Keep Bambi Happy with the Best Trees to Plant for Deer

Last update: April 15, 2021

Our pick for the Best Trees to Plant for Deer are the American Chestnut tree. Other trees that deer like include pears, oaks, and apple trees. If you’re going to plant trees to attract deer, try to choose species that are native to your area. Native trees aren’t just easier to care for, they also help maintain and preserve the ecosystem around your property. We love the American Chestnut, but if you want more options, we’ve got a comprehensive list of recommendations below.

The 5 Best Trees for Deer

#1 American Chestnut Tree
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#2 Honey Crisp Apple Tree
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#3 White Oak Tree
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#4 Bartlett Pear Tree (seeds)
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#5 Nikita’s Gift Persimmon Tree
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Planting Trees for Deer

While plenty of people want to keep deer off of their property, there are some who want to attract the animals to their land. If you’re a hunter or simply like deer, planting certain types of trees will draw the creatures to your property.

Typically, planting trees that produce edible vegetation will encourage the greatest population of deer to drop by. Trees that produce edible vegetation, such as seeds, are usually divided into two categories, hard mast and soft mast.

Soft mast trees produce fleshy fruits, such as apples and pears. In contrast, the seeds and fruits produced by hard mast trees have a thick, crunchy shell, such as acorns. There are some benefits to planting either type on your property if your goal is to attract deer.

Choosing the Right Trees

Which trees are the best to plant for deer? It depends in part on what you currently have growing on your property and where you live. One good rule of thumb to follow is to plant tree varieties and species that are native to your area.

There are several benefits to choosing native trees. For one thing, the species will be adapted to growing and thriving in your area. You won’t have to worry about babying the tree or fussing over the amount of water you give it. The tree will be in its element.

Native trees also help support the ecosystems they grow in. Some varieties of oak tree, for example, provide homes to numerous different species of caterpillar.

Non-native trees aren’t always difficult to grow, but ease of care shouldn’t be a reason to plant them. Some non-native species are invasive, meaning they will quickly take over an area and crowd out native plants or threaten the insects and animals that live in that area.

Planting a variety of trees, rather than a single type of tree, is often the best way to attract deer. If you have already have a number of hard mast trees, such as oak trees, growing on your land, planting soft mast varieties, such as an apple tree or pear tree, is often the way to go.

What to Look for in a Tree

Trees that attract deer are often sold in either bareroot or containerized form. Bareroot trees are exactly what they sound like. They are sold without any soil around their roots and without a container. Containerized trees are usually sold in a quart or gallon-sized container, if not something larger.

It really doesn’t matter whether you plant a bareroot or containerized tree, as long as you get the tree into the soil while it is dormant and as long as you don’t let the tree linger too long before you plant it.

If you are going to plant a bareroot tree, choose one with healthy looking roots. Skip trees that have dried out or shortened roots. Containerized trees shouldn’t be pot bound, meaning their roots shouldn’t be overflowing out of the bottom or sides of the pot.

Caring for the Trees

Your trees will need three things to thrive: space, sun and protection. Although you do want deer to come up to the trees and nibble on the fruit, you don’t want deer to knock over or otherwise disturb the small seedlings.

How you protect the trees depends on how densely populated your area is. In some cases, a tube placed around the trunk of the tree can be sufficient enough to keep deer from knocking against it or to keep smaller animals, such as rabbits, away. In more densely populated areas, you might need to put a small fence around the tree to keep animals from disturbing it.

When it comes to space, a general rule of thumb to follow is the more the merrier. Soft mast trees need about 20 feet of space between them, while hard mast trees often need at least 30 feet. That doesn’t mean you can have smaller plants or shrubs planted in the middle of the trees. It just means that you want to avoid planting the trees themselves too close together.

Allowing plenty of room between the trees helps to ensure that they get the full amount of sunlight they need. Most trees need full sun, at least six hours daily, and sun in the morning is ideal.

The conditions of the soil and the area in general will determine which trees are the best to plant. For example, pear trees tend to be more easy going than apples. They are more drought tolerant than most types of trees but can also handle wetter conditions.

Patience is important when planting trees for deer. Most varieties are trees won’t seem to do much during their first two years of life. In many cases, you shouldn’t expect to see any fruit until the third season. It’s also likely that you won’t see much growth in the trees until the third year.

Planting Chestnut Trees for Deer

If you’re going to plant trees for deer, you might as well plant the American chestnut tree. There are a few reasons to do so, if you’re in the US.

For one thing, the tree is a native species. At one point in time, it was found throughout the continent. But, at the beginning of the 20th century, a non-native species brought over to the US brought with it a type of blight that destroyed the native chestnut stock. The species was nearly extinct by the 1950s.

Deer love chestnuts. Conservation efforts to protect or preserve chestnut trees were often disrupted by deer who couldn’t get enough of the tree’s nuts.

The varieties American chestnut grown and sold today are bred to be able to withstand the blight that nearly wiped out their ancestors. They are also bred to resist a variety of other diseases. Most will begin to produce fruit in summer for a harvest in the autumn. If you plant an American Chestnut tree, you can expect it to begin bearing fruit in the second or third year.

The care of the chestnut tree is relatively straightforward. You’ll want to space the trees about 40 feet apart, to give them plenty of room and exposure to sunlight. You’ll need at least two trees if you want to get fruit, as they don’t self-pollinate.

An American chestnut tree can be the ideal tree for tree if you live in zones 4 through 8. The plant won’t survive the winter in colder areas and it can get too hot for it in zones above 8.

Photo by United States Forest Service released into the public domain.

Fight the Wind with the Best Windbreak Trees

Last update: April 15, 2021

For our pick for the best windbreak trees, we have to go with the durable Douglas fir. Whether you want to lower your energy bill, protect your yard from soil erosion, or protect your home from drifting snow, a windbreak can help. Windbreaks are usually made up of at least one row of trees, though denser windbreaks can have 10 or more rows. The best windbreak trees are usually evergreen, can withstand strong winds, and have long lives. The Douglas fir is an example of a popular tree that’s well suited to life in a windy area; however, if you want more choices, read on to learn what else you could pick.

