7 Spectacular and Practical Spring-Flowering Trees

The flowering cherries of Washington, D.C., the redbuds around Lake Michigan, the saucer magnolias of the San Francisco Bay Area — wherever you live, there’s probably a flowering tree that spectacularly announces that spring is here or is on the way. The majority of these are valued trees, the consequence of centuries of growth by horticulturists around the world.

Contemplating one for your own garden? It goes without saying: Do your homework. There is A tree a significant investment of money, time and backyard space. Check locally to see which trees are appropriate for your climate and site. You will probably have tons of types from which to choose. Check on eventual size, care issues. You will find individual novels on many different flowering trees, or even consider Michael Dirr’s 952-page Encyclopedia of Shrubs and Trees. To get you started, below are just seven spring-flowering trees that are not only beautiful but functional (really, one isn’t very functional in most gardens). These are strong, dependable landscape designs, as long as they’re in the ideal place.

Deciduous magnolias. Known for oversized blossoms, from purest white to deepest purple, on bare branches, these include big trees and shrubs like Magnolia soulangeana, M. kobus and M. liliiflora. There are dozens and dozens of options, including this unidentified species along with an unidentified bird. Some are hardy to USDA climate zone 5 and colder but also do well in mild California. Most deserve a place in a garden — even onto a lawn.

Saucer magnolia. Best known of the deciduous magnolias, this can be a reliable medium-size tree with a substantial branch arrangement that looks great all season, even when leafless. Look for a variety with an ultimate dimension that fits to your backyard and a flower you prefer. ‘Alba Superba’ has purplish. ‘Black Tulip’ lives up to its title.

Botanical name: Magnolia soulangeana
Common names: Saucer magnolia, tulip tree
USDA zones: 5 to 9 (find your zone)
Water necessity: Moderate
moderate requirement: Full sun or partial shade
Mature dimension: 15 to 30 feet, depending on number
Growing tips: Young plants can grow in a container for a few decades.

More about saucer magnolia

Redbud. Glorious purple-pink blossoms brighten early spring in many North American woods. Offered in a range of graceful forms, redbud is adaptable to a wide spectrum of garden climates — in California it performs more radically than the native California redbud.

Botanical name: Cercis canadensis
Common title: Eastern redbud
USDA zones: 4 to 9
Water necessity: moderate or more
moderate requirement:
Full sun or partial shade, especially in hot climates
Mature size: Up to 30 feet tall; streamlined types are a lot smaller
Growing tips: make certain the soil drains well and can be kept moist. Prune after bloom.

Flowering cherry. Most loved of the flowering trees is most likely the Japanese flowering cherry, the pride of Washington, D.C., originally a gift from Tokyo more than a hundred decades ago. Pick from varieties of different shapes and sizes (sprawling, narrow, rainbow, columnar, weeping); flower colour and form (double, single, drooping, white, light pink, deep pink); and bloom time, from early to late spring. Notable types include ‘Kanzan’, ‘ ‘Shirotae’ and ‘Akebono’.

Botanical name: Prunus serrulata forms along with other species
Common title: Japanese flowering cherry
USDA zones: 5 to 8 or 9, depending on species and number
Water necessity: Moderate
Light requirement: Full sun
Mature size: 12 to 25 feet tall and wide, depending upon range
Growing tips: Supply deep, well-drained soil. Look into pruning certain varieties and into pest and disease issues.

Flowering crabapple. One of most spectacular flowering trees, but in addition, it provides among the shortest displays. It’s usually adaptable but doesn’t succeed in the dryest climates. Hundreds of types vary in height and flower color; a number of these bear edible fruit.

Botanical name: Malus
Common title: Flowering crabapple
USDA zones: 3 to 9, based on number
Water necessity: Moderate
Light requirement: Full sun
Mature dimension: Up to 25 feet tall and wide; dwarf types may be just one third that size
Growing tips: make certain the soil is well drained and kept moist. Follow the pruning instructions for your specific variety.

The New York Botanical Garden

Flowering dogwood. Beautiful pink or white blossoms appear to perch on layers of branches in midspring. There’s deep red fall color too. This is a classic backyard shrub, available in many varieties (shown is ‘Cherokee Brave’), colors and shrub forms and with distinct disease resistances.

Botanical name: Cornus florida
Common names: Flowering dogwood, Eastern dogwood
USDA zones: 5 to 9
water necessity: Moderate; don’t let the soil dry out
Light requirement: Full sun or partial shade
Mature size: Up to 20 to 30 feet tall and wide
Growing tips: Watch for anthracnose, a debilitating fungus that reveals on leaves.

Purple-leaf plum. It’s not quite as magnificent as a flowering cherry or many others, but this really is a reliable, simple, versatile picture plant — street tree, background plant or featured spring perfomer. It blooms early. Purplish foliage produces a good screen throughout the growing season.

Botanical name: Prunus cerasifera ‘Pissardii’
Common names: Purple-leaf plum, flowering plum
USDA zones: 5 to 9
Water necessity: Moderate
Light requirement: Full sun
Mature size: Up to 25 feet tall and wide, or larger
Growing tips: Make sure the soil doesn’t become too moist. Some flowering plum varieties bear little fruits that can create a mess underneath. Little pruning is necessary, and several pests are a problem.

Apricot. I am showing my California prejudice by adding it; this spring-blooming fruit tree is amazing but not so practical for most gardens. It’s fairly hardy to cold winters but produces fruit only in certain climates with sufficient winter chill, no frost in spring and long, dry, hot summers. The white to pinkish flowers in early spring have been set off radically by shadowy weathered trunks and branches. The fruit, if you are lucky enough to grow some and have it remain on the tree until fully mature, is priceless.

Botanical name: Prunus armeniaca, many types
USDA zones: 4 to 8
Water necessity: Moderate
Light requirement: Full sun
Mature size: 15 to 20 feet tall and wide
Growing tips: Keep the soil moist once the fruit is growing. Prune in late summer.

More thoughts for a stunning spring garden

See related