Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Southern California can do fall color after all

In San Diego, I often meet ex-East Coasters who miss their wonderful fall color and claim that San Diego has none. I would like to change to the record to say that it isn't that we can't plant fall color trees, it is that we don't. Many of my clients chose not to plant deciduous trees, opting instead for the consistency of an evergreen.
What is lost is the gorgeous colorful leaf display in the fall. Here are a few trees that grow well in Southern California, and have a nice fall display.

Starting at the top right:
- Acer fremanii 'Autumn Blaze' otherwise known as silver maple, has a gorgeous red color in the fall. This is a tree that gets very large, so make sure there is room in your garden.
- Pistacia chinensis or the Chinese Pistache, is another great display of red leaves, although it starts off with more of the oranges and yellows and changes over the course of the season. This is a tough tree, so it is good for high traffic areas like parking lots. It has a wide, spreading shape.
- Some of our most reliable fall color comes from our Liquidambars. The varieties come in different shades of fall color from yellow to burgandy, so be sure to check which one you are buying.
- Ginkgo biloba turns a wonderful canary yellow before losing its leaves. Just a warning here though: this tree comes as a male tree or female tree. The female tree produces very stinky seeds and should be avoided!

- Lagerstroemia, or Crape Myrtle, is quite variable but gives excellent color in cold years. Plus, it has a gorgeous summer flower display. Its small size makes it idea for suburban gardens and as a patio tree.
- My personal favorite for fall color is the Chinese Tallow Tree, Sapium seberiferum. It has delicate heart shaped leaves similar to a poplar and turns varying shades from gold to orange to red, often all at the same time. This year has been an excellent year for Tallow Tree color. They are the street tree in Little Italy so stroll by soon and take a look. Or take a look at my favorite specimen on 25th street near B in Golden Hill.

Want to add fall color to your San Diego garden? Go to our web page at www.sageoutdoordesigns.com and click on the contact us link.


  1. Thanks for visiting my blog. Nice article, I always try to include some fall color in the So Cal garden. You hit on my favorites. Some shrubs to consider are Viburnum opulus 'Roseum' it does especially well in my yard with huge white snowballs in the spring. Another forgotten plant is Pyracantha, not fall color, but the berries color up in fall & last thru winter, make a feast for the birds, beautiful spring bloom & it's drough tolerant.

  2. Sorry forgot to leave my link....http://poppyandsage.blogspot.com/

  3. Hi there!

    I found your blog while doing a search for Fall in So. Cal! I'm an So. Cal girl but now living permanently in France in the Paris region.. It's REALLLLY turning into Fall here now-- though I feel like it's come real late this year- due to really nice, sunny warm weather we've had in Sept/Oct...
    In the past two weeks, I've really seen the difference in the colors- like someone took a big paintbrush and starting splashing all the trees with red, yellow and orange! It's so lovely!
    I do miss So. Cal for it's year-round warm and most GORGEOUS weather, but after leaving here now for the past 4 + years- It's really nice seeing the seasons actually 'change!" Fall and Spring are my two favourites!
    Take care! Leesa