Our 5 Favorite Windbreak Trees

#1 Douglas Fir
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tree Washington North Cascades National Park
#2 Green Giant Arborvitae
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#3 Norway Spruce (seeds)
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#4 Canaan Fir
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canaan fir
#5 Eastern Red Cedar
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Benefits of a Windbreak

The concept of a windbreak is quite simple. It’s a row of trees, planted in a line. The trees used in a windbreak are typically evergreens, but the occasional deciduous tree can also be part of a windbreak, depending on the area and your goals.

Planting a windbreak offers many benefits to a homeowner. Perhaps one of the biggest benefits is a reduction in energy use needed to keep a home warm in winter or cool in the summer.

According to the Arbor Day Foundation, a row of conifer (evergreen) trees planted on the northern side of a property can reduce winter heating costs by as much as 30 percent. The trees form a living wall that keep icy winds from reaching the home. To get the greatest benefit, it’s usually recommended that the trees be no more than one or two tree heights away from the home.

If you live in an area that gets a considerable amount of snowfall in the winter, a windbreak can keep the snow from drifting up against your home. It can also minimize soil erosion in your garden and yard throughout the year.

Windbreaks can also provide some protection from summer winds and from the intense heat of the sun in the summer time.

How to Plant a Windbreak

Depending on your goals, it’s possible for a windbreak to consist of just a single row of trees. But often, windbreaks are more complicated than that and are made up of multiple rows. The trees in each row perform different functions at different times of year. Windbreaks will ideally block between 25 and 65 percent of the wind in an area.

For the densest coverage (65%), you’ll want to plant at least 10 rows of trees or shrubs. The densest windbreaks are usually needed by farms or in fields, and aren’t necessarily something the average homeowner needs to worry about.

If your goal is to protect your home from air and from drifting snow, a one to three row windbreak is ideal and will provide a density of between 40 and 50 percent.. One suitable combination is a single row of evergreen trees or two rows of deciduous trees. Another option is two rows, one of evergreen trees and the other deciduous trees.

When planting more than one row of trees or shrubs for the windbreak, make sure to leave ample room between the trees. You want to have a space of at least 10 feet between your rows. Any closer and your trees won’t have room to grow. Too far apart, though, and you won’t have an effective barrier.

Choosing Windbreak Plants

It’s not just the thickness of the tree’s leaves that help you determine whether they are a good fit for your windbreak or not. You also want to consider the growing conditions they need and their appearance.

Pick trees that will thrive in the type of soil you’re able to provide or amend your soil to create the ideal growing conditions for the trees. It’s also important to choose trees that are hardy in your zone. If you’re in zone 3, for example, a tree that’s only hardy in zones 5 through 8 won’t make it through the frigid winters in your area.

Variety is the spice of life and of windbreaks. You don’t have to plant rows and rows of the same trees, although that is an option if you’re planting a single row.

Instead, think about how the trees will look throughout the year. If you’re planting a mix of evergreen and deciduous trees, try to choose one variety of tree that will flower in the spring and one that will flower in the fall or that will otherwise be colorful to look at in the fall.

You also want to think about any animals that live in your area. Choose deer resistant trees if you want to keep them away from your property. If you want to attract birds, plant trees that produce fruit that will keep the birds coming back.

Trees to Avoid

Not all trees are good windbreak trees. In large part, the trees that will work best for you depend on your region and the soil conditions you can provide. But there are also some trees that are just no good for windbreaks.

These trees might grow quickly and die quickly, doubling the amount of work you need to do. Some trees are just too weak to effectively stand against strong winds. For example, the Jack Pine is no good in a windbreak. It has weak roots that won’t withstand the wind. It also produces weak wood.

Lombardy poplar is another tree to avoid. The tree grows fast, which can make it seem appealing. But after that period of rapid growth comes a period of rapid death.

Aspens also don’t make good windbreak trees, because their limbs are susceptible to breakage. The last thing you want is for the branch of the tree that’s supposed to be protecting your house from the wind to fall through your window or smash onto your back patio.

Some trees are more susceptible to pests and diseases than others and should be avoided for that reason. The black locust tree grows quickly and often falls victim to the locust borer, for example. Green ash should also be avoided because it frequently falls victim to the Emerald Ash borer. Finally, the Scotch Elm often suffers from pine wilt disease, particularly in the midwest. It’s another tree to pass on.

Best Windbreak Tree: The Douglas Fir

One of the best windbreak trees out there is the Douglas fir. It’s an evergreen tree and perhaps the most popular variety of Christmas tree. Outdoors, the tree can reach a height of up to 70 feet. It is also strong rooted, so that it can withstand strong winds and pressure from snow drifts.

The shape of the tree’s limbs and their strength are another feature that make the Douglas fir ideal for a windbreak. It grows in a pyramid shape, with branches that extend outward. The shape and size of the branches allow the tree to shed snow easily as well.

Although the Douglas fir can grow quite tall, it has a relatively moderate growth habit. During a typical year, it can grow between 13 and 24 inches. The tree won’t quickly overtake your yard if you plant it as a windbreak.

Another benefit of the Douglas fir, especially for homeowners in snowy or icy areas, is that it is able to tolerate some exposure to road salt.

Photo by Walter Seigmund licensed under CC BY 2.5.

Find the Best Dwarf Trees For Your Yard

Last update: April 15, 2021

If you’re looking to plant a tree for fruit, we recommend the Olympian fig tree for the best dwarf trees. You don’t need a lot of space to plant a tree in your yard. The best dwarf trees can provide you with some shade, some color, or even some food. Dwarf trees come in different varieties, shapes and sizes. Many max out around 10 feet in height, but there are some that get considerably bigger.  It’s cold hardy down to zone 6 and is specially bred for life in a container. If you want other options than the Olympian fig, check out our list below.

Our Favorite Dwarf Trees

#1 Aureum Golden Fullmoon Japanese Maple
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golden full moon japanese maple 4
#2 Olympian Fig Tree
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#3 Little Cado Dwarf Avocado Tree
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#4 Watermelon Crape Myrtle
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infinitini watermelon lagerstroemia
#5 Akatsuki Dogwood
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What to Know About Dwarf Trees

Planting a tree in your yard offers plenty of benefits. The shade from the tree can help keep you cool in the heat of summer and can protect your home from chilly winds. A tree can even reduce your energy bills, since you’ll need to run your air conditioning less often the summer and won’t have to heat your house so much in the winter.

