An unmistakeable sign of spring are the blooms of crabapple, cherry, dogwood, and redbud trees. They are just a few of the many showy ornamental trees that bring shades of pink and white to the landscape and proclaim Spring’s arrival.

If you desire more blossom and heavenly perfume in your yard at this time of year, I have a few suggestions for you.

Considerations When Planting a Tree

First, though, consider what your yard offers in the way of soil and light conditions.

  • What are the light conditions? Sunny or some shade?
  • Good or poor drainage, acid or alkaline pH?
  • Proximity to buildings

Plot the plan, test the soil, choose your trees and get ready to dig. Many trees will bloom from their first year in the ground, but they often need a year or two to settle in to show what they can really offer.

Early Spring Blooms

The earliest trees are often the Redbud, the Magnolia Stellata, and “Little Girl” group of magnolias.

Star Magnolia

  • Zones 4 to 9
  • Ultimate Height 20 to 30 feet
  • Mature Spread 25 to 35 feet
  • Grows in both full sun and part shade, but prefers sun in the Northern part of its range.
  • Wide soil range
  • Medium Growth Rate
  • Fall color of the heart shape leaves is yellow, spring bloom is a magenta pink.

A video posted by Ilona (@ilonagarden) on

Little Girl Magnolia (x ‘Jane’, ‘Ann’, ‘Susan’, ‘Judy’, ‘Pinkie’, ‘Randy’, ‘Ricki’)

Hybridized from Magnolia liliflora and Magnolia stellata, these bloom two to four weeks later than the M.stellata and sometimes  have sparse summer rebloom.

Jane Magnolia

Jane Magnolia

  • Zones 3 – 8
  • Mature Height ranges from 10 to 15 feet
  • Mature Spread ranges from 8 to 12 feet
  • Grow best in full sun to light shade
  • Fertile Loam
  • Medium Growth Rate

Eastern Redbud (Cercis Canadensis)

  • Zones 4 to 9
  • Ultimate Height 20 to 30 feet
  • Mature Spread 25 to 35 feet
  • Grows in both full sun and part shade, but prefers sun in the Northern part of its range.
  • Wide soil range
  • Medium Growth Rate
  • Fall color of the heart shape leaves is yellow, spring bloom is a magenta pink.

This tree might be short lived if it doesn’t like its conditions, but usually is happy and makes a beautiful specimen tree, or peeking out amongst larger trees (as in nature). A sentinel of spring, it grows in a wide vase shape.

Mid Spring Blooms

Crabapples rule the scenery in my part of the world during Mid-spring. Many fruit trees have brief bloom during this time, as well as the showy Buckeye and other large trees.

Crabapple Prairie Fire (Malus Prairie Fire)
  • Hardiness zone 4 to 9
  • Full Sun
  • Ultimate Height 15 to 20 feet
  • Mature Spread 15 to 20 feet
  • Average soil
  • Medium Growth Rate
  • Resistant to apple scab
  • Small dark red fruits, attractive to birds.

This is one of the most disease resistant choices. Guard the bark from deer and rabbits during winter. The upright form is strong and sturdy, and it has purple leaves, especially noticeable early in the summer.

Spring Snow (Malus ‘Spring Snow’)

A photo posted by Ilona (@ilonagarden) on

  • Hardiness zone 3 to 7
  • Ultimate Height 15 to 25 feet
  • Mature Spread 15 to 20 feet
  • Full Sun
  • Average soil
  • Medium-Fast Growth Rate
  • Reliable white bloom,but often has summer leaf drop
  • Fruits are insignificant

‘Snowdrift’ appears on horticulture professor Michael Dirr’s top 12 crabapple variety list. It has a widely rounded shape.

Crabapple Candied Apple (Malus ‘Weepcanzam’ )
  • Zones 3 to 8
  • Mature Height is 10-15 feet
  • Mature Spread is 12-15  feet
  • Full Sun
  • Average soil
  • Medium Growth Rate
  • Fall color is orange

This weeping form is beautiful and has the wine tinged leaves and deep pink blooms that will make it a standout. Small fruits, and sometimes suffers leaf drop.

Flowering Cherries (Prunus serrulata ‘Kanzan’)

  • Zones 5–9
  • Mature Height is 30–40 feet
  • Mature Spread is 30–40 feet. With vase-like shape when young
  • Full Sun
  • Average soil, regular moisture
  • Medium Growth Rate, 13–24″ per year
  • Sensitive to pollution
  • Limited life span of 15–25 years

There are actually a number of flowering cherries, and they range in bloomtime from early spring to May. These are best where winters aren’t extreme.

Dogwood (Cornus Florida)

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  • Zones 5–9
  • Mature Height is 20-40 feet
  • Mature Spread is 15-20 feet
  • Shade to Part Shade
  • Likes acidic soil
  • Blooms April to May
  • Horizontal-tiered branching

These are graceful trees, with extremely showy flowers.
A disease, dogwood anthracnose, does sometimes strike these trees.

Crataegus viridis “Winter King”

  • Zones 4 – 7
  • Mature Height 15 – 30 feet
  • Spread 15 – 30 feet
  • Full to part sun
  • White flowers and red berries
  • Drought-tolerant and resistant to verticillium disease.

A Hawthorn tree that has few thorns but the beautiful spring bloom (although it must be said that not everyone likes the fragrance. It is a four season interest tree, and is one of the earliest Hawthorns to flower.

Horse Chestnut (Aesculus Hippocanstanum)


This is Ohio, so of course I welcome the “Buckeye” tree. A very large shade tree, it produces the famous(around here) Buckeye nuts, that are not for human consumptions, but make great necklaces for football fans!

  • Hardy from zone 4 to 7
  • Full Sun to Part Shade
  • Good choice for clay soil.
  • Mature Height is 50 to 75 feet
  • Mature Spread is 40 to 70 feet wide
  • Medium Growth Rate
  • Late April to Early May Bloom
  • Fall Color is Yellow

In an old neighborhood of mine, this tree thrive in close proximity to a Black Walnut tree. Every spring the large panicles of flowers would bloom and every fall we kids could gather as many of these nuts as we wanted. (Yes, I tried to eat one. Once. Not recommended as they are toxic.)  Beautiful specimens in a large space, away from driveways and walks (because of the nuts).

These trees range from ornamental size, such as the small almost shrublike Magnolia stellata to the large shade tree, Aesculus hippocanstanum.

Some of the smaller trees may not be as long lived as others, but are grown because of their standout blooms. They bring a flowers into the upper regions of the garden, often abuzz with bees, and wafting sweet fragrance into the air.

 

General Tree Planting Advice