ASK BURTON: Q: I had a Chinese Pistache planted in my yard a few years back, and I have a question about how it colors for the fall. My neighbor has one in their yard and it gets great orange and reddish color, but mine has been unimpressive, turning yellow and orange but not much red color. Any idea why this is so different?

A: Fall color questions are one of those types of questions where there probably isn’t one single reason, but several factors which can contribute to how well a particular plant colors up. Much like questions of a wisteria’s bloom, anyone who comes up with the perfect answer to this question will be a wealthy person at some point in the future.

Here are a few likely reasons for the color difference in those two Chinese Pistache trees:

  • Irrigation differences. The moisture a plant receives will influence how well the color turns and how long the color holds; plants which are too wet or too dry for the species might not color as well as a plant in ideal conditions. Humidity differences and how much stress a particular tree look in the summertime also plays a part.
  • Sunshine. Other trees planted too near your Chinese Pistache can partially shade the tree, which does not promote the best fall color.
  • Male or female? Female Chinese Pistache put out a pretty, small red seed in the fall but don’t generally turn as red as a male Chinese Pistache. It’s difficult to tell a male from a female when the tree is a young sapling.
  • Tree maturity. Well-established trees generally show better color than younger or newly planted trees.