Spring Flowering Trees
Spring Flowering Trees
Fall is the best time to plant trees. Get your trees in the ground before it freezes solid, and your trees will have an excellent chance of growing new roots and establishing themselves before winter. That will give them a head start in the spring. Today, I’ll give you the rundown on some great trees to plant now for spectacular spring color. Thursday, I’ll explain how to plant your trees so that they get a running start, and stay healthy and happy for their entire lives. There is more to planting trees than digging a hole. But, more on that later this week.
Trees for Spectacular Spring Color
When I think about trees for beautiful spring color, I mainly picture cherry and apple trees. Cherry trees and apple trees are definitely “spring beauties” but there are so many other choices, as well! Briefly, trees from these Genus groups have great spring displays:
Prunus: Cherry, Plum
Cherry trees are the iconic spring flowering tree. Visit Washington, D.C. in the spring and you will be overwhelmed. That is really the only way to describe it. Cherries come in every shape and size. A couple of supreme interest to the home gardener are the Sargent Cherry, Prunus sargentii and the Flowering Apricot, Prunus mume. The Sargent Cherry is one of the taller cherries, and one of the later blooming plants, while the Flowering Apricot is one of the earliest flowering trees in the Southern US. It blooms in late January. Cherry trees have horizontal lenticils on their trunk, giving the tree trunks their striped appearance. The lenticils aid in the tree’s respiration.
Growing up in central Indiana, I would hold my breath ever spring waiting for the Magnolias to bloom. It was always a gamble whether they would be frozen out. The magnolias in question were the Magnolia xsolangiana or the Saucer Magnolias. Fuzzy flower buds make way for enormous purplish pinkish blooms. When they get a freeze before they open, they aren’t a pretty sight–big brown blobs. A far better choice is the Star Magnolia, Magnolia stellata. These beauties are hardy to zone 4, and withstood plenty of frigid winter winds on Purdue University’s campus. I should know–I led many a Woody Plant Identification walk around the campus.
Dogwoods are an under story tree, happiest when they are growing in the shade of larger trees. Dogwoods have, unfortunately, been beset with the fungal disease Dogwood Anthracnose. Hardest hit are the flowering dogwoods, Cornus florida. If you have a good spot to grow them, they are still my favorite. Their horizontal branches look like floating bridal veils when they bloom in the spring. The trees also produce reliable red fall color, a definite asset in warmer regions. Better for most areas, though, is the Kousa Dogwood, Cornus kousa. This tree is multi-stemmed, with an upright vase shape. Their flowers look very similar to the flowering dogwood, but the Kousas flower about three weeks later.
If pure water had a scent, it would smell like apple blossoms. That sounds hokey, but I mean it! Every spring, I try to find at least one apple or flowering crabapple to bury my nose in. It is the most pure, lovely scent there is. Apples are susceptible to fireblight and cedar apple rust. If you have arborvitae in your yard, don’t even try to grow them unless you are prepared to spray–a lot. (Which, by the way, we do not advocate, being an organic gardening website!)
Serviceberries or Shadbush are some of the most underutilized landscape plants. They are native, which might be why they were overlooked for so many years in the nursery trade. Today, they are much more available in several cultivars. Not only do they have nice spring flowers, they produce colorful berries and have great fall foliage.
Um, I hesitate to even include pears here because the most used ornamental pear, Pyrus calleryana is, in most respects, an absolutely horrible plant! However, because it is planted so widely, and enjoyed so greatly for about two weeks of the year, I feel it necessary to educate about this beast! It does have beautiful white flowers that bloom early in the spring. They are stinky and messy, but driving past them at interstate interchanges at 80 miles per hour, they are lovely. They have purply redish fall color, which is nice. Otherwise, they suck at being good trees. They are overused, which is boring. They are invasively weedy in many parts of North America. They have narrow crotch angles (the angle of the branch to the tree) and are weak-wooded, so they literally split in half in wind storms, ice storms, snow storms, pretty much any weather condition besides warm and sunny. DO NOT PLANT THESE.
The groups mentioned above are some of the best , but there are others. Among them:
- Tilia: Linden
- Cercis: Redbud
- Crataegus: Hawthorne