Flowering trees are among the most prized specimens of the yard, making a bold statement and often heralding the return of warmer weather in northern climates. Any tree serves to help form the "backbone" of the landscape, but flowering trees add pizazz to a yard in a way that few other plants can match.
Take a look at 17 choices for flowering trees you should consider (or not) for your yard.
01 of 17
Star magnolia tree (Magnolia stellata) is one of the first trees to bloom in spring. Its white flowers open before its own leaves have appeared at a time when most other trees are just starting to bud.
Grow star magnolias in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 4 to 8, in a location with full sun. The star magnolia is smaller than the saucer magnolias, reaching a height of 15 to 20 feet with a similar spread. But although shorter, star magnolia tree makes up for it by beating its taller relative into bloom.
Native to Japan, this tree has good tolerance for dense clay soils.
02 of 17
Like star magnolia, "Jane" magnolia is a relatively small tree. In maturity, it grows to about 10 to 15 feet in height with a spread of 10 feet. The flowers are typically reddish purple with white interiors. This tree is notable for having a good tolerance for urban pollution.
Jane blooms in April and May, two to four weeks later than star magnolia. Like its cousin, Jane sets its flowers before the leaves appear. Grow this tree in USDA hardiness zones 4 to 8; it is best placed in a partial sun location that receives full sun in the morning but some shade in the afternoon.
03 of 17
Ivory Chalice Magnolia
"Ivory Chalice" magnolia produces huge white chalice-shaped flowers in very early spring or late winter.
This is a fairly large magnolia, with a mature height of 30 to 40 feet with a similar spread, though it can be kept pruned to maintain the appearance of a large shrub. It is typically grown in USDA hardiness zones 4 to 8. Plant it in full sun to partial shade.
04 of 17
Heaven Scent Magnolia
As the name suggests, "Heaven Scent" magnolia receives its name from its fragrant flowers, which are pink at the base, tapering off to lighter pink at the tips.
Heaven Scent magnolia trees reach an average height at maturity of about 20 feet tall, although they can grow larger. Plant it in USDA hardiness zones 4 to 8. It needs a full-sun or partial-shade location.
The name is occasionally misspelled as "Heaven Sent," but the mistake is understandable: combine its beauty plus its fragrance and these magnolias do seem like a gift from above. Like most magnolias, this tree will attract birds and bees.Continue to 5 of 17 below.
05 of 17
Oleander (Nerium oleander) is a plant variously thought of as a small tree or tall shrub, reaching 20 feet in height. This small flowering tree is a broadleaf evergreen that produces white or deep pink blossoms. It blooms periodically through the season, though most heavily in May and June.
Oleander is suited for USDA hardiness zones 8 to 10, although some varieties will tolerate light frost. Grow them in full sun. These are poisonous plants, though, so be wary of planting them where children or pets can get at them. The toxicity, though, makes them immune to deer.
06 of 17
Red Bird of Paradise
The red bird of paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) is another broadleaf evergreen, this one producing orange/red flowers repeatedly through the season. Like oleander, this is a tall shrub that can grow as large as 20 feet with a spread of 6 to 12 feet. It sometimes goes by another common name: pride of Barbados. Do not confuse red bird of paradise tree with Strelitzia, the better-known bird of paradise flower.
Red paradise is suited to USDA zones 8 to 10 and needs full sun. Red paradise plants thrive in dry conditions and, once established, are reliable drought-resistant plants. Like oleander, this is a toxic plant, especially the seeds.
Red bird of paradise can survive down to temperatures of about 30 F; do not be tempted to plant it in a colder climate.
07 of 17
Also available in shrub form, some witch hazels are early spring bloomers, while others bloom in the fall. They are often grown for shrubby borders, tall hedges, or screening plants.
In North America, you will commonly find two types of witch hazel: Hamamelis virginiana, which grows to 20 feet with a similar spread, grown in USDA hardiness zones 3 to 8; and Hamamelis vernalis, a shorter plant that grows to 10 or 15 feet, grown in zones 4 to 8.
Hamamelis virginiana blooms from October to December. Hamamelis vernalis blooms in late winter and early spring (vernal means spring). Flowers of both types are yellow with reddish centers.
These plants have good tolerance for clay soils and resist damage from deer.
08 of 17
Purple-Leaf Sand Cherry
Purple-leaf sand cherry, (Prunus × cistena ) is another example of a plant that can be trained as a tree or left to grow naturally as a shrub. This ornamental cherry tree produces white or light pink blooms in April.
Grow purple-leaf sand cherry in USDA hardiness zones 2 to 8, in a full sun location. Purple leaf sand cherry has a moderate growth rate, eventually attaining a height of 7 to 14 feet with a spread of 7 to 10 feet. An added bonus with this flowering tree is its striking summer-long purple leaves. Its best season is spring, when it is in bloom and when its leaves are reddish-purple. But that red color re-enters its leaves in fall, making autumn its second best season.
With good tolerance for urban conditions, this plant can be used as a specimen plant, in hedges, or around building foundations.Continue to 9 of 17 below.
