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.
Here are 17 excellent choices for flowering trees you should consider 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, as most other trees are just starting to bud.
Grow star magnolias in USDA 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.
02 of 17
Like star magnolia, Magnolia 'Jane' 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.
'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, reason a mature height of 30 to 40 feet with a similar spread. 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 5 to 9. It needs a full sun or partial shade location.
The name is occasionally misspelled as "Heaven Sent," but the mistake is understandable: between their good looks and pleasing smell, these magnolias do seem heaven sent.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. Don't 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.
07 of 17
Also available in shrub form, some witch hazels are early spring bloomers, while others bloom in the fall.
In North America, you'll 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 in October to December. Hamamelis vernalis blooms in late winter and early spring (vernal means spring). Flowers of both types are yellow with reddish centers.
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.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 cultivar Sugar Tip. We're still waiting for a true blue flower, but some types come close, such as Blue Chiffon.
This plant is suitable for USDA hardiness zones 5 to 8 and needs a full sun or 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.
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.
11 of 17
One type of flowering tree you can't 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
Don't 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 the edible nuts that are so famous, horse chestnut trees, including the red chestnut, are grown mainly for their looks. This red-flowering kind (Aesculus x carnea) is especially attractive. It is a hybrid between the common horse chestnut and the red buckeye tree.
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 deer-resistant trees flower in May. Be warned: the nuts 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. They 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'll probably make the 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 tall when mature, with a spread of 30 to 50 feet. 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 we think of the beauty of this classic specimen, we normally think of their 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.Continue to 17 of 17 below.
17 of 17
Warning: Tree of Heaven
Tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima) 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'll 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 isn't wanted. This is one tree that deserves to be labeled as a weed.