But not every yard has space for a magnificent tree that will reach heights of 50 feet, with a canopy that’s 25 or 30 feet wide. The good news is that trees come in a variety of sizes.

If space is limited in your yard, or if you don’t really even have a yard, you can plant a dwarf tree. Dwarf trees allow you to enjoy the shade and other advantages of a full-sized tree, minus the huge footprint. Some trees are small enough that they can spend their lives in a container, on a patio or even indoors.

Before you randomly pick out and bring home a dwarf tree, there are a few things you need to know about them. One important thing to consider is their size.

For example, the Acer japonicum, or fullmoon maple, often grows to a height of up to 30 feet. The dwarf variety of the tree, “Aconitifolium,” typically maxes out at 10 feet tall, though. If space is really limited, you want to be sure that you bring home the ‘Aconitifolium’ variety and not some other variety.

The hardiness zone of the tree is another important thing to look at. Some dwarf trees, particularly fruiting dwarf trees, are better suited for Mediterranean or tropical areas. For example, some varieties of fig trees are only hardy in zones 8 to 10 and can’t survive the winter in colder areas. Avocados are also usually only hardy down to zone 8.

But, there are cultivars of fig that have been bred to survive in colder regions, down to zone 6 in some cases. Additionally, some dwarf fig varieties are small enough that you can plant them in a container and bring them indoors to hibernate for the winter. Some dwarf avocado trees can also be grown inside, as can dwarf citrus trees.

You also want to consider the growth habit of the tree you’re going to plant. Ideally, the tree will have a relatively slow growth habit. That way, it won’t quickly take over the space and become cramped. A slow growth habit can be ideal if you’re planting in a container, as it means you won’t have to repot the tree nearly as often.

Also take a look at the care requirements for the tree and whether it is prone to certain diseases or pests. Some trees prefer full sun, while others will burn if they don’t get part shade. The more prone a tree is to disease and pests, the more likely it will be to fall victim to those problems, unless you can guarantee that you’re growing it in an area that’s free of problem pests and diseases.

Types of Dwarf Trees

The best dwarf tree for you to grow really depends on what you want to get out of it. You’ll find several types of dwarf trees, from varieties that produce showy flowers to edible fruit trees. There are also basic foliage trees and dwarf evergreens.

Dwarf fruit trees can be ideal if you want to grow something edible or if you want to grow fruit that can be difficult to find at the grocery store. For example, figs usually have a limited season and can be tricky to find fresh in the store. But if you grow your own, you’ll have a nearly unlimited supply during the summer.

The same can be said of avocado trees. Although avocados are usually easy to find, their price point can be pretty high. Growing your own lets you enjoy lots of guacamole, minus the high price tag.

Some flowering dwarf trees can be real showstoppers. Crape myrtle, with its bright pink, purple or vivid red blooms, is one example. Dogwood trees are another example.

Even dwarf trees that don’t produce noticeable flowers can be pretty eye catching. Japanese maples, for example, have deep red leaves. Fullmoon maples also produce interesting looking, jagged edges leaves.

Benefits of a Dwarf Fruit Tree

One of the biggest perks of having a dwarf fruit tree in your backyard or garden is the size of the fruit. Even though dwarf fruit trees are roughly one-third the size of your standard-sized fruit tree, the fruit that it bears will remain the same size. That being said, they won’t produce as much fruit as their standard cousins – an important note if you’re planning on canning.

Another huge benefit to having a dwarf fruit tree is that it makes maintenance and harvesting a whole lot easier. You won’t need a ladder to harvest most of the bounty from your dwarf, as most of the fruit will be within easy reach. It also means you’ll rarely if ever have to resort to using various harvesting tools, like a picker or a tarp.

The Downside to Dwarf Trees

While dwarf trees can provide a great resource for delicious fruit on an unfussy scale, they do lack a couple of key qualities that you may enjoy by having a standard-sized tree. While these cons are essentially rendered moot if you live in a small space, if you have a larger backyard, they are something worth serious consideration.

For one thing, because dwarf trees are so small, they don’t offer the benefit of shade. This is something that you may not think about until it’s summertime and the backyard is blazing hot, but it is worth considering if you have a larger garden with little to no solace from the heat.

Also, you should be prepared for your dwarf tree to not live quite as long as a standard-size tree. For example, if you’re growing an apple or pear dwarf tree, you can expect that to live about 15 to 25 years, whereas a standard-sized apple or pear tree will have a lifespan of 20 to 40 years. The actual lifespan varies from fruit to fruit.

Taking Care of Your Dwarf Fruit Tree

As previously mentioned, taking care of a dwarf fruit tree is much easier than performing maintenance on a standard-sized tree. However, this doesn’t mean that it’s entirely maintenance free. Taking care of a dwarf tree does pose a few challenges you should be prepared to encounter.

Firstly, you need to be cognizant of the fact that dwarf trees, while they won’t get as big as standard trees, will still grow a bit. Because of this, they may require re-potting a time or two during the course of their lifespan. You may consider mitigating this step a bit and immediately pot the plant in a larger container if you have the room.

Water is also an important factor in keeping your dwarf tree nice and healthy. In terms of how much water you should give the tree, you don’t necessarily have to calculate adjusted amounts of water to provide. You just need to use common gardening sense here.

If you’re getting a newly planted dwarf tree, you’ll want to give it a lot of water so that it can establish a proper connection with the soil. After that, your main objective will be to keep the soil moist. This is even the case with older dwarf fruit trees, who will still require a healthy soaking of water time and again, albeit not as frequently.

Top Dwarf Fruit Tree: The Olympian Fig Tree

If you’re looking for a hardy, unique dwarf tree to grow, we recommend the Olympian Fig Tree. The tree is specifically bred for the Pacific Northwest, but it can survive in any area between zones 10a and 6.

