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The 10 Best Flowering Trees for Your Landscape

Annie Shumway
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Flowering landscape trees are the crown jewels of the residential landscape, offering shape, color, and shade. No other plant, all on its own, can make a bigger impact on how your yard looks in the spring-time, and some varieties provide color well through the summer.  

Here are 10 varieties of flowering tree to inject color into your spring landscape.

Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata)

Star magnolia is one of the first plants to bloom in the spring, with white star-shape flowers that appear in March and April, before the leaves appear. This is a large shrub that grows to 15 to 20 feet, but it can be trained as a tree by pruning to retain a single stem to serve as the trunk.

Star magnolia makes a great specimen tree in the yard, or it can be used in woodland borders. When grown as a shrub, it is sometimes used in tall informal hedges.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
  • Color Varieties: White
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained loam

Dogwood (Cornus florida)

Flowering dogwoods (Cornus florida) offer landscape interest in fall and winter, in addition to the wonderful spring blooms. These flowering landscape trees display pretty fall foliage as the glossy green leaves turn attractive shades of red. The colorful berries add further fall interest, and for good measure these trees afford interesting branching patterns that show up best in winter after their leaves have dropped.

This is a smallish tree, growing 15 to 30 feet. It is most often planted as a  specimen tree or  in small groupings in the yard. It also works well in woodland garden settings.

It is important to keep this tree in good condition, as stress can make it susceptible to several problems, the most problematic being dogwood anthracnose, a fungal disease. If caught early, removal of affected limbs may prevent it from spreading.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
  • Color Varieties: White
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained soil

Weeping Cherry (Prunus spp.)

Several varieties of weeping cherry trees are available, and they are among the most treasured plants of spring. Two of the most popular are:

  • Weeping higan (Prunus subhirtella 'Pendula'): 20 to 30 feet tall
  • Snow Fountains (Prunus 'Snofozam'): 8 to 15 feet tall

Weeping cherries need to be kept moist, especially in drought conditions. A 2-inch layer of mulch around the base of the tree can help with this.

Weeping cherries are typically planted individually as specimen trees, or in small groups.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8 (varies by species)
  • Color Varieties: Pink, white
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-drained soil

Kwanzan and Yoshino Cherries (Prunus serrulata 'Kwansan', Prunus x yedoensis)

Two upright cherries also deserve mention among the better flowering trees.

Kwanzan cherry (Prunus serrulata 'Kwanzan') has an upright, rather than a weeping form, but it puts on an equally fine flowering show in spring. It grows 25 to 30 feet, and unlike many flowering trees, it also makes a good street tree. It is also used as a specimen tree or can be planted in small groups.

Similar is Yoshino cherry (Prunus x yedoensis). Yoshino is a larger tree, standing 30 to 40 feet tall, with a similar spread. It is used in a manner similar to that of Kwanzan cherry—as a specimen or street tree.  

Cherry trees need to be protected from strong winds, as the branches are brittle and prone to breaking.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
  • Color Varieties: White to light pink
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained soil

Saucer Magnolias (Magnolia x soulangiana)

The various kinds of saucer magnolia are often bigger, growing to 20 to 30 feet, than star magnolia and have bigger flowers. They also often bloom a bit later but they are worth the wait, especially if you prefer pinkish flowers to white. The name "saucer" is meant to describe the large size of the blossoms. Avoid planting this tree in southern exposures, as the flower buds may emerge too early and be prone to cold damage.

This plant is sometimes grown as a large shrub in borders, or used as a specimen tree. It needs a protected location to prevent spring cold from damaging the flowers.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
  • Color Varieties: White touched with purple-pink
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Acidic, moist, well-draining loam

Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

Like flowering dogwood, the redbud is indigenous to North America and is among the best flowering landscape trees of the spring. The April-blooming flowers are not large, but they stand out from the other entries on this list due to the fact that when they first appear, the blooms line otherwise bare branches, coating them in a pinkish-purple fuzz.

The redbud grows 20 to 30 feet high and wide, and has a variety of landscape uses: as a specimen, in shrub borders, as a street or lawn tree, or in naturalized woodland settings.

Redbuds can be prone to canker diseases caused by fungi or bacteria. Keeping the tree healthy and promptly removing damaged limbs can prevent this.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
  • Color Varieties: Pink
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained soil

Callery Pear (Pyrus calleryana)

One particular cultivar of the Callery pear ('Bradford') for a time earned the entire species a bad name, since it had weak branches that snapped off easily under wind, snowfall, or ice.  Newer cultivars are now on the market that are much superior. 'Redspire' is one good choice, a thornless tree that grows 35 to 45 feet high, with white flowers that appear in spring before the leaves appear. Callery pears serve well as residential street trees or as shade trees in the landscape. The fall foliage is a beautiful yellow or orange.

Like apple trees, pear trees are prone to fire blight, a bacterial disease that creates a scorched look on the leaves. To prevent it, avoid heavy pruning and feed the tree only minimally to avoid excessively fast growth.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
  • Color Varieties: White
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained soil

Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.)

Hawthorn trees are one of the few flowering trees that provide color past early to mid-spring. This tree typically blooms in late spring to early summer. Plants in the Crataegus genus can bloom in pink, white, or red. Birds eat their berries in fall or winter. Besides the popular Washington hawthorn tree (Crataegus phaenopyrum), types with good cold-hardiness include:

Crataegus crus-galli: white flowers, 25 to 35 feet tall, zones 3 to 7

Crataegus laevigata 'Crimson Cloud': red flowers, 25 feet tall, zones 4 to 8

Crataegus laevigata 'Double Pink': pink flowers, 18 to 25 feet in height, zones 5 to 8

Hawthornes don't need much pruning, but you should regularly remove suckers that appear from the base of the trunk. These trees prone to a variety of pests, and seasonal spraying with a horticultural oil is good practice.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8, depending on species
  • Color Varieties: Pink, white, or red
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained soil

Golden Chain (Laburnum spp.)

If you're looking for a flowering tree with something other than the white or pink blooms found on most spring-flowering trees, consider the glorious golden chain tree. This tree is slightly fussy, requiring a sheltered location and attention to a variety of pests and diseases. But if you have the right location, these are fabulous trees that bloom in late spring, just as the hawthorns do.

In the first few years, make sure to prune out secondary leaders, which will help the plant grow with a classic tree-like structure.

Warning: All parts of this tree are toxic, so do not plant it where children have access.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 7
  • Color Varieties: Yellow
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • Soil Needs: Rich, medium-moisture, well-drained soil

Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)

If you wish to follow up all of that spring color with terrific summer color, consider crape myrtle. A popular choice for Southerners, they have a long blooming period (mid-summer to fall) and grow 6 to 25 feet tall, with a multi-stem growth habit that can be trained into a tree form. The plant grows taller in warm southern ones. Northerners (to zone 5) can sometimes get away with treating these colorful specimens as shrubs that die back in winter but come back in spring.

Avoid excessive pruning, as it can kill the tree or cause suckers to emerge at the bottom of the tree.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 6 to 9
  • Color Varieties: Pink, white, red, lavender
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained soil

Repost: thespruce.com