Landscaping trees should be the backbone of your landscape, unless if you are landscaping a very small yard. Trees give structure and stature and are as varied as nature itself. They can be tall or small, have leaves or needles, be green in the summer or all year round, bear flowers or not. Trees are just amazing.
When choosing trees for landscaping, the first things to consider, as always, are the conditions in which the trees will be growing. For sunny well drained locations, the variety is very large. But if your location is less than sunny or not well drained, you may need to choose shade plants, wet sun plants or wet shade plants.
The next thing to consider is the space where the tree will be growing. It goes without saying, you may think, but one of the most frequent mistake people make is to choose trees that are not well suited to the place where they will grow. Take into consideration each tree’s mature height and width. Bear in mind that most trees look their best only if they are allowed to grow to their full size.
Finally, consider each tree’s shape. We have listed here a few of the most common tree shapes. Here, it is mostly a question of taste. Some people love weeping trees, others hate them. But there is also an important practical issue to consider: the shadow the tree will cast. A columnar tree can be used to frame a window, while a round or vase shaped tree may block it.
- Round: A big round ball, like the shape of a Freeman maple or a Green Ash.
- Oval: General roundish shape but taller than broad. The American Ash and the Paper Birch are good examples.
- Conical: Typically roundish at the base and pointed at the top, like the Little-leaf Linden.
- Columnar: Tall and slender, like the shape of a Lombardy Poplar.
- Fastigiate: Having parallel, erect branches shooting upwards. The Silver Maple is an example.
- Vase: Having a general triangular shape, narrow at the base and spreading towards the top. These generally cast a lot of shade. The Silver Poplar is an example.
- Weeping: These can have different shapes and sizes, but all have branches that point down towards the ground. Think of the Weeping Willow or the Weeping Mulberry.
- Irregular: Landscaping trees that have strange, sculptural shapes. The Honeylocust can be a good example.
Additional pages on trees
We have special pages dedicated to trees adapted to specific conditions.
|Small sun trees|
|Medium sun trees|
|Large sun trees|
|Wet sun trees|
|Small shade trees|
|Medium shade trees|
|Large shade trees|
|Wet shade trees|
Lists of trees
To make it simpler for you to find the trees that will fit your landscaping plan, we have created lists of trees based on various characteristics.
Note that, in each list, trees from different climate zones with different growing conditions may be mixed together. Before making a final choice on any given tree, always check all its characteristics to ensure it is the right tree for the right place.
Our favorite deciduous trees
|There are many varieties of Birches, ranging from rather small to rather large in size. Paper Birches often have multiple small trunks, while European Birches have a single large trunk. Black Birches have a dark, rough bark that differs from the typical pale, smooth Birch bark.|
|Chestnuts are large trees with a nice regular shape that become covered with large flower clusters in the late spring.|
|Crabapples are also a spring favorite, when they are heavy with white, pink or red flowers.|
|Common Honeylocusts do very well in stressful city environments.|
|European Lindens are also well adapted to the city and they give off a sweet and subtle fragrance in early summer.|
|Japanese lilacs are not bushes, like other lilacs, but rather trees. They have a nice round shape and are covered with flowers for a longer period than other lilacs.|
|There are many varieties of Maple trees. Most varieties are nice in summer, but some become just stunning in the fall when their foliage takes various shades of gold, amber and red. Japanese Maples are very interesting landscaping trees. Some of them have green foliage, but many have a bright red foliage all summer long.|
|Magnolias are hardly noticeable during the summer, but what an impression they can make in the spring.|
|Maidenhair trees stand out, with their odd shape and beautiful fan shaped leaves.|
|If you live in a warm region and like fragrant trees, a Mimosa tree will fill your yard with its fragrance. Another alternative is the Robinia, which also has fragrant flowers, but is adapted to a wider range of climates.|
|Most Oak trees require patience, since they grow slowly, but they can become majestic trees. They are noble trees that can add panache to a landscape. They come in over six hundred varieties, from the slender columnar to the large White Oak.|
|Russian Olive trees get noticed for the grayish color of their leaves. They resist pollution well.|
|Serviceberry trees are a feast of white flowers in the spring, plus their leaves turn a nice orange shade in the fall.|
|If you have the space, a Weeping Willow is always a nice and romantic choice. If you live near a river or stream, it’s even better.|
We also have a page on deciduous trees that can grow in shady, soggy locations:
|Wet shade trees.|
Tall growing trees
Some varieties of the landscaping trees listed here will grow to be over 25 feet in height. By the way, when adding such trees to your landscaping plan, think of electric and telephone lines. Note that these trees will not necessarily grow fast. For fast growing trees, see below.
Fast growing trees
The landscaping trees listed below are for you if you are of a rather impatient nature. They can grow to their mature size in roughly five to ten years, given favorable conditions. Bear in mind that many fast growing trees also live shorter lives.
Smaller landscaping trees
Some varieties of the trees listed here will typically not grow over 15 feet in height. They may be good choices for small yards.
Slow growing trees
The landscaping trees listed below are not necessarily good choices for small yards and enclosed spaces, because they may grow slowly but become very big. These trees can keep growing bigger and bigger for years and years.
The following landscaping trees are special cultivars that grow tall but remain slender. They may be good choices for high but cramped spaces (granted that the location has adequate growing conditions). Contact your local nursery for more information on them.
|Autumn Blaze Maple|
|Crimson Sentry Maple|
|Emerald Queen Maple|
|Frans Fountaine Hornbeam|
Once you have chosen the proper trees for landscaping your yard, a good way to figure out how the whole thing will actually look “in the field” is to add them to a landscaping plan. Consider adding shrubs to your plan, and why not annuals and perennials, vines and ground covers. Also look at various landscaping ideas.
Your yard is not a forest
Some people seem to confuse forests and woods with landscaped yards. Although trees for landscaping are a must, it is rarely a good idea to try to recreate a natural looking wood around your house. If your house is sitting on a large piece of land, and if part of that land is wooded, then by all means leave as many of those trees as possible standing.
But if your house is located on a regular size lot and you plan to take small trees from the forest to plant them here and there on your yard, you should know that you will get poor results, not to mention the fact that you will be damaging the forest and committing an illegal act.
Have you considered all the options available to you? If not, then have a look at our Landscaping plants page.