There are a few benefits to choosing a dwarf fig tree. The Olympian variety grows up to 8 feet tall, meaning it will do well in a container for its entire life. If your live in a colder region, you can easily wheel the container indoors for the winter, then bring back outside in the spring.

Pollination can be a concern with some varieties of fig tree. Some types need to cross pollinate, meaning you need to grow more than one to get any sort of harvest. The Olympian fig tree is a common variety and will pollinate itself, so you only need to grow one tree. That can be particularly useful if you only have room for a single tree.

The size of the tree when you order it will influence its cost and how long it will be before you see fruit. Smaller trees usually cost less than more established trees. The trade-off is that you might have to wait a season before you actually get any fruit from the tree. If you want fruit right away, you’re better off with an older, more expensive tree.

Photo by Adityamadhav83 licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

The Best Trees for Privacy In Your Garden

Last update: April 16, 2021

Our top pick of the best trees for privacy is the Brighter Blooms Leyland Cypress, a robust tree with a unique blue-green coloring that can add a fashionable edge to any garden. Growing a living privacy screen in your garden can help you to add an element of sophistication and seclusion to your outdoor space. Feel free to check out our other recommendations and read up on the best ways to grow your very own privacy wall.

Our Top Recommendations for Foliage that Provides Privacy

#1 Thuja Green Giant Arborvitae
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41hFbeMyGnL. AC 2
#2 Brighter Blooms Leyland Cypress Trees
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brighter blooms ornamental trees cyp ari 23 3 4f 600

#3 Amazing Plants Emerald Green Thuja Arborvitae Tree
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#4 Shady Acre Perennials Hybrid Willow Trees
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51Dc9Kf7CaL. AC

Tips for Creating a Living Privacy Screen

Why put up a fence when you can create an attractive and eco-friendly privacy screen using trees? Privacy trees are a cost-effective way to spruce up your yard and increase property value while creating a quiet space in your back garden, and can even help to improve air quality.

Choosing Your Plants

When looking at privacy trees, the most important thing to consider is the coverage that each species offers. In order to create an effective privacy screen, you need to plant trees that will grow tall and thick enough to provide a safe haven from wind, sun, noise, and prying eyes.

Ideal species are able to grow quickly and close together so that you can create a uniform wall without any unsightly gaps. There are several evergreen and deciduous tree varieties that you can use to grow a privacy barrier:

  • The Thuja Green Giant is easy to grow and easy to care for, making it a popular choice among homeowners as a privacy tree. The species grows at an impressive rate of 3 to 5 feet per year and can reach heights of 40 to 60 feet. Green Giants are tough, able to resist drought and adapt to almost any terrain.
  • The Emerald Green Thuja is slightly smaller than its cousin the Green Giant, reaching a maximum height or around 12 feet at maturity. These trees are a good option for small spaces and require little pruning or trimming to maintain.
  • The Leyland cypress is a little bit pickier than Thuja tree varieties when it comes to terrain, growing primarily in warmer Southern and Northwestern regions. Like the Green Giant they grow fast, at 3 to 5 feet per year, and can reach up to 60 feet in height.
  • Willow hybrids are deciduous trees that can add a wild touch to your privacy screen with their luscious, downy branches. These hybrids grow astonishingly fast, at up to 6 feet per year, and when planted in close proximity reach a height of 35 to 45 feet tall.
  • American holly is a thick and vibrant tree that can add color to your evergreen privacy screen with red berries that pop up in the winter, and beautiful white flowers that bloom in the spring. Just be aware that the plant’s berries are poisonous, so American holly may not be the best option for homes with animals or small children.

When choosing which tree to use for your privacy wall, it’s important to take your home’s space limitations into consideration. Walkways, driveways, utility lines and more can all limit the space you have available to grow a proper privacy barrier.

A Green Giant tree, for example, may not be the best choice for someone who lives on a small inner-city property. Conversely, smaller Emerald Green Thuja trees may not provide an adequate level of protection for larger homes or in rural areas.

Planting Your Trees

Privacy trees are not often grown from seed, but are instead purchased as saplings from nurseries or garden centers. The best time to plant these young trees is during early spring when it’s still relatively cool outside. Before planting, make sure that you trim away any protective plastic or burlap wrapped around the tree roots. Bare-root trees should be soaked between 3 and 6 hours before planting to encourage early growth.

Loosen the soil where you plan to plant, removing rocks and weeds before adding water. Plant each tree’s root flare level with the surface of your yard, water again, and then add 2 to 3 inches of mulch around the base of your tree. This will help to keep the roots moist as they grow and regulate soil temperature. Be sure to keep your trees well-hydrated during their first few weeks of growth before switching to a normal watering routine.

Plant Size and Spacing Ideas

The mature height of a tree is an important consideration when planting a privacy wall, but many people don’t account for the mature width of the tree. You need to plant each sapling far enough apart that they have room to grow and don’t encroach on each other’s resources. To create an attractive and effective barrier, though, you also need to plant trees close enough together to avoid leaving any gaps or open spaces.

Luckily, most popular privacy trees are just fine growing in close proximity. Even larger varieties such as Thuja Green Giants are able to grow just 6 feet apart, ensuring that you have thick, lush coverage throughout your entire living privacy screen. You can plant Emerald Green Thujas and other smaller trees even closer together, leaving them 3 feet or so apart to create a smooth and uniform appearance.

It can be difficult to plant your privacy wall in one even row because chances are, not every tree will line up perfectly. This is a particular concern if you end up having to replace any trees at a later date, which can give your privacy screen an uneven appearance. Instead of planting in a single row, you may want to consider a safer alternative design. Cluster planting creates a thicker and more natural-looking screen, while planting in staggered rows offers even and unbroken coverage for your garden.

Caring for Privacy Trees

Soil quality is the foundation of a beautiful garden, and it’s vital for the unhindered growth of your privacy trees. You can test your soil to learn about its quality, including nutrient composition and pH. With this knowledge, it’s easy to choose the perfect fertilizer to help your privacy wall thrive. Once your trees mature, they’ll need access to plenty of water and full or partial sunlight each day to stay green and healthy.

