrush Buckeye
Aesculus parviflora

Chokeberry
Aronia spp.

Red- or yellow-twig dogwood
Cornus spp.

Leatherwood
Dirca palustris

Fothergilla
Fothergilla spp.

Witchhazel
Hamamelis spp.

Oakleaf Hydrangea
Hydrangea quercifolia

Spicebush
Lindera benzoin

Sweetspire
Itea virginica

Sumac
Rhus spp.

Viburnum
Viburnum spp.

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