Red is one of those colors of which decorators say, “Too much can be annoying, but splashes of it add a brilliance that can make a dull room exciting.” It’s the same with landscaping. If you want to perk up the appearance of your yard, consider adding some red.
In most of the U.S., red makes a grand entrance in the fall when the leaves turn color. Plants with red fall foliage are an attractive option, but many plants offer red highlights in other ways – with red flowers, red berries, or red bark – and at other times of the year.
The red maple is probably the gold standard for trees with red fall foliage, but it offers much more. In early spring, it bears clusters of showy red flowers that are later followed by red leaf buds that open to a glossy green. Even the brown winged fruits have a reddish tinge. Red maples are fast-growing, grow well in moist or heavy soil, and stand up well to high winds. The popular ‘Red Sunset’ maple can withstand winter temperatures well below zero.
Red buckeye and red crabapple trees also have red flowers in spring, and the crabapple has attractive red berries in fall/winter.
There are a number of shrubs that will add red to your landscape. Burning bush (also called winged euonymus) is noted for its brilliant red fall color, and it has red fruits for winter interest. The red-barked or red-twig dogwood is a multi-stemmed shrub that will grow to 8 to 10 feet tall, with reddish-plum leaves in the fall and vivid red-barked branches that stand out beautifully against the snow in winter. Dwarf Japanese barberry has reddish-purple leaves all year and bright red berries in the fall.
Japanese maples include large shrubs and small trees with elegant and colorful foliage. Many retain red foliage from spring through the growing season, with especially attractive scarlet leaves in fall.
Annuals, Perennials, and Vines
For a splashy show of red anywhere in your yard, look for red-flowering plants. Flowering annuals such as geraniums, snapdragons, zinnias, corn poppies, and begonias all have cultivars with red blooms. A cluster of scarlet sage (salvia splendens) makes a particularly impressive display with feathery red blooms on spikes that reach 12 to 18 inches tall.
Among perennials, bee balm ‘Colrain Red’ or ‘Gardenview Scarlet’ will burst into red blooms from early to mid-summer. Cardinal flower (lobelia) has spiky scarlet blooms and hardy hibiscus produces large, tropical-looking blooms from mid- to late summer.
If you have a good place for a flowering vine, red morning glory is a lush, fast grower. Red anemone clematis would be another good choice.