Our Recommendation: Brighter Blooms Leyland Cypress Trees

The Leyland cypress is a visually appealing, low-maintenance tree that provides plenty of privacy for large outdoor spaces. Brighter Blooms Leyland Cypress Trees are a fast-growing evergreen that can form a thick, lush privacy screen around your garden. With proper care, these trees can grow to a height of 60 to 70 feet and a width of 15 to 25 feet. Despite their impressive size, you can plant these Leyland cypress Trees as close as 6 feet apart when creating your privacy wall.

As a cross between the Nootka and Monterey cypress, this variety of privacy tree is incredibly hardy and boasts the ability to grow in pretty much any soil conditions. It thrives in full sun and cool temperatures, and also at high altitudes. The tree’s dense foliage is an attractive blue-green color that stays vibrant throughout the year and offers protection from wind, noise, weather, and curious neighbors

Photo by Antranias licensed under CC0

Keep Your Garden Cool with the Best Shade Trees

Last update: April 16, 2021

Our recommendations for the best shade trees are the Red Maple Tree and the Bald Cypress Tree. Our choices are suitable for a wide range of hardiness zones. That factor alone makes them good all-around picks. But several other things come into play when choosing a shade tree. Read on for our picks as well as tips and advice to guide your choice of a shade tree.

Our Top Picks for the Best Shade Trees

#1 Red Maple Tree
Our rating
819ofRSrU1L. AC SL1413 1
#2 Bald Cypress Tree
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81BIPsgoPiL. AC SL1101 1

#3 Corkscrew Curly Weeping Willow Tree
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#4 Japanese Red Maple Tree
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51lI6ytwz6L. AC 1

How to Choose a Shade Tree

The thing to remember with picking a tree—any tree—is that it is a commitment. Trees live longer. And if it doesn’t work out, it’s harder to correct down the road. Therefore, the first rule for choosing a shade tree is to do your research. You should know what a mature tree looks like rather than the young ones you see at the garden center for a true picture.

Size and Spread

Look at pictures of trees you’re considering so you know how big they may get and how they look. Size and spread are important for you to know. Generally, you should plant shade trees southwest of the site that you want to protect from the sun. So, begin with assessing what space limitations you have both in width and height if power lines are an issue.

You should plant a shade tree at least 25 feet from your house. Doing this will give it enough room to grow without getting too close to your roof. Remember, branches will break, and leaves will fall. A tree too close to the house is more work for you in maintenance. It also increases the risk of root growth interfering with pipes and cables underground.

Get in the Zone

You can begin your search with your plant hardiness zone. This figure is the lowest temperature for your area. Plants rated to a particular zone will survive in temperatures that get down to this extreme. For example, a tree rated to Zone 3 will handle a frigid Minnesota winter a lot better than one for Zone 8. Use hardiness zones as a guide as well as other factors.

Local Conditions

While the hardiness zone is a good start, it’s not foolproof. That’s why you need to consider your local conditions as well. If you live in an urban area, chances are the temperatures are warmer than the surrounding area. Likewise, if you’re in the country, your location may be windier, and thus, might be drier.

You should also consider other things that your shade tree will have to endure. Road salt, surface runoff, and air pollutants can take a heavy toll on trees. If this sounds like your situation, you may want to look into a Norway maple or magnolia tree as a possibility. These trees can handle the extra stress of these conditions better than others.

Soil Properties

Soils will also impact how well a particular shade tree might fare. A tree that prefers sandy soils might not thrive in areas with heavy, clay soils. The same applies to other properties like acidity and fertility. That’s where knowing the specifics of your site can help.

You might find it useful to test your soil to learn things such as its pH and nutrient levels. This information will help you prepare your site for your new shade tree. You may find that you’ll need to amend your soil before you can plant a tree. It’s best to know this information up front especially if it could sway your choice of a shade tree.

This video from Penn State Extension walks you through the process of doing a soil test.

Growth Pattern

You should consider how quickly you want your tree to grow. Some trees grow faster than others but tend to less long-lived than slower growing trees like some oaks. It’s a tradeoff. If you want shade fast, you might want to look into willows or birches as an option instead. The growth pattern is one of the several other factors you should consider.


Some trees may be more susceptible to damage than others. It’s something to think about when it comes to maintenance. Trees like willows will lose branches frequently. If you live in a windy area, you might want to consider a different tree that can handle the punishment. Even a windy site such a hill or unbroken plain may experience drier conditions.

Also, think about any seeds or fruit that a tree may produce. A black walnut tree, for example, will yield a wealth of nuts in the fall. That will mean extra work cleaning up after they fall. Producing nuts is nutrient-expensive for trees. You may find that you have to fertilize these nut-bearing trees more frequently to keep them looking their best.

Seed production can also have unintended consequences. Even if your tree only produces nuts every other year, word gets out. It can encourage a squirrel problem down the road. The same caution applies to fruit-bearing trees. A reliable food source like your shade tree can attract deer and other pests. Then, your maintenance takes on a whole new challenge.


While shade is your primary concern, it pays to consider other factors. Year-round appearance, for example, is another thing to put on the table. Looks is where your research comes in again. Think about what your tree will look like at other times of the year. That is especially important if you’re planting a tree in the front yard. Your shade tree can act as a feature even in the winter.

Our Recommendations: Red Maple Tree and Bald Cypress Tree

Our main criteria included a broad range of hardiness zones. We also considered adaptability to a variety of environmental conditions. The stunning fall colors of maples certainly factored into our choice as well. We also weighed in on how easy it is to grow different trees. Fussy trees are not the best pick. We prefer trees that can adapt to a wide array of soil types and properties.

The Red Maple Tree checked off all our boxes for an easy-to-grow tree that can live in a variety of conditions. We also liked the sheer beauty of this tree with its gorgeous red color. Its 60-foot height and 40-foot spread will provide plenty of shade in the right location. As a rule, maples are easy to grow, another plus in our book. It can thrive in a variety of soil conditions.

The Bald Cypress Tree impressed us with its adaptability and low maintenance. We liked its vibrant green color in the summer and its subdued fall orange color. Its 75-foot height and 30-foot spread also offer a generous amount of shade. The fact that it can live in Zones 4-10 is another point in its favor. It adapts to sandy, clay, or loam soils. It is an excellent choice for wet places.

