Flowering trees can play an important role in the garden canvas, providing a burst of spring color long before the rest of the garden is in full vigor. They offer other advantages as well, allowing the beholder to enjoy their lovely blooms and sweet fragrance without stooping to ground level. And once the blooms are spent, their dazzling floral display gives way to interesting leaf shapes, colorful berries, and vibrant fall color.

Flowering trees are also a long-lasting investment. By practicing a little care and common sense, you will be rewarded with a seasonal show of color year after year. Denise Kelly, a horticultural consultant with Variegata Studio, Santa Rosa, Calif., shares some of her favorite flowering trees for the residential garden. For the novice arborist, she also offers some basic care essentials and planting tips.

Photo by: Babetka / Adobe Stock.

1. SAUCER MAGNOLIA (Magnolia ×soulangeana) - buy now on Amazon

A small multi-trunked deciduous magnolia with large, saucer-like, fragrant blooms in early spring. Flowers are varying shades of pink to purple, emerging before the leaves for a lovely show. There are several cultivars, some with yellow fall color.

Zones: 4-9
Height: 20-25 feet
Where to plant it: Plant this spring show-stopper where you can see it from several parts of your garden. It will spread up to 25 feet at maturity, so give it ample space.
Best time to prune: Just after flowering to avoid removal of flower buds for next year’s bloom. Only light shaping and removal of crossing or dead branches needed.

Photo by: Iva / Adobe Stock.

2. EASTERN REDBUD (Cercis canadensis) - buy now on Amazon

This harbinger of spring displays lovely pea-like flowers on bare branches, followed by interesting rounded leaves with good fall color. The trunk commonly divides close to the ground, creating an interesting multi-trunk shape. Several named varieties are available, including ‘Tennessee Pink’, ‘Ace of Hearts’, ‘Hearts of Gold’ (with chartreuse foliage), and ‘Merlot’ (purple foliage).

Zones: 4-9
Height: 20-30 feet
Where to plant it: Full sun in well-drained soil; partial sun in hot climates. Plant young specimens; this is a tree that does not transplant easily.
Best time to prune: Structural prune the first winter to determine form, then prune just after bloom thereafter.

Photo by: Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival / Flickr.

3. FLOWERING CHERRY (Prunus ×yedoensis ‘Akebono’) - buy now on Amazon

Ethereal clouds of semi-double pink flowers on this tree with wide-spreading branches that extend up to 40 feet at maturity. Nice fall colors of yellow with orange highlights. This chance seedling, discovered in San Jose, California in 1920, is one of most widely planted flowering cherry trees in the coastal Pacific Northwest.

Zones: 5-8
Height: 15-25 feet
Where to plant it: Full sun and well-drained soil, away from wind.
Best time to prune: Just after spring flowering.

Photo by: Tricia / Flickr.

4. PINK TRUMPET TREE (Tabebuia impetiginosa) - buy now on Amazon

A beautiful deciduous tree featuring clustered 2- to 3-inch long lavender-pink funnel-shaped flowers with yellow throats. An open canopy allows sun-loving plants to grow beneath.

Zones: 9-11
Height: 25-30 feet
Where to plant it: Warm, sunny sites away from strong winds.
Best time to prune: During dormant season, to promote good structure.

Photo by: Fyle / Adobe Stock.

5. JACARANDA (Jacaranda mimosifolia) - buy now on Amazon

This tree’s fern-like foliage is almost smothered by panicles of lavender-blue flowers in spring and early summer, followed by woody fruit capsules containing numerous winged seeds. Low-branched specimens can spread 15 to 30 feet.

Zones: 9-11
Height: 25-40 feet
Where to plant it: Plant in full sun and well-drained soil. May be messy, so plant where litter is not a problem.
Best time to prune: Late winter.

Photo by: Len Wilcox / Alamy Stock Photo.

6. BURGUNDY DESERT WILLOW (Chilopsis linearis ‘Burgundy’)

This small deciduous tree has an open, airy structure with long narrow leaves. The trumpet-shaped burgundy flowers are fragrant and attract hummingbirds. There are other cultivars with pink and white flowers. This water-wise tree needs only occasional watering once established.

Zones: 7-9
Height: 15- 20 feet
Where to plant it: Full sun.
Best time to prune: Fall.

Photo by: Visions BV, Netherlands / VisionsPictures & Photography.

