The Complete Guide to Flowering Trees
Who doesn't love the first sight of redbud blooms in the spring, or the heavenly scent and elegance of magnolia blossoms? As winter wanes and spring gains strength, flowering trees celebrate the arrival of warmer days by adding a colorful show to your garden.
While perennials and annuals offer lovely color and texture, the impact of flowering trees in your landscape is show-stopping. Whether you plant an allée of cherry trees, a screen of magnolias, or a single specimen of a lilac tree, the beauty and fragrance of trees in bloom will add drama and enjoyment to your garden, while increasing your home's curb appeal and property value.
The Top Flowering Tree Varieties
Whether you're looking for a large specimen to shade your garden, mid-sized trees to frame your entranceway, or petite, dwarf container plantings to add a splash of color on your patio, there's a variety to meet your needs in a rainbow of bloom options.
‘Royal Empress': Growing more than 15' per year, this is the perfect tree to add immediate height, shade, and interest to your landscape. This non-invasive variety produces lavender-scented blooms in the spring and reaches its mature height in just five years. Best of all, it's disease and pest resistant, as well as drought tolerant. 40-50' height, 30-40' width, zones 5-11.
Tulip Poplar: A perfect tree to add four seasons of beauty to your garden. Hummingbirds adore the spring blooms, while songbirds and squirrels enjoy the seeds in the fall. The bright green summer leaves turn golden in autumn. A perfect disease- and pest-resistant shade tree. 70' height, 30-40' width, zones 4-9.
Southern Magnolia: Also known as Bull Bay or Sweet Magnolia, this symbol of the south delivers exquisite, fragrant blooms that contrast with dark foliage. 40-80' height, 30-40' width, zones 7-9.
Autumn Cherry: With spectacular semi-double pink blooms, this is a gorgeous tree in the spring…but then the blooms reappear in the fall. The deep green leaves turn golden in the autumn, adding extra impact to your landscape. 20-40' height, 15-25' width, zones 4-8.
‘Dynamite': Red blooms grace the large 20- to 30-foot tree. First introduced by breeder Dr. Carl Whitcomb in 1997, ‘Dynamite' is the first crape myrtle to sport true red blooms. Zones 7-9.
‘Natchez': Elegant white blooms add brightness to the landscape, while the cinnamon-colored bark extends seasonal interest. This variety is highly resistant to powdery mildew, the bane of crape myrtle owners. Matures to 15-20' height. Zones 7-10.
‘Muskogee': Spectacular purple blooms grace this fast growing variety, which can grow up to five feet per year until reaching maturity at 15-25 feet. Specially bred by the U.S. National Arboretum for its rich, purple blooms and excellent disease resistance. Zones 7-11.
‘Tuscarora': Vibrant coral pink blooms contrast against dark green foliage to provide a bright, eye-catching specimen in the garden. Matures to 15-25 feet. Zones 7-9.
‘Arapaho': Bright red blooms appear in July, when the other garden blooms begin to fade, providing a resurgence of color in the landscape. The narrow, upright habit of the variety is ideal for tight spaces, with the mature height of 15-25 feet. Zones 7-9.
‘Yoshino' Cherry: Growing up to 3' per year, this stunning cherry tree is the perfect accent for your garden. The delicate white blooms add spring interest, while the foliage turns from a shiny green to yellow-orange in fall. Birds love the fruit. 20-30' height, 10-20' width, zones 5-8.
‘Kwanzan' Cherry: Fabulous deep pink clusters of double blossom flowers make this tree a focal point in your landscape design. From the spectacular blooms to the foliage that changes from bronze to green to yellow-orange in the fall to the beautiful bark that adds winter interest, it's the perfect tree for year round interest in the garden. 30' height, 30' width, zones 5-9.
‘Little Gem' Magnolia: With fragrant, 8-inch blooms that can last up to six months, this is the perfect specimen plant to add fragrance, color, and seasonal interest in the garden. Pollinators will enjoy the blooms, while birds will benefit from the seed pods. Not only is the tree a beauty, it's fuss-free—highly disease and pest resistant. 15-20' height, 8-10' width, zones 5-9.