09 of 17
Rose of Sharon
Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) is thought of by many homeowners as being a small flowering tree, though it is usually classified as a large flowering shrub. Flowers are typically lavender, red, white, or pink, depending on cultivar. An excellent pink flower is offered by the "Sugar Tip" cultivar. There is not a true blue variety on the flower, but some types come close, such as "Blue Chiffon."
This plant is suitable for USDA hardiness zones 5 to 8 and needs full sun or a partial shade location. When grown as a small tree, it tops out at about 12 feet with a spread of about 10 feet. It is a long bloomer from June until October. Plant this flowering tree as a complement to those that bloom in spring and early summer.
Rose of Sharon is most often used in hedges and foundations plantings or grouped in mass in shrub borders.
10 of 17
Smoke tree is also referred to as "smoke bush," because this specimen can be either a large shrub or a small tree. However you classify it, smoke tree (Cotinus coggygria) puts on one "smoking" display when it blooms, producing clusters of flowers that have a fuzzy appearance.
The smoke tree attains a height of 10 to 15 feet with a spread of 12 feet. It can be grown in USDA hardiness zones 5 to 8 in full sun. Since this is one of the shrubs that flower on new wood, prune it in late winter to early spring.
This is an unusual, even eccentric-looking plant that works best in informal landscape designs where a unique screening plant is desired.
11 of 17
One type of flowering tree you cannot go wrong with is "Wolf Eyes," a variety of Kousa dogwood. This plant flowers in late spring to early summer for a period as long as 6 weeks. But the fact that it is a vigorously flowering tree is only one reason to grow Wolf Eyes. An attractive red berry succeeds the blossoms. Moreover, the foliage is variegated. In autumn, the leaves develop streaks ranging in color from pink to red.
Wolf Eyes is a small dogwood, growing to only about 10 feet in height. It is suited to USDA hardiness zones 5 to 8 and should be planted in partial shade.
12 of 17
Do not confuse horse chestnut trees (Aesculus) with true American chestnut trees (Castanea dentata). The latter, like American elm trees, have been decimated by disease.
While American chestnut trees produce famed edible nuts, horse chestnut trees, including the red chestnut, are grown mainly for their looks. The red-flowering kind (Aesculus x carnea) is especially attractive. It is a hybrid between the common horse chestnut and the red buckeye tree, and it produces red flowers in May.
Red horse chestnut trees reach a mature height of 35 to 40 feet and can be grown in USDA hardiness zones 5 to 8. These are deer-resistant trees, and its nuts are not edible, they are poisonous.Continue to 13 of 17 below.
13 of 17
Although not as attractive as the red horse chestnut, the more common white-flowered kind does make a good shade tree.
Horsechestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) grows taller than the red-flowering type, reaching 60 feet tall or more in height at maturity. A native of Europe, it is suitable for USDA hardiness zones 5 to 8 and should be planted in full sun to partial shade. It blooms in May with white flowers that have red or yellow markings.
A relative of the horse chestnut is the Ohio buckeye (Aesculus glabra), which is native to North America.
14 of 17
Mountain ash trees (Sorbus americana) are perhaps best known for their orangy-red berry clusters. But this tree also offers attractive flat-topped white flower clusters in spring.
Grow mountain ash trees in USDA hardiness zones 3 to 6 in full sun to partial sun. This tree can reach a mature height of 30 feet tall.
15 of 17
If you compare the flower of the tulip tree with that of the magnolias pictured earlier in this photo gallery, you will probably make a connection. Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) is, indeed, related to the magnolia. In May and June, tulip tree produces yellow blooms with orange bands at the bases.
Tulip tree is suitable for growing in USDA hardiness zones 4 to 9 and prefers a full sun location. It is a large tree, growing to 60 to 90 feet tall when mature, with a spread of 30 to 50 feet. It requires a large space to grow. Its large leaves make it a good shade tree in addition to the merits of its blooms.
16 of 17
Southern magnolia trees (Magnolia grandiflora) are emblematic of the southeastern United States. When you think of the beauty of this classic specimen, you normally think of its large white flowers and evergreen leaves, but this variety also offers reddish seed pods that are also quite attractive.
This tree is suitable to grow in USDA hardiness zones 7 to 9 and likes a full-sun or partial-shade location. It is a large specimen, growing 60 to 80 feet in height with a spread of 30 to 50 feet. Flowers appear in May and June and are followed by the seed clusters.
Like many magnolias, this tree has good tolerance for polluted urban conditions.Continue to 17 of 17 below.
17 of 17
Tree of Heaven (Invasive)
This tree comes with a warning. The tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima) may be beautiful, but it is an invasive plant native to the Far East.
This is one to avoid at all costs. Commonly exceeding 70 feet in height, this is a flowering tree you will often see growing along roadsides in urban areas in USDA hardiness zones 5 to 8. Tree of heaven will tolerate just about any conditions, which is why it thrives so well, even where it is not wanted. This is one tree that deserves to be labeled as a weed.