7. CRAPE MYRTLE (Lagerstroemia ‘Catawba’, ‘Purple Tower’, ‘Zuni’) - buy now on Amazon

Crape myrtles are available in several crosses and cultivars of varying heights and colors. Some have better mildew resistance than others, so it’s best to buy from a local independent nursery. Beautiful summer flower color, stunning fall color, interesting tree form, and lovely mottled bark deliver seasonal interest all year long. Pink cultivars include ‘Seminole’ and ‘Pecos’; white cultivars include ‘Acoma’ and ‘Natchez.’

Zones: 7-9
Height: Varying.
Where to plant it: Full sun.
Best time to prune: Late winter/early spring.

Photo by: Leonora (Ellie) Enking / Flickr.

8. KOUSA DOGWOOD (Cornus kousa) - buy now on Amazon

Small tree or large shrub with showy late spring flowers looks as good in a woodland garden as in a shrub border. Flowers are followed by berry-like fruits that attract birds. Leaves turn a gorgeous purple and scarlet in fall. Learn more about dogwood trees.

Zones: 5-8
Height: 15- 20 feet
Where to plant it: Full sun to part shade in organically rich soil with medium moisture. Plant as a single specimen or in groupings.
Best time to prune: Just after flowering.

Photo by: Andrey Zharkikh.

9. SERVICEBERRY (Amelanchier ‘Autumn Brilliance’) - buy now on Amazon

Lovely white flowers in the spring, great orange-red fall color, and edible fruits that resemble blueberries in appearance and taste. Effective as a small multi-trunked specimen or a thicketing shrub.

Zones: 4-9
Height: 15-25 feet
Where to plant it: Full sun to part shade.
Best time to prune: Winter

Photo by: Leonora (Ellie) Enking / Flickr.

10. JAPANESE STEWARTIA (Stewartia pseudocamellia) - buy now on Amazon

Often grown as a small tree or large shrub, this relatively slow grower is worth the wait for its summertime camellia-like white flowers with showy yellow-orange anthers. Leaves turn a beautiful bronze-purple in the fall and drop to reveal exfoliating bark for winter interest.

Zones: 5-8
Height: 12-40 feet
Where to plant it: Full sun in cooler areas, in part shade or as an understory tree in hot areas.
Best time to prune: Very little required; prune only damaged branches.

Photo by: Wouter Hagens / Wikimedia Commons.

11. CRABAPPLE (Malus ‘Spring Snow’, ‘David’, ‘Adirondack’) - buy now on Amazon

Beautiful spring show of pale pink buds opening to white flowers, followed by red to orange fruit much-loved by birds. Many cultivars are available, with varying heights and spreads. Choose for disease resistance, flower color, and fruit. Many disease-resistant cultivars are available.

Zones: 4-7
Height: 15- 25 feet
Where to plant it: Full sun in medium-moisture, slightly acidic soil. Very adaptable.
Best time to prune: Right after flowering, in May or June.

Photo by: Tatters / Flickr.

12. JAPANESE SNOWBELL (Styrax japonicus) - buy now on Amazon

Waxy-white, slightly fragrant, pendulous flowers grace this compact deciduous tree in May and June. Attractive glossy green leaves turn red or yellow in fall.

Zones: 4-9
Height: 20-30 feet
Where to plant it: Full sun in cooler areas, partial sun in hotter locations. Allow for spread of 30 feet or more.
Best time to prune: Late winter/early spring.

TIPS FOR CHOOSING AND CARING FOR FLOWERING TREES

  • “The right tree in the right place” and “form follows function” are the key points to remember, says Kelly. Make sure that you have the space required for your tree to thrive, and know what your site and soil conditions are.
  • Look around your neighborhood and note which flowering trees are thriving. Also check with your local nursery or extension agent to see what they recommend for your growing zone.
  • To promote consistent blooming year after year, most flowering trees need to be kept evenly watered and if fertilizer is required, use organically based products. Also be sure to remove dead or diseased branches as soon as noticed.
  • At the nursery, choose tree specimens that look healthy, with well-spaced branches. Check the roots, avoiding circling or kinked root growth. Once this circling growth pattern is established, it’s almost impossible to fix. Check out these online resources for more advice on tree selection:
    Guideline Specifications for Nursery Tree Quality
    Tree Selection and Placement (International Society of Arboriculture)
    Tree Selection for Urban and Suburban Landscapes (University of Florida)

RELATED:
10 Great Design Ideas for Trees
Flowering Shrubs for Fall

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