Backyard Trees Landscaping Ideas
Fruit of the hawthorn.
Every kind of cultivated tree has assets that suit it for some landscape use. Each also has certain requirements critical to its survival in the yard. Some are more cold-hardy than others, so check their Zone rating for hardiness. Many do best in rich, moist, woodsy soil that’s on the acid side. Others prefer more alkaline soil that tends to be dry because it’s not as rich in moisture-holding organic matter. Some trees, like swamp red maples and bald cypress, can handle truly wet soil.
Trees also have their liabilities. Some have thorns that make them unsuitable for homes with children. Others are weedy. Some are messy – sycamores and relatives of the London plane tree drip fuzzy balls, bark, and twigs all over the place. The spiked balls from sweet gum trees and the runaway roots of willows present challenges as well. However, if you choose the right place for some of these less-desirable varieties, you often can overlook their faults and enjoy their virtues instead.
A small tree is not always a young tree. If it’s small from lack of vigor, the condition of its bark will give it away. A weak one will have thicker bark that’s textured with ridges, furrows, or flakes, rather than the smooth, tender bark of youth.
Certain trees are more tolerant of typical urban conditions, such as atmospheric pollutants from industry and cars, compacted soil, poor drainage, night lighting, and salt spray from snow plows. Typically, city trees have much shorter lifespans than their suburban or country counterparts. Those that do best are Norway maple, oak, Washington hawthorn, ginkgo, honey locust, sweet gum, crabapple, linden, and zelkova.
Callery pear (Pyrus calleryana) is fast-growing and has small, white flowers in the spring and colorful foliage in the fall. Its pyramidal canopy reaches 30 to 45 feet at maturity. Early versions called Bradford tend to split in storms, so choose ‘Aristocrat’ or ‘Chanticleer.’ Zones 5-8.
Learn more about ornamental pear trees.
Crabapple (Malus) grows 15 to 25 feet tall and is covered in spring with deep pink flower buds that become white blossoms. In turn, the flowers give way to small red or yellow apples that birds love. The tree spreads to an irregular shape. Zones 3-8.
The best crabapples for your yard.
Learn more about crabapples.
Chinese dogwood (Cornus kousa chinensis) has white spring flowers with pointed petals. Dangling, fleshy red fruits hang from its distinctly horizontal branches in fall. Zones 3-8.
Learn more about flowering dogwoods.
Redbud (Cercis canadensis) bears tiny pinkish-purple flowers along its stems and bare branches in early spring. They give way to rows of wide heart-shape leaves. Pods become visible as leaves turn yellow in fall. Mature trees grow 25 to 30 feet tall. Zones 5-9.
Learn more about redbuds.
Saucer magnolia (Magnolia soulangeana) is deciduous and grows up to 30 feet tall. It bears 6-inch-long, pale pink flowers early in spring. Zone 5-9.
Learn more about magnolias.
Serviceberry (Amelanchier) is a tough and adaptable large shrub or small tree at 6 to 20 feet tall. Its early-spring clouds of white flowers become edible dark fruits by June. Yellowish-pink fall foliage entertains in a woodland setting or near a patio. Zones 2-9.
Learn more about serviceberries.
Weeping cherry (Prunus) varieties typically grow 15 to 25 feet tall and spread as wide. They bear a blizzard of single or double flowers in pink or white. Zones 5-8.
Learn more about flowering cherry trees.
Honey locust is tough and adaptable, grows 30 to 50 feet tall, and drops pods. Its foliage turns yellow in fall. Choose the thornless variety. Zones 3-9.
Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipfera) grows quickly to its 25-foot height. Beautiful tulip flowers with orange centers snuggle among interesting leaves. Zone 5-9.
Learn more about tulip trees.
Willow oak (Quercus phellos) has narrow and pointed foliage, and forms a fine-texture, dense conical canopy, rising to about 50 feet at maturity. It makes a good street and shade tree and is easy to transplant. Foliage turns yellow before it drops in the fall. Zones 6-9.
Learn more about oaks.
Sorrel, or sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum), grows to 75 feet tall and is a multiseason beauty. Its July flowers are drooping strands of tiny white urns among slightly leathery and glossy, medium green leaves that turn to a brilliant red early in the fall. Zones 5-9.
Arborvitae (Thuja) grows to a narrow, conical 40 to 50 feet tall. It begins with a slender shape, then turns spirelike upon maturity. Many varieties exist that grow in various heights and widths. Zones 2-7.
Learn more about arborvitae.
Pine (Pinus) foliage is evergreen for year-round beauty and is composed of bundles of soft, long needles. Though some pines are a bit brittle in harsh weather, they’re often used for wind and privacy screening. Hardy in various zones, depending on the variety of tree.