Picking the right shade tree is an important choice. It means taking into account the many things that can affect its suitability for a site. That includes size, spread, and local environmental factors. Low maintenance and adaptability to a broad spectrum of environmental conditions ranked high on our list. Both trees offer suitable choices for the best shade trees.

Photo by Hans licensed under CC0.

Spruce Up Your Home with the Best Indoor Trees

Last update: April 16, 2021

Our recommendations for the best indoor trees are the Key Lime Tree and the Meyer Lemon Tree. We loved the idea of growing both of these fruits and thinking about the things we’d make if it produces. Even without fruit, they are gorgeous of themselves and have a lovely fresh scent. Continue reading to see our other recommendations for choosing an indoor tree.

Our Top Picks for the Best Indoor Trees

#1 Key Lime Tree
Our rating
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#2 Meyer Lemon Tree
Our rating
61Ji8WsmhRL. AC SL1500

#3 Brussel’s Golden Gate Ficus Bonsai
Our rating
71C5HaMdspL. AC SL1000

#4 Money Tree Plant
Our rating
71O6KWt7tUL. SL1500

What You Need to Know about Indoor Gardening

Indoor gardening is an entirely different game than growing plants outdoors. While you’re the assistant outside, you control the whole houseplant show inside. That means everything from sunlight to moisture to pest control. These are important things to consider since it will affect how successful you are with your indoor tree.

That said, you’re probably thinking that you want an easy-to-grow plant that is low maintenance. And we’d agree. Like outdoor plants, it boils down to a matter of matching the situation with the right plant. While many are familiar, a few thing stand out as stark differences from outdoor gardening.

Sun Exposure

Adequate sun exposure is one of your greatest challenges. Windows with an eastern exposure are a plus for indoor trees that prefer bright light because they provide direct morning sun. A southern exposure works too, but the temperature and light may vary. Of course, you can bypass the concerns by exposure. Plant lights will provide a reliable source of light than can fill in.

However, keep the height of your indoor tree in mind. It’s easy enough to put a light on a short plant. Big plants like a tall tree are another story. You should consider how a plant light might impact the activity in the rest of your house. These two factors together may help you decide on the right placement for your indoor tree.


Many indoor trees are tropical plants. They live in areas with similar temperature ranges as most homes. That’s a definite perk if you want to grow plants that wouldn’t survive outdoors in your location. Think of it as an opportunity to grow something exotic.

Of course, there are exceptions. You might not be able to recreate the environment of some indoor trees. Therefore, your best chances for success with an indoor tree exist if they can tolerate your typical household room temperatures. Other factors also play a role.

Relative Humidity

Relative humidity is another condition that makes indoor gardening more challenging. A lot depends on your plants. Plants from warm, humid areas won’t thrive in homes with lower humidity. It becomes a major concern in northern regions that are drier during the winter months. As with sunlight, there are some workaround solutions.

A humidifier can boost humidity levels to ranges that are more comfortable for your indoor tree–and you. You can also try things like grouping your plants in one space. As plants transpire, they can fulfill each others’ needs for moisture.

You might also want to consider creating a mini rainforest. You can fill a shallow container of water and add some decorative rocks to make in an indoor feature. It can be your own personal oasis.


You will need to water an indoor tree more frequently than one planted outdoors. Water moves freely in the soil, whereas its movement is restricted in a pot. Light, temperature, and container size will all affect how often and how much you should water. Another thing to consider is drainage when watering. Your planter must replicate the drainage patterns of soil to avoid pooling.


Water and fertilizing are both tricky issues. Give it too much, and your indoor tree will suffer. Give it too little, well, you get it. You’ll need to know what that happy medium is for your indoor tree. Several things can influence how often to fertilize.

First, there are the plant’s particular needs. Some are heavy feeders and others, not so much. The amount of potting soil also plays a role since you’re trying to recreate a concentration of nutrients.

This video from the University of Wyoming Extension shows the proper way to fertilize your indoor plants.

The amount of light your indoor tree gets factors into the mix as well. A plant that receives a lot of light is actively undergoing photosynthesis. It will need the nutrients from its soil to support new growth. A plant that is in flower or producing fruit will also need extra nutrients.

Soil Mixtures

Of all the factor involved in keeping indoor trees healthy, soil mixture is the easiest one. Outdoors, you may need to deal with less than ideal conditions without amending it some way. With an indoor tree, you can pick the right mixture based on your plant’s specific needs. Right from the start, you can create a solid foundation for a healthy plant.


Another consideration is size, especially for trees that you’ll move outdoors in the summer. It’s one thing to have a tree indoors, but it’s another thing entirely to try to move a 10-foot tree inside and out. Remember that when you choose a container as well. A lightweight pot will save your back.

What to Look for in an Indoor Tree

Common sense will dictate many of the things you need to look for when picking a plant. First, the plant should appear healthy and vigorous. If it doesn’t look good then, the stress of moving will surely take a toll. You should avoid plants with damage or discolored foliage. Many nurseries and garden centers offer guarantees on their plants for added peace of mind.

Our Recommendations: Key Lime Tree and Meyer Lemon Tree

Our search for the best indoor tree revealed a plethora of choices. There were the common ones we’re used to seeing. Dwarf varieties and cultivars added variety to the mix of options. We narrowed our picks to those that would give us the chance to grow something new. We liked the idea of bringing a tropical plant indoors.

The Key Lime Tree stood out as a plant that is easy to grow and one we could put outside if temperatures allow. The tree has many attractive features that make it a pretty indoor tree and a welcome addition to the home. We liked its dark green foliage that provides a nice backdrop to its beautiful white flowers. Its pleasant scent was a pleasant perk. At 6 to 8 feet, it grows to a manageable size.

The Meyer Lemon Tree makes an excellent choice for an indoor tree that can come outside to enjoy a sunny patio. Unlike the key lime tree, the Meyer Lemon Tree prefers warmer locales. It is a good-looking tree with an equally nice scent that could brighten any room. The fact that you may get some tasty lemons from it is certainly a plus in our book.

