Texas Red Oak Information

Fall Colors in the Southwest

Last updated on November 4th, 2023 at 05:04 pm

Fall Colors in and around the Southwest USA. I know it doesn’t seem like it with the high temps and humidity, but it is a wonderful time of the year.  One may envision single leaves zig-zagging down in various shades of yellows, oranges, reds, and all other hues in between. Of course, we may be thinking of areas in the Northeast or Northwest where this comes naturally. But you can have great color in your landscape in the American Southwest.  Fall colors in the southwest make the desert come alive.

Here in the Southwest desert achieving this spectacle may be more of a challenge. A challenge yes, but very doable with some careful thought and planning. Here are a few trees and shrubs that can help with this scenario.

Colorful Plants and Trees

chinese pistache tree
Smaller Chinese Pistache Tree

The fall color of Chinese Pistache tree

First, there is the Chinese Pistache. Pistacia Chinensis:

This one has its own fall characteristics in that the color of each tree can vary from mostly yellow to red, orange, peach, and sometimes a rainbow of all these shades in one tree. If you are particular about color this tree may be best chosen during the cooler months of the year when you are actually able to view its fall splendor. Young trees are very gawky and awkward, but older trees become more symmetrical and graceful looking.

The mature height and width for the Pistache can reach up to 35 to 50 ft or more with about a 25 to 35 ft spread, depending upon how it gets pruned. They also become a bit drought tolerant with age.


Red Oak Leaves in Southwest
Image by Photo Mix from Pixabay


Red Oak Trees for Fall Color

Red Oaks are becoming more popular here in this area (desert southwest).  Lots of them have been planted in the East Mesa (Las Cruces area) in the newly developed areas. By the way, the ones that don’t look as healthy as the others have a dripper or emitter that is clogged.

As the name implies these beauties will change anywhere from a bright to dark red show once cold weather appears. This one typically grows a bit faster than the Pistache and will grow to about the same height and width. Most oaks will benefit from slightly acidic soil.

This can be done with iron, iron chelate, or a soil acidifier. Use one of these products if the leaves turn pale green with green veins. These deep-rooted giants also become drought tolerant with age. Ash trees provide some fall color as well.

Fall Colors in the Southwest.

Raywood Ash Fall

The Raywood ash with deep green summer foliage gives way to a burgundy flush that resembles a purple leaf plum in autumn.

The Gold Colors of the Arizona Ash in fall
Gold Color of Arizona Ash

The Ash trees for Fall Color

The Modesto, Bonita, and Berrinda ash will reveal a brilliant yellow-gold hue (see above). These trees also are low water consumers once established and can take our alkaline soils. Many of these specimens can be seen in our city sports parks throughout Las Cruces and other cities. These drier climate trees typically grow anywhere from 25 to 50 feet tall and 20 to 35 feet wide.

Crape Myrtles in Fall

The Crape myrtle, which can be in tree or shrub form, also produces a spectacular show of brilliant red-orange leaves.  They will not bloom during the fall seasons, but the foliage color is spectacular.

Tuscarora Crape Myrtle
The Tuscarora Crape Myrtle at full bloom.

Visit this post for Crape Myrtles for landscape

Fall Colors in the Southwest
The Colors of the Crape Myrtle Leaves in Fall – Image by Jan Haerer from Pixabay


Fall Colors in the Southwest
The wonderous color of the Tonto Crape Myrtle in fall
Fall Colors in the Southwest
The Muskogee Crape Myrtle Fall Colors

These can range in size from dwarfs, which reach 2 to 3 feet tall to trees that can reach 15 to 20 feet in height and almost the same width. This tree or shrub will benefit from regular watering and fertilizing with a supplement of iron.

Nandina Plant in Pot

Heavenly Bamboo is a slow-growing plant but requires low water once established.  It is not only tolerant of drought but looks rather decorative in any garden.  Plus, it will turn a showy reddish color during the winter seasons. Other varieties are the Gulf Stream, Sienna Sunrise, and Firepower.  They can be used in the background with shorter flowering perennials in front.

More Color with Evergreen Plants

Emerald Gaiety – This China native offers a double whammy with flower color from late spring to early summer and sometimes into fall. There are some evergreen shrubs such as euonymus ’alatus’, ‘emerald gaiety’, ‘emerald n gold’, and nandina, which all flush in colors ranging from purple to red hues from late fall and throughout the winter months. These can have a dramatic effect during our brief snowstorms.

Okay, maybe not snowstorms, rather, when it snows. The trees and plants listed here will benefit from a regular fertilizer program that includes some iron-based fertilizer.  As a rule, the greener the foliage is during the growing season the more color it will produce in the fall and early winter months.

The effects of a quick freeze on Leaves

One side note is that sometimes this area seems to go from abnormally hot fall temperatures to very cold temps in a matter of days. This event may sometimes lead to quick “freeze-dried” leaves, which may diminish most, or all the fall colors a leaf can provide. Add some fall and winter interest with any combination of the above.

These are tried and actual plants for our southwestern soil and dry climate. Remove the seed pods after

Texas Red Oak in early Fall
The Texas Red Oak Tree

the blossoms fade, then the fall color emerges from the green leaves when there is a chill in the air.

Canna lilies are plants that will bloom in late summer and early fall.  Canna Lilly Plant Care.


By Gary Guzman

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