Before choosing the most attractive trees to enhance your home landscape, you’ll need to answer a few questions.
First, how much space do you have? A small neighborhood or suburban lot will require small to medium trees with a moderate spread. On the other hand, a larger rural lot offers room for more stately trees with wide-spreading branches.
It’s also important to think about how you want the tree to function in your landscape. Do you prefer a tree that offers full shade and that will provide cooling protection from the sun? Or do you want a tree with a less dense canopy that allows some sunlight to filter through? Perhaps you want to plant a row of trees for privacy or to block noise or wind.
Finally, be sure to check the average rate of growth for the species you are considering. While there’s no doubt that a stately oak tree is unsurpassed for the wide branching canopy and shade it offers, along with the nostalgic feeling of “home” we’ve come to associate with the venerable tree, it requires several decades to reach maturity.
There are numerous species and varieties to suit all your needs. We think these five are the most versatile and most attractive trees for your landscape.
This tree hits all the marks for the most popular landscaping tree in residential use. Growing to a height of 20 to 30 feet at maturity, with a short trunk and low, wide-spreading branches, this flowering tree adds a pop of bright pink to your spring landscape. The redbud is an excellent choice for adding beauty and visual interest and soft, dappled sunlight. It also scores high marks as a tree that attracts wildlife, including many species of birds, as well as pollinators such as honeybees and butterflies.
Redbud care is minimal. Mulching around the base, but not touching the trunk, will help maintain moisture. Light pruning is recommended in the fall to remove any dead branches and will help maintain a natural growth habit.
Another showy favorite is the flowering dogwood. With its profusion of white or pink flowers in the spring, deep red-purple foliage in fall, and glossy red fruit—like candy for the winter birds—it provides year-round interest in your yard and garden landscape.
The dogwood needs a bit more care than the redbud. Regular watering is necessary through hot, dry weather—once a week to a depth of six inches when there is little or no rainfall. As with the redbud, mulching can help keep the ground moist but should be kept at least two to three inches away from the tree trunk. The dogwood doesn’t need pruning or trimming other than to remove dead branches.
There is perhaps no more recognizable tree in a groomed landscape or wooded acres than the white birch. There are about 50 species of birch worldwide, but only two are natural to the Portland area—the paper birch and the water birch. However, numerous hybrids of this cultivar will thrive in the Pacific Northwest climate and are available from local nurseries.
A favorite is the whitebarked Himalayan birch. The thick, dark green leaves of this tree turn a sunny yellow shade in the fall. It has a rapid growth rate of approximately two feet per year. That means a 4- to 6-foot nursery stock tree can grow to over 20 feet in less than 10 years. The whitest of the whitebarked birches, this tree provides interest in the stark winter landscape with its peeling paper bark. It prefers full sun to partial shade and thrives in medium to wet, well-drained soil.
The giant arborvitae, or western red cedar, is native to the Pacific Northwest. An excellent choice for row planting, this evergreen will provide a wind, noise, and privacy barrier where needed in your landscape. A single tree in a planting with lower growing shrubs and perennial flowers is striking. This tree has a uniform, conical shape and can spread as much as 20 feet at its ground-level base.
Another fast-growing species, the giant arborvitae can gain 3 or more feet of height in an average year, with a maximum height of 70 feet at maturity. It can be trimmed to maintain a lower stature, and smaller cultivars are available.
Plant your arborvitae where it will receive a minimum of six hours of full sun a day. Some species will survive in partial shade, but growth can become sparse. Arborvitae don’t like wet feet, so be sure to plant in an area of your yard with well-drained soil or amend the soil in your chosen location as necessary.
Another icon on everybody’s list of most attractive trees is the weeping willow. It’s graceful and majestic profile lends beauty and romance to any yard or garden landscape. Unfortunately, willows are very often passed over in landscape design because of an undeserved reputation for breaking water pipes or cracking foundations. In fact, the leak or crack already exists, the tree roots only draw attention to it.
The weeping willow, with its open crown and ground-sweeping branches that dance at the gentlest hint of a breeze, will add to the beauty of your landscape for decades. A natural choice for the moist climate of the Pacific Northwest, this tree loves full sun but wet soil, making it perfect for any open, low spots in your yard.
One of the first trees to leaf out in spring, it’s also one of the last to lose its foliage in the fall. The fast-growing weeping willow can reach mature heights of 50 feet with a 60-foot spread, but smaller varieties are available.
When choosing trees to enhance and beautify your landscape design, always check with local arborists, such as those at Mr. Tree, for help choosing cultivars suitable to the regional climate and your yard’s conditions. If you need help with pruning, trimming older trees, cutting dead growth, or removing full trees, Mr. Tree can provide those services as well.