Autumn trees for your garden: best native trees for seasonal colour
Add a glow to your garden this autumn. Here's our pick of 11 of the best UK native trees suitable for smaller spaces. They'll give you a splash of seasonal colour, from fiery foliage to bright, bold berries.
Aspen (Populus tremula)
Credit: Tim Gainey / Alamy Stock Photo
Also known as quaking aspen, its pretty, rounded leaves shimmer and tremble in even the most gentle of breezes. In autumn they turn from bronze to bright yellow or sometimes red. This tree often grows suckers (shoots around the base of the tree) which should be pruned off.
Common beech (Fagus sylvatica)
Credit: Brian Hoffman / Alamy Stock Photo
20m+ (but can be grown as a hedge plant)
A magnificent tree and one of the best for autumn colour. Its wavy-edged leaves turn a crisp, coppery-bronze and hang on to the tree throughout winter until they're pushed off by the new leaf growth the following spring. It can be grown as a specimen tree but in space-strapped gardens, it's best as a hedge.
Crab apple (Malus sylvestris)
Credit: Frank Hecker / Alamy Stock Photo
Up to 10m
Crab apple is relatively compact, making it a fantastic native species to grow in your garden. Its yellow-green fruits appear at the end of summer and ripen into early autumn and can be used to make glowing sunset-coloured crab apple jelly. The apples often hang on the tree well into winter like nature's baubles.
Dogwood (Cornus sanguinea)
Credit: Nigel Bean / naturepl.com
10m (but can be pruned into a compact shrub)
Bursting into colour in the cooler months, dogwood produces brilliantly bright foliage in autumn and spectacular red stems in winter. Wildlife loves dogwood, from moth caterpillars that feed on its leaves to birds that banquet on its berries.
Field maple (Acer campestre)
Credit: Steven Kind / WTML
20m (but can be grown as a hedge plant)
It's the UK's only native maple but it can hold its own against its exotic relatives when it comes to autumn colour. Its autumn leaves turn a multitude of hues from subtle coral to gleaming gold. It grows into a lovely-shaped medium-sized specimen tree, or plant it as part of a hedge.
Guelder rose (Viburnum opulus)
Credit: Laurie Campbell / WTML
Bold and beautiful, this species will brighten up your garden in autumn. Its showy clusters of bright red berries are loved by thrushes and waxwing, and its three-lobed leaves turn a rich scarlet. Grow it as a hedge or specimen shrub.
Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)
Credit: Ben Lee / WTML
A pagan symbol of fertility, hawthorn is a classic hedgerow species or is ideal as a specimen tree. In autumn, its deeply-lobed leaves turn a crimson red and its jewel-like berries gleam. It's great for wildlife, too, especially blackbirds.
Silver birch (Betula pendula)
Credit: Laurie Campbell / WTML
Up to 30m
Silver birch has so much going for it in every season, but in autumn you're rewarded by its golden-yellow foliage and white, pink or brown peeling bark. It's a quick-growing, elegant, slender species that doesn't take up too much space in the garden.
Spindle (Euonymous europaeus)
Credit: Nature Photographers Ltd / WTML
Spindle is at its loveliest in autumn when its leaves turn russet and its pink and orange fruits ripen. Its pink-winged fruits open to reveal bright orange seeds that hang on to the tree long after the leaves have fallen. A stunning specimen tree but also works well in a hedge.
Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia)
Credit: Pete Cairns / Nauturepl.com
Rowan is an elegant tree with a mystical history. In autumn its striking pinnate leaves turn a magnificent orange or red. Its clusters of orange-red berries hang on the tree well into winter, providing a feast for mice and birds.
Wayfaring tree (Viburnum lantana)
Credit: Caroline Eastwood / Alamy Stock Photo
In autumn, the gorgeous wayfaring tree will produce groups of oval, flattened berries which start off red then turn black. Both colours can often be seen together. Its thick-textured leaves turn a rich colour in autumn. It's perfect for hedges, borders and screening.
Tree planting help and advice
Which species to plant
Different trees have different purposes and needs. Choose your species according to the land you have and what you want from your trees.
Where to plant
The trick to successful planting is good planning.
How to plant a tree
Follow our guide to three of the most successful ways to plant.
How to care for your trees
Once your trees are in the ground it’s important to care for them, especially in the first few years.