Why do leaves change color in the Fall?

Garden Tips

You can always expect your landscape to be filled with a myriad of fall colors as your trees and shrubs go dormant for the winter. You’ll see yellows, purples, oranges, and reds during the transition. But what’s actually happening during this change?

Deciduous trees and shrubs are ones that will lose their leaves in the winter. During the summer, the green chlorophyll pigment is what you see, and it’s what’s most responsible for photosynthesis. But as temperatures fall and day length gets shorter in the fall, the chlorophyll breaks down and photosynthesis stops, ultimately revealing other pigments in the leaves.

Yellow, orange, and brown have always been there, but were hidden by the chlorophyll. Red pigment, however, is actually produced in the fall, and may be more intense when we’re experiencing a mild, wet fall season.

You may be used to certain trees, like maples, having great fall color before the entire tree goes naked for the winter, but did you know that many evergreens also have fall color? Even though they keep their foliage in the winter, some evergreens, like azaleas and hollies, will lose their older inside needles, making them shed and transition into the winter.

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