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15+ best trees for backyard beauty, shade, and privacy
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Planting trees on your property is a wonderful way to enhance both the practical and long-term value of your home. That said, certain trees are much more desirable than others.
The best trees for backyard enjoyment tend to provide shade, privacy, and hopefully year-round interest. Some of the best backyard trees include various types of maple, magnolia, dogwood, birch, redbud, and even fruit trees like cherry or crabapple. Most tree species are available in a wide range of mature sizes, from dwarf trees for small spaces to towering giants for larger properties.
Read on the learn all about the best trees for your backyard.
The best trees for your backyard
Backyard trees provide a household with a range of benefits. Besides cooling shade on hot summer days and protection from winter winds, trees create serenity, contribute to a healthier planet, and can even supply nutritious and delicious fare for the family table. Some trees welcome spring with a show of fragrant flowers. Others mark the seasons with a bright display of gold and scarlet before their leaves are washed away by autumn rain and wind.
Children lean against trees to become lost in their books, birds use them as summer homes, and families enjoy summer picnics under their shade. However, it all begins with selecting the right tree for your purposes. The best trees for the backyard are the ones planted in the right place. Some trees thrive in spots with plenty of sunshine, but they’ll languish and fail to produce when planted in the shade.
1. Maple tree
Maple trees are very popular picks for backyards. For large backyards, choose a sugar maple or perhaps ‘Autumn Blaze’. Freeman maples are also lovely. For smaller spaces, amur maples and Japanese maples are well-sized.
2. Magnolia tree
Magnolia trees are a popular choice with homeowners because they have an attractive shape and their beautiful white or pink flowers bloom in springtime. They can get quite large, so keep that in mind when planting one in your backyard. The best magnolias for smaller yards in the south include the ‘Little Gem’ and ‘Teddy Bear’ varieties. In Zones 4-6, look for deciduous hybrids such as the Betty Magnolia.
3. Dogwood tree
Dogwood trees are a popular choice for backyards because of their beautiful blooms that appear in spring and last through summer. The best dogwoods for small yards include ‘Cherokee Princess’ and ‘Cherokee Brave’. They’ll reach only about 15-20 feet tall at maturity and feature pink or white blooms that attract birds, butterflies, and bees.
4. Birch tree
Birch trees are excellent choices for smaller yards because they have a graceful form and beautiful exfoliating bark that adds visual interest all year round. The best birches for small spaces include the ‘Heritage’ and ‘Whitespire’, while river birch and paper birch are also quite popular.
5. Redbud tree
Redbud trees are a popular choice for backyards because of their beautiful spring flowers and interesting heart-shaped leaves. The best redbuds for smaller yards include the ‘Forest Pansy’ and ‘Appalachian Red’. Both varieties reach a mature height of only 15-20 feet and produce fragrant rosy-pink flowers in springtime.
6. Cherry tree
Cherry trees, including edible fruit-growing trees and ornamental flowering cherries, are wonderful backyard trees if you have some time each year for annual maintenance. Weeping cherry is particularly beautiful. Tart cherries are typically easier to grow than sweet cherry varieties (but not as good for fresh eating).
7. Crabapple tree
Crabapple trees are beloved for their colorful blooms in spring and their edible fruits that attract birds through the winter months. The best ones for small yards include ‘Adirondack’ and ‘John Downie’. They reach a mature height of 15-20 feet, so they fit into most backyards quite nicely.
8. Oak tree
Oak trees, including red oak, burr oak, and other popular varieties can work well in a big backyard. For smaller spaces, columnar oaks are now available that don’t get more than about 6-8 feet wide at maturity. These trees provide plenty of shade, but their narrow form allows for more space-saving. They also produce acorns for wildlife!
9. Tulip Tree
Tulip trees (Liriodendron tulipifera) are best suited for larger backyards as they can reach up to 70 feet in height when mature. However, young trees can be quite manageable and grow at a slow rate so you’ll have plenty of time to prepare for their eventual size. With beautiful foliage and fragrant yellow-orange flowers that bloom in spring, they make a great addition to any backyard.
10. Spruce tree
Spruce trees are evergreens that have a beautiful conical shape and thick needles that stay green all year long. The best spruces for small yards include the ‘Norway’ or ‘Dwarf Alberta’. They reach up to only 8-10 feet in height when mature, so they won’t take up too much space. Plus, they add a great touch of color to winter gardens!
11. Weeping willow tree
While willow trees are certainly quite messy in terms of fallen branches, they can be rather magical on larger creekside properties. They’re also incredibly fast-growing so you’ll see results in no time! If you have the space, soil moisture, and maintenance time available, these trees can be beautiful in the landscape.
12. Linden tree
Linden trees, also called basswood, are best suited for larger backyards as they can reach up to 70 feet in height when mature. However, young trees can be quite manageable and grow at a slow rate so you’ll have plenty of time to prepare for their eventual size. Lindens feature beautiful heart-shaped leaves that turn yellow