‘Jane' Magnolia: Developed by the United States National Arboretum in the 1950s, this cold hardy beauty blooms in spring but provides seasonal interest all year. 10-15' height, 5-10' width, zones 4-8.
Eastern Redbud: One of the first trees to bloom in the spring. The deep roots of the redbud help keep it standing strong in storms and wind, while its delicate blooms along each branch add understated elegance in the garden. The bark darkens in the fall to add interest to the winter garden. 20-30' height, 30' width, zones 4-9.
Oklahoma Redbud: This early bloomer provides a kaleidoscope of color in the garden. From the fuchsia blooms in early spring to the colorful fall foliage, the compact habit of this redbud makes it a gorgeous focal point for smaller gardens and sites. 20-30' height, 15-20' width, zones 6-9.
‘Kousa' Dogwood: Long lasting blooms, autumn fruits, fantastic foliage color, and sculptural bark make this dogwood an ideal specimen in your garden. The wildlife will love it, too—the birds adore the pink fruit. 15-25' height, 20-25' width, zones 5-8.
Dogwood Trees: With varieties in red, white, and pink, these spring stars are not only a lovely focal point in your garden, but they also benefit wildlife, providing berries for birds and small mammals. The fall foliage adds a beautiful show in the autumn garden as well. 20-30' height, 20-25' width, zones 5-8.
‘Snow Fountain' Cherry: Cascades of blooms on the weeping branches make this a gorgeous specimen in the garden. Ideal for smaller gardens, tight spaces, or entryways as a focal point, the early blooms will enchant. 12-15' height, 15-20' width, zones 5-8.
‘Catawba': With stunning purple blooms and a compact habit, this is the perfect specimen for entryways, driveways, sidewalks, or anywhere a burst of color is needed but space is restricted. Blooming for 120 days, the tree provides more than just flower power: bronze leaves in autumn add seasonal interest, while the seed pods add value as treats for your feathered friends. Mature height reaches 10-15 feet. Zones 7-9.
‘Pink Velour': Spectacular hot-pink flowers contrasting with purple foliage make this variety a must-have focal point for small spaces. Highly florific and disease resistant, ‘Pink Velour' actually performs better without pruning. Reaching a mature height of 8-10 feet, gardeners in cooler climates will be thrilled to learn that this crape myrtle is hardy to zone 6! Zones 6-10.
‘Tonto Red': An award-winning variety boasting cheerful, long-lasting red blooms on disease resistant foliage. Compact habit of 8-15 feet height makes this variety highly adaptable for many landscape uses. Zones 7-10.
‘Bloomerang' Purple Lilac Tree: Who doesn't adore the fragrance of lilacs? Now, the beautiful scent is available in tree form—perfect for planting near patios, entranceways, or anywhere you'd like a dose of aromatherapy. Lightly prune and fertilize after spring blooms, and it will reward you by blooming again in July! 4-5' height, 4-5' width, zones 3-7.
‘Miss Kim' Lilac Tree: Southerners can enjoy the fragrance of lilacs with this variety, which doesn't melt in the heat like many lilacs. Its compact habit is perfect for small gardens, tight sites, or container plantings. Pollinators love the blooms, but the deer avoid snacking on it. 6-8' height, 6-8' width, zones 3-8.
‘Blue Satin' Tropical Hibiscus Tree: Blue flowers are rare in the garden, but now you can enjoy them in tree form. The spectacular colored blooms, with their deep red throat, attract butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds to your garden. 10-12' height, 3-6' width, zones 3-8.
Knock-Out® Rose Trees: The beauty and elegance of roses—without the fuss. Knock-Out Rose Trees are easy to grow and maintenance free. You can enjoy nine months of blooms without worrying about pests and diseases. Available in red, pink, and yellow, it's the perfect rose for containers. 4-7' height, 2-3' width, zones 5-10.
‘August Beauty' Gardenia Tree: The sweet scent of gardenias—now in a tree form. The elegant tree, with its fragrant, lovely blooms and glossy foliage, is perfect for planting near walkways, entranceways, or in a container. Enjoy blooms throughout the summer and into fall. 5-7' height, 2-3' width, zones 7-9.