Having a tropical plant inside gives you the chance to choose something on the exotic side. Growing an indoor tree is easy as long as you meet its needs for light, moisture, and nutrients. Think of it as a kind of fun challenge to create your own mini Garden of Eden.

Photo by monikabaechler licensed under CC0.

Our Guide to Finding the Best Small Trees for your Yard

Last update: April 16, 2021

Our recommendations for the best small trees are the Weeping Cherry Tree and the Ann Tulip Magnolia Tree. We wanted the most bang for our buck. So, we opted for a small tree that is attractive enough to be a focal point. We also wanted a hardy tree that can adapt to a variety of conditions. We found several standout trees in addition to those, which you can find in our list below.

Our Top Picks for the Best Small Trees

#1 Weeping Cherry Tree
Our rating
weeping cherry tree
#2 Ann Tulip Magnolia Tree
Our rating

#3 Kousa Dogwood Tree
Our rating

#4 Potted Mimosa Tree
Our rating
61jxHVbp89L. AC 1

Defining a Small Tree

We’ll begin with our definition of a small tree which will provide the framework for our choices. Because they are sometimes the same size, we’ll lay out the differences between a tree and shrub. Both are perennial woody plants. That’s where the similarities end. While a shrub may have several perennial stems, a tree has a single one. The newest bark is inside the stem.

For our purposes, a small tree is under 25 feet tall. The spread or width will vary with the form. A conical tree, for example, has a much smaller spread than a sprawling redbud. Both dimensions matter, of course, when it comes time to pick a small tree especially for a small yard. Consider the mature height rather than the diminutive size of the tree at the garden center.

Choosing a Tree

There are several other things you need to consider when picking any tree. Your goal is to match the tree’s needs with the environmental conditions of your site. Locations can vary widely even on the same property. Stick to the exact spot where you will be planting. Factors like drainage may differ even in a small space. In some cases, it can mean the difference between thriving and surviving.

Soil Type

The texture of your soil is its mixture of sand, silt, clay, and loam. It’s an important detail to match your tree with the site. Some trees adapt well to various soil types. Others prefer a particular kind and won’t tolerate deviations. A soil test can provide basic information like pH and nutrient levels.

You can determine the soil type you have by scooping up a handful and lightly squeezing it. Clay soils keep their shape when you open your hand. Sandy soils will not flow through your fingers. Loams will stay compacted for a short time, but fall apart if you poke at it. The type goes hand-in-hand with other environmental variables.


The soil type directly influences its water-holding capacity and drainage. Many trees, small and large, prefer well-drained soils. Water doesn’t tend to pool, and they don’t become waterlogged. These moist conditions can pose a threat of rot and bacteria development. For susceptible trees, it is a major issue you can’t ignore. Likewise, dry soils can stress trees that aren’t drought tolerant.

Sun Exposure

The amount of sunlight or shade a location gets also factors into the mix. While some trees don’t mind the shade, others won’t survive without adequate light. You should consider how much sunlight the tree will get at the location. Take into account anything that may block the sun, both now and later as other trees in the surrounding area mature.

Sunlight is an essential factor to consider. It’s one thing that you have less control over than say moisture. You can water a tree or fertilize it. But you can’t change sun exposure. One option you have is to choose a small tree that has a range of tolerance levels for shade to cover all your bases. As a general rule of thumb, fruit trees prefer full sun.


All trees will need some maintenance, some more than others. You’ll need to prune your tree to encourage new healthy growth. If moisture is an issue, you may need to water your tree during dry spells. Before you commit to a particular tree, take the time to research what each one needs and balance it with what you can provide.

This video from the Utah State University Extension walks you through the process of planting a bare root tree.


Both winter and summer are trying times for all plants. Extreme temperatures can kill plants unaccustomed to frigid or sweltering conditions. The USDA Hardiness Zone Map can help you determine your area’s lowest extreme temperature. It divides the country into 26 zones based on historical weather data. It comes in handy when researching small trees.

The label on your tree will provide its zone so that you can stick with ones suitable for your area. While the USDA map is the most common, other ones exist, so make sure you’re getting the right information. The hardiness zone is only one part of the puzzle. Heat extremes are just as harmful. Your cooperative extension service can help you with any questions.

Finding Your Tree’s Purpose

Small trees can serve many uses. You may just want an ornamental tree that looks nice on your front yard for curb appeal. Take time to think about the other things you want out of a tree to narrow down your choices. For example, a maple will provide welcome shade in your backyard. If you want something with a lot of color, it’s hard to beat the beauty of a mimosa. If you need privacy, an evergreen can fit the bill. Other things to consider are fragrant trees which can be lovely or invasive.

A Note about Appearance

The chances are you have a clear picture in your mind of what your ideally best tree looks like. Think of things like flowers and foliage. Small trees can function well as a feature or focal point in your landscape design. Consider other varieties of characteristics such as the shape, bark color, and year-round appearance. After all, small doesn’t mean short on features.

Our Recommendations: Ann Tulip Magnolia Tree and Weeping Cherry Tree

Narrowing your choice down to a small tree still gives you a wide playing field. In the end, it comes down to purpose. We focused on trees that were low maintenance. We also wanted a tree that was hardy and tolerant of a variety of environmental conditions. And since a tree is an investment, we leaned toward an attractive tree that would give our landscape a boost.

The Ann Tulip Magnolia Tree is a gorgeous tree with big rosy pink blooms. It grows to a mature height of 10 feet with a 9-foot spread. It is hardy and produces a late spring bloom to protect it from a late frost. We liked its open shape and beautiful foliage. With a sweet, delicate scent, the Ann Tulip Magnolia Tree does double duty as an ornamental tree.

The Weeping Cherry Tree is less dramatic than the magnolia tree, but that’s its charm. It forms a lush carpet of small pinkish flowers. We thought it resembled a miniature weeping willow tree. It’s a compact tree with a height and spread both of 8 feet. It tolerates Zones 5 through 8, making it a hardy example of an ornamental cherry tree.

