Growing Flowering Trees
Choose an ornamental variety that suits your needs and space.
Fall is the perfect time to plant trees. There’s still enough foliage on other trees and shrubs in your yard to help you determine where one might fit best, and the cool season gives a new tree time to establish its roots before it’s faced with the temperature extremes of winter and summer.
That timing is especially important when it comes to ornamental trees, particularly the flowering kind, which provide beautiful seasonal interest. Think about how the color of that dogwood, cherry or crabapple tree will look next spring alongside other trees and shrubs, which may or may not be in bloom. How will that purple redbud look against your red-brick house? Maybe you want that flowering tree to be a focal point. Do you want to enjoy it from indoors? Accent a corner of the garden?
Shopping: When shopping for a flowering tree, keep in mind the size, form and overall appearance of the tree when in full bloom as well as at maturity. How tall will the tree get? Will it interfere with power lines? Shade out other plants? Also, many produce stunning fall foliage, while others yield fruit or have attractive bark color and texture for winter interest. Choose one that has wide crotch angles for avoiding weak branching – especially important if you live in a cold climate where icing can be an enemy.
Selecting: Be prepared to be amazed by the array of choices among flowering trees. There are thousands of varieties available, either through garden centers or by mail-order. Here are just a few some to consider, many of which offer dozens of cultivars: dogwood, bradford pear, crabapple, Eastern redbud, flowering cherry, flowering plum, hawthorn, saucer magnolia, star magnolia, sweetbay, serviceberry, chokeberry, crape myrtle.
Siting: The site you select for planting will also affect how well a flowering tree performs. In general, most prefer full sun (eight hours) to reach their optimum bloom power, though some types, such as dogwoods, will still deliver a great show with less sun. Few trees tolerate wet or heavy soils, or conversely, ones that are sandy and dry. Instead, they prefer a fertile topsoil with good drainage.
Planting: If the tree’s roots are balled and burlapped, remove the burlap before planting. Dig the hole at least twice as wide but no deeper than the root ball. When placed in the hole, the top one-fourth of the root ball should rise slightly above ground level. Before filling the hole with soil, mix the fill with organic matter to get the tree off to a good start with the proper nutrients. Pack the fill around the root ball until it reaches ground level, then water in. Once the water settles, water again. Finally, top the soil with several inches of mulch to help it retain moisture and prevent weeds. Keep the tree watered as needed until roots are established.