‘Limelight' Hydrangea Tree: One of the most popular hydrangeas, now available as a tree. The conical clusters of blooms begin as lovely cream flowers, evolving into pale pink in the fall. Perfect for tight spaces, it's also disease and pest resistant. 6-8' height, 4-5' width, zones 3-8.
‘Cherry Dazzle' Crape Myrtle: Introduced by plantsman Michael Dirr, gardeners will adore the only true red dwarf variety and its unlimited potential in the garden. Whether as an addition to the perennial garden, planted en masse as a short border, or added as the "thriller" in a container planting, the multipurpose dwarf crape myrtle will add a splash of bold color to the garden. Additionally, ‘Cherry Dazzle' grows well in cooler zones, where the temperatures stay above 10 degrees. 3-5' height, 3-5' width. Zones 6-9.
Background Information on Flowering Trees.
With hundreds of flowering trees to choose from, it can be overwhelming to select the best ones for your needs.
One of the reasons for the appeal of flowering trees is the wide-range of interest it adds to the landscape throughout the year: gorgeous blooms, fabulous fall foliage, and interesting bark texture. Even the berries and seeds provide value to wildlife in the garden.
When you're planning your landscape, think about the bloom cycles of various flowering trees to extend the color in your garden. Generally, flowering trees begin blooming in this order each spring: redbud, plum, cherry, dogwood, magnolia, crape myrtle, roses, and Rose of Sharon. By selecting varieties in different bloom periods, you'll extend the color in your landscape.
Also, consider your color scheme. Are you partial to bright colors in the landscape, or do you prefer muted tones? When selecting your flowering trees, consider the color of your home as well to ensure the blooms complement, not clash, with its exterior.
Consider, too, the one minor inconvenience of some blooms: they fall. If you'd rather not sweep crape myrtle blossoms off your patio for several weeks in the summer, choose another tree for the location, or select a site away from the patio to enjoy the blooms across the garden.
How to Select the Right Flowering Tree.
Before you purchase your flowering tree, take a moment to assess your site and decide how you want the plant to perform. Do you have full sun? Adequate space? Need a colorful hedge along your property? Are you looking to make a statement at the entrance of your home or along the driveway? Also, what is your hardiness zone? Most flowering trees require full sun for best performance. Some trees grow into large specimens, while others can be planted in a container to add colorful blooms to a patio. Whatever your zone, space allocation, or color preference, there's a perfect flowering tree for your garden.
While most of us are quick to select a flowering tree based on its bloom color, read the plant's specifications carefully. Blooming trees range in size from dwarf, three-feet tall plants to trees that tower to 70 feet. Measure the space you've allocated for the tree, and then read the plant's information, paying particular attention to the plant's mature height. While most flowering trees are typically low-maintenance plants, an improperly planted tree can become a maintenance headache. Ensure that the area is free from power lines and roof overhangs, and plan the site so that the width of the mature tree does not encroach on pathways.
As always, if you need assistance selecting the tree that is right for your garden, we're happy to help. Just give us a call at 800-399-9514.
How to Plant Flowering Trees.
As soon as you receive your tree, give it a good drink, particularly if you plan to wait a day or two to plant it.
Proper site selection and preparation will help grow a happy plant. Full sun, good drainage, and adequate airflow are all ingredients for a healthy trees. Remember to look up—are there any power lines or structures that might become a problem as your tree grows? If so, choose another location. There's really nothing sadder than a tree pruned badly by a power company.
Most trees can tolerate a wide variety of sites and soils. However, amending heavy, compact clay soils with compost will improve the health of your tree, allowing water to drain adequately so it won't rot the plant's roots.
Late fall or early spring are ideal times to plant trees, allowing the plants to settle in without severe heat stress or impending freezes before roots establish in their new home. However, beautiful summertime blooms tempt many of us when we spy them in the nursery, and somehow that lovely tree manages to follow us home in June. With a little extra pampering, the tree will be fine—just keep it well watered during the heat of summer.
