by Sandie Hall

Another stunning choice for autumn color is Disanthus cercidifolius. Although it requires careful management to become established (it will not tolerate drought), the rewards will be enjoyed for years to come. Because of its inherent charm and multi-season interest, this is the perfect choice for a curator-quality specimen plant. It is often referred to by its common name, simply Disanthus. Like many other members of the Hamamelidaceae (Witch-hazel) Family, it will be a source of delight when little else is happening in the garden.

Disanthus is multi-stemmed shrub that can grow to become the size of a small tree. It is full and round in silhouette, and experiences a moderate growth rate. Mature size ranges from 6’-15’ high. The blue-green, heart-shaped leaves are born alternately on zigzag stems and have pinkish petioles (the stem part of the leaf). What a dazzling combination this makes! But the eye-catching abilities of this plant have only just begun during the summer months. Disanthus will be one of the first shrubs to color up in late summer (usually mid-September through October). The leaves will change from green to purple to claret-red.

And if the fall color isn’t spectacular enough, ½” burgundy, star-shaped flowers appear in September through October – a time when most gardeners are surprised to see flowers. The flowers are mildly fragrant, too.

Plant Disanthus in light shade (although even full shade cannot diminish the brilliance of its fall color) in well-drained, moist, organically rich, acid soil. If it is planted in more sun, make sure to keep it moist. This is one focal point specimen plant that will perform beautifully for years to come.

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