Growing Trees: Flowering Trees

Flowering trees are gems in the landscape. They put their bright colors right at eye level with striking intensity, announcing changes in seasons and becoming focal points in the landscape. They offer the perfect antidote for winter, with flowers infused with various hues including delicate pink, fiery red and marshmallow white. They're functional, too – use flowering trees to soften strong lines of homes or hardscape, or strategically position them to shade your home and reduce summer air-conditioning bills.


Here are some of our most versatile and dependable favorites. Check with your local nursery or local Cooperative Extension System office to make sure the trees you select are well adapted to your area. In Western states, some of these  can also be grown into USDA Zones 10 and 11.



Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)
Rose-pink blooms blanket branches in early spring, appearing before leaves. Look for selections with white, wine-red or pink flowers. 'Forest Pansy' has purplish foliage. Heart-shaped green leaves fade to gold in autumn. Brown seed pods dangle from sculptural branches after leaves fall.
Size: 20-35 feet high and 25-35 feet wide

Hardiness: USDA Zones 4-9 
Light Level: Full sun to partial shade

Tip: Pruning out dead branches as needed will help keep tree healthy
Landscape use: Lawn tree, deck or patio tree, edge of woodland garden



Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)

A classic spring beauty, Flowering Dogwood is a native tree common along woodland edges. Showy flower petals are actually bracts that come in white, pink, rose or deep rose. Blossoms appear before leaves unfurl and fade to bright red berries beloved by birds. Leaves blaze red in autumn.

Size: 15-30 feet high and 15-25 feet wide

Hardiness: USDA Zones 5-9 
Light Level: Full sun to partial shade

Tip: Needs partial shade in areas with hot, dry summers. Ask for disease-resistant varieties in eastern states.
Landscape Use: Patio tree, shade tree, specimen tree, good understory tree with high canopy, established trees



Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)

Large clusters of crape-like blooms in shades of white, pink, red and purple appear in summer on this deciduous tree. The cinnamon bark is good-looking, shiny and peeling; fall color is yellow to red. Performs best in hot summer areas. Ask for varieties resistant to Powdery Mildew.

Size: 5-20 feet high, 5-18 feet wide

Hardiness: USDA Zones 6-9
Light Level: Full sun

Tip: Plants will grow smaller with potential winter injury to top growth in colder regions
Landscape Use: Small patio or shade tree, although dropping flowers and seeds can be messy on paving. Can be grown as a shrub, or single or multi-trunked tree.



Magnolia (Magnolia)

Several species of small deciduous trees are included in this large family of plants. Most popular are the Saucer Magnolia (M. soulangiana) with huge white, pink or purple cup-shaped flowers in early spring, and the Star Magnolia (M. stellata) with large, starlike blooms, also in early spring.

Size: 15-30 feet high and 15-30 feet wide

Hardiness: USDA Zones 4-9 
Light Level: Full sun to partial shade

Tip: Late frosts frequently damage blossoms in colder areas
Landscape Use: Lawn tree, deck or patio tree, espalier



Flowering Crabapple (Malus spp.)
Stunning blooms frequently showcase multiple colors with buds showing one hue and opening to reveal another. Single or double flowers offer shades of white, pink, red and purple. Fall foliage varies from showy to non-descript. Choose disease-resistant varieties.
Size: 8-40 feet high, but commonly 10-25 feet high and wide

Hardiness: USDA Zones 4-10
Light Level: Full sun

Tip: Fruit may add winter interest and attract birds; some fruit is edible. Some selections are fruitless.
Landscape Use:  Lawn or shade tree, privacy screen along fences, good allée or espalier tree



Fringe Tree (Chionanthus virginicus)
A native tree that shows off its white blooms best when planted against a dark background. White flowers are lightly fragrant and open after Dogwoods fade. Plants thrive in moist, acidic soil and frequently have multiple trunks.
Size: 12-20 feet high and 10-15 feet wide

Hardiness: USDA Zones 3-9
Light Level: Full sun

Tip: Prefers afternoon shade in hottest regions
Landscape Use: Street tree, patio tree, lawn tree



Japanese Flowering Apricot (Prunus mume)
Exquisite single or double blossoms in shades of pink, rose or white decorate branches in the heart of winter. Spicily fragrant flowers bloom before leaves emerge. Trees flower as early as February in warmest regions. Flowers are followed by fuzzy-skinned, green to yellow apricots (to 1-inch diameter) with clinging stones, ripening in summer, but are poor tasting compared to commercially sold common Apricots (Prunus armeniaca). These beauties form lovely, gnarled trunks.

Size: 15-20 feet high and wide

Hardiness: USDA Zones 6-9; shelter in Zone 6
Light Level: Full sun to partial shade

Tip: Avoid heavy clay and poorly drained wet soils
Landscape Use: Entry garden, lawn tree; where ever dropping fruit won’t cause a mess. Plant where it's visible from indoors; blooms open when weather is too cold for outdoor activity.



Japanese Flowering, or Yoshino, Cherry (Prunus x yedoensis)
Crank up spring flower power with this blooming beauty, which paints the season with petal hues of pink and white. Japanese Flowering Cherry trees have national renown, thanks to plantings in Washington, D.C. Leaves unfurl after blossoms open and provide golden fall color.

Size: 20-35 feet high and wide

Hardiness: USDA Zones 5-9 
Light Level: Full sun

Tip: Produces small black cherries (½-inch diameter) which are bitter to humans but loved by birds
Landscape Use: Sidewalk or patio tree, lawn tree



Site It Right

Most of these flowering trees are ideal for small gardens or around entryways, patios or decks. Make sure you have adequate room on all sides to accommodate mature growth, and your tree won’t overpower the area where it’s planted. Carefully consider your planting location to ensure you will get the most enjoyment out of your tree's bloom time. You'll want to watch the show from both indoors and out.

  • Consider the background. Pale-tinted blooms disappear against a light backdrop, but shine when staged against evergreens.
  • Some flowering trees are fragrant. Be sure to site perfumed bloomers where you can savor the scent.
  • In northern zones, plants may flower while it's still cold outside. Site early bloomers where they're visible from indoors.
  • In the coldest regions, consider planting trees in a northern exposure, which may delay flowering and help prevent late-spring frost damage to flowers or buds.