Autumn conjures up images of trees changing colour, chill mornings and wrapping your hand around a mug of hot chocolate. Traditionally autumn was a time to harvest crops, stockpiling food for winter and celebrating the harvest. Yet autumn is also a time of abundance and beauty. This we find in the stunning colours we get from the plant’s leaf colour changing. In this article, I will have a look at why leaf colour changes, highlight plants with colourful foliage during autumn and suggest some beautiful flowering plants for this time of year.
Why do leaves change colour?
- Leaf colour is determined by 3 pigments in the cells, which alter the colour that we see leaves as.
- Chlorophyll is responsible for the green we see and the most important function in leaves – which is photosynthesis.
- Carotenoids come through as yellow and at times a slightly orange colour.
- Anthocyanins give leaves a red to purple colour.
- As the day length decreases, plants produce less chlorophyll with higher concentrations of the other two pigments. That is why plants such holy bamboo changes its leaf colour to the most amazing autumn shades.
- Deciduous trees and shrubs manage to recycle the chlorophyll in leaves before they drop, leaving the other two pigments in prominence, gracing us with their colour.
Top plants for leaf colour in autumn
- Liguidamber styraciflua
- Combretum eryphrophyllum – Forest bush willow
- Berberis varieties- Barberry bush
- Nandina pygmea and domestica – Holy bamboo
- Celtis Africana – White stinkwood
- Euphorbia tirucalli – Rubber Euphorbia
- Succulents especially Crassula campfire
- Fruit trees
- Acer varieties – Chinese maples
Autumn is also the best time of the year for flowering shrubs and plants bearing colourful berries. Loads of plants have their last flush of colour before winter arrives, therefore autumn can be and one of the most colourful times of year one’s garden. It is as if nature wants to spoil us with a last burst of colour before winter arrives. Plant them before winter or in spring to ensure a bounty of colour.
Top autumn flowering plants
Barlerlia obtusa bush violet
Crocosmia varieties – Montbretia lily
Guara – Butterfly bush
Solanum – Potato bush
Bauhinia galpinii and tomentosa
Echinacea varieties- Coneflower
Eryops pectinatus– Eyrops daisy
Take the time to watch the nature change in your neighbourhood change as autumn progresses. A great idea is to take weekly photos that will show the change in colour best. Don’t forget to start mulching as soon as the leaves start falling. With our rushed lifestyles we tend to overlook the changes in the seasons. Reconnect with nature and recharge your soul with autumn allure.