Speaking of holes... don't skimp on the digging. Your hole should be approximately twice as large as the plant's root ball. A well-dug hole gives you the opportunity to breakup any compacted soil, add amendments, and give your plant a good start without overcrowding its roots. Your tree will thank you.
Loosen the plant in the container, carefully removing it, and massaging the root ball. Place in the center of the hole, making certain the soil lines of both the root ball and the hole align. You want to ensure that you don't plant the trunk too deep in the hole. Back fill the hole, pressing the soil into place. Water well. Add a layer of mulch over the site, but avoid the "volcano" effect—simply spread mulch over the site to conserve moisture. Never mound mulch around the tree's trunk, which can promote disease.
Each spring, add a layer of compost over the planting site, as well as a good, organic fertilizer. However, do not over-fertilize. Too much nitrogen will promote lush foliage—and few blooms.
Keep the plant well watered through the first growing season, approximately one inch per week. As it becomes established in your garden, normal rains should suffice. Most trees are fairly drought tolerant once established.
While most trees are pest and disease resistant, Japanese beetles and aphids can damage some trees. For smaller specimens, handpicking Japanese beetles and dropping them in a bucket of soapy water is an easy solution, although one that requires a little time each day. Diluted Neem oil or organic insecticidal soap spray works well for aphids. Make certain to spray both sides of the leaves.
Most trees don't require pruning. Some, like lilacs, can benefit from light pruning to encourage reblooming. However, crape myrtles inspire the great debate: is pruning "crape murder," or is it a necessary evil of enjoying the beauty of crape myrtles?
Many homeowners severely prune crape myrtles due to the misinformation that they will not bloom without a considerable whacking. Others cut back beautiful specimens, simply because they've seen their neighbors "topping" the trees. The reality is that unless the plant outgrows its location, there's no reason to heavily prune crape myrtles.
However, light pruning can help shape crape myrtles into their best form. Eliminating spindly branches, snipping seed pods to encourage reblooming, and editing weak trunks to encourage strong tree form helps shape the plant to reach its full, beautiful potential. To encourage a well-defined tree shape, remove all but three to five of the strongest trunks at ground level. As the tree grows, remove lower, lateral branches, as well as any branches that cross.
To keep crape myrtles at a manageable height, remove twiggy growth to the lower growing side branches. Remove damaged or dead branches to maintain the plant's health.
Pruning is best done when the plant is dormant in the winter or early spring. Just prune sparingly to maintain a lovely, healthy plant.
American Indians used the blossoms of the dogwood tree as a sign that it was time to plant corn. Dogwood trees also play into Native American stories. According to legend, a brave pursued a Cherokee princess. She resisted his advances, and he killed her. As she lay dying, she used the blossoms of the dogwood to try to stop the bleeding, which accounts for the trace red spots on the petals.
The Eastern redbud tree is known as the "Judas-tree." According to mythology, Judas Iscariot hanged himself in a tree of the same species. The flowers of the tree changed from white to red, because of the tree's shame.
Did you know that today's trendy blue bottle trees originated with crape myrtles as their basis? According to legend, by placing blue bottles in a crape myrtle, evil spirits will be drawn into them, become confused, and find it impossible to escape. When the sun rises in the morning, the bottle's light and warmth destroy the evil so that it can't cause harm.
Crape myrtles are known as "lilacs of the south."
The rose existed in the days of Ancient Greece. According to mythology, Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, is credited with creating the rose. Her lover, Adonis, was mortally wounded when hunting a wild boar. She rushed to his side. The combination of his blood and her tears created a beautiful, fragrant flower—the blood-red rose.
In Japan, when a girl baby is born, the family plants a Paulownia (‘Royal Empress') tree for her. The tree grows throughout the girl's life, and when she is to be married, the wood is harvested to create a wedding chest for her. The tree is also planted next to houses so that Phoenix will come to protect the family and bring good luck.
In 1912, the People of Japan gifted 3,000 cherry trees to the People of the United States as a sign of friendship. The trees were planted in Washington, D.C. Today, more than 1.5 million people visit Washington's Cherry Blossom Festival each year.
In Japanese culture, the cherry blossom represents the fragility and beauty of life. It's also a reminder that life is overwhelmingly beautiful but tragically short.