Skip to main content

Six Trees that Put on a Magnificent Fall Show

tree with colorful leaves in the fall on a street

Be on the lookout for these spectacular specimens of autumn foliage.

You won’t want to miss this year’s grand finale of beautiful fall foliage. Right now, trees across the country are putting on their best performance to show off spectacular colors. Take advantage of this natural splendor by learning how to identify and even plant these all-star trees.

Whether planting one in your own backyard or just enjoying them on a scenic hike, these colorful trees provide a full season of color. Out of the hundreds of species that provide amazing fall color, Travis Vickerson, an ISA Certified Arborist® at Chippers, Inc., a Davey company, has picked his favorite six that offer the most stunning transformations.

Sugar Maple

Style, grace and dignity — the sugar maple has it all. The iconic leaves of the sugar maple top our list for the best fall foliage. Though this tree is loved for its maple-sugar sap, it also produces a brilliant look at the end of the season. Its autumn foliage morphs from gold, yellow and fiery orange to an unmatched deep red.

Sugar maples are an exceptional tree whether planted in your backyard or growing in the wild. Native to the eastern and mid-western U.S., sugar maples grow almost anywhere in USDA zones 2 to 10.

bright red and orange fall leaves on tree

Red Maple

The red maple is known for adding just the right amount of rosy color to the landscape each season —tiny winter buds, beautiful spring flowers, leafstalks in summer, and intense foliage in autumn. But don’t let its name fool you. Red maples have fall colors that vary from bright yellow to burgundy. These on-going colors, combined with the red maple's relatively fast growth and tolerance of soils, makes it a North American favorite.

You’ll find red maples throughout USDA zones 3 through 9.


While root beer made from sassafras roots is delightful, the tree’s fall color is equally enchanting. Sassafras leaves display beautiful reds, purples, yellows and oranges. As a bonus, sassafras is beloved for its sweet smell and red-stemmed, dark blue berries that attract birds.

To identify Sassafras, look for three different shaped leaves on one tree – a mitten, a three-lobed leaf and an oval leaf. Hardy in USDA zones 4 through 9, this medium–to-fast growing tree is native to North America.

Japanese Maple

Both elegant and versatile, Japanese maple trees are true chameleons. Some go from intense red in spring, green in summer and welcome fall with yellow and orange. Others start red and stay red throughout the fall.

Leaves can be palm-shaped or lacy. Japanese maples grow best in USDA zones 6 through 8, but can be hardy as far north as zone 4b.

Black Gum Tree

The Black gum tree, or black tupelo as it’s sometimes known, is a standout star of autumn. You’ll find varying hues of yellow, orange and bright red often on the same branch.

Its interesting bark, which resembles alligator hide, also makes this tree an exceptional choice for fall. These trees grow to a height of 30 to 50 feet tall.  Bees love this tree for its late spring blooms. Find black gum in USDA zones 4 through 9.

aerial view of street with fall foliage

Apple Trees

Fall is for planting, and now is the best time to plant a backyard orchard in many regions to ensure tree roots have a head start in the season's cool, moist soil. Apple trees are a favorite for producing fruit, but require a little bit of knowledge in fertilizing and pruning. Favorite apple varieties are Golden Delicious, Gala, Honeycrisp, Red McIntosh, and Fuji, but the best variety depends on your growing zone.

Healthy, well-cared-for trees showcase the most glorious leaf colors. To promote your trees’ ability to offer their best fall color, talk to a certified arborist at

About the Author

The Davey Tree Expert Company provides research-driven tree services, grounds maintenance and environmental solutions for residential, utility, commercial and environmental partners across North America. As one of the largest employee-owned companies in the U.S., Davey has been dedicated to creating and delivering sustainable solutions for 140 years. Become part of the Davey legacy and apply today.

Profile Photo of The Davey Tree Company