Even if you have limited space, you can still enjoy the beauty of a small tree. With colorful flowers and beautiful bark, they can make an attractive center point for any garden. And their small size means you get the benefits of perennial feature without the added trouble of a larger tree.

Photo by arcaion licensed under CC0.

Make an Impression with the Best Trees for Front Yards

Last update: April 16, 2021

Our recommendations for the best trees for the front yard are the River Birch Tree and the Natchez Crape Myrtle. We narrowed our choice to two trees that are sure to attract attention, albeit in different ways. For a front yard tree, we opted to choose a tree that acts as a focal point and adds a touch of class to your yard decor. We love these trees for your landscape, but if you want more options, check out the following recommendations.

Our Top Picks for the Best Trees for the Front Yard

#1 River Birch Tree
Our rating
91yNtJQ3p2L. AC SL1500
#2 Natchez Crape Myrtle
Our rating
51gWhPudu5L. AC

#3 Kousa Dogwood Tree
Our rating

#4 Eastern Redbud Tree
Our rating
61f1fqOTuL. AC SL1500

What Makes a Good Tree for the Front Yard?

Just like a pergola or shrub, give some thought to what you want and need in a tree for your front yard. Presumably, you’d prefer an attractive tree that will draw attention and create curb appeal since it won’t be tucked away in the backyard. Think about what that means for you. Do you want a tree with intense color that makes a dramatic statement? Or would you rather opt for a tree with a classy look? Defining a purpose can lead you to the right choice for your yard.

Adding Color

The best tree offers a great way to add some color to your landscaping. You can plant a tree with flowers that complement the color of your home. Also consider the look of the bark, especially if you’re looking at deciduous trees. Your front yard tree can still stand out even during the winter months. Think of the striking bark of the European hornbeam or the mottled bark of the American sycamore.

Other Uses

Most trees can serve multiple uses. Make the most of your choice. If your house has a southwestern exposure, a shade tree makes an excellent pick. It could even help reduce your cooling costs. Also, consider other ways your front yard tree can do double duty. Evergreens like firs and pines can act as a windscreen. A row of arborvitae planted close together provides an unobtrusive shade privacy screen.

How to Choose the Right Tree for Your Front Yard

Now that you have some specifics in mind, let’s turn to the practical matter of choosing a tree. Of course, there are limits to what will work for your location starting with size. While you may adore the look of a towering bur oak, it won’t work if you have power lines running above your site. Likewise, a tree with a massive spread will overwhelm a small yard.

This video from the University of New Hampshire Extension shows you how to plant a tree properly in your yard.

Sun or Shade?

The amount of sunlight your location ranks high on the list of things to know. Some trees like apple or apricot have specific daylight requirements to produce fruit. Others like redbud aren’t as picky. But if your site doesn’t have quite what the tree needs, you should check out some cultivars.

Horticulturists often breed plants to get rid of undesirable characteristics. Some varieties may go into flower later to avoid late spring frosts. Others may have a greater tolerance for shade. You may find one that is a better fit for your site.

Wet or Dry?

Trees that prefer warm, humid conditions will not thrive in cool, dry areas. Remember plants get moisture from both the soil and the air. When it comes to matching a tree with a site, you need to consider both. Arid conditions can stress a tree just as much as a lack of adequate moisture. Minimizing stress is your best defense against pests and disease.

If moisture conditions are variable, you might consider a tree like bald cypress. It can adapt to a broad spectrum of conditions. If heat or drought are an issue, you should pick a tree that can handle these extremes. While you can’t eliminate stress altogether, you can give your tree a fighting chance by selecting one adapted to your local conditions.

High Fertile or Low-Fertile Soils?

Trees depend on the soil to fulfill their nutritional needs. Some trees need soils with high fertility. If your site comes short, you’ll need to amend it to make up for any deficiencies. A soil test will give the information you need to make this determination. Bear in mind that fertilizing isn’t a onetime thing. It’s part of ongoing maintenance for trees that need it.


Just like moisture, winter hardiness is another make-or-break trait. Many trees will not adapt to extreme cold. Not matter where you live, you should know your area’s USDA Hardiness Zone. The zone gives you the lowest temperature for your area based on its climatic history. You’ll find the particular zone for a tree on its label.

The system isn’t perfect for other elements. It is a fair estimation of winter adaptability.

What to Expect When You Plant a Tree

Just like your lawn or garden, your tree will require some routine maintenance. In many ways, these situations are similar. All need reliable moisture and nutrients. And as you regularly mow your lawn, you’ll need to prune your tree. It’s important in the early stages of development. It is your way of ensuring that your tree continues to fit its space while encouraging new growth.

Pest and Disease Control

Pests are a way of life with many trees. For some like fruit trees, it includes the four-legged varieties as well. Your cherry or plum trees will have quite a fight against local deer populations. Disease also presents an issue with some trees. Generally speaking, fast-growing trees are more susceptible to damage. Willows and birches are known for their brittle branches.

Our Recommendations: River Birch Tree and Natchez Crape Myrtle

We placed a high value on an attractive tree. It is your front yard after all. We also wanted a tree that is hardy and tolerant of a variety of conditions. Our hope was that our front yard tree would stay healthy. Along with hardiness, we leaned toward low-maintenance trees. It was our desire that they’d always look their finest at their place of honor in our front yard.

The River Birch Tree is a stately tree with a commanding presence. It can reach heights up to 60 feet with a spread of 40 feet. It’s an excellent choice for Zones 4 through 9. Its handsome cinnamon-color bark makes it an attractive front yard tree even in the winter. We also liked the fact that it is highly adaptable to a variety of environmental conditions.

The Natchez Crape Myrtle is such a pretty tree. Its beautiful white flowers persist throughout the season for a welcome splash of color. We liked the fact that this tree has several other uses such as privacy screen and bird cover. Like the river birch, it has lovely mottled bark, so it offers year-round color as a bonus.

Choosing a tree for your front yard is an opportunity to add some pop to your landscaping. To get the most out of your investment, consider the other functions a tree can serve such as a focal point or privacy screen. When you find the right match, you’ll have a tree that will add value and beauty to your front yard.

Photo by emetzner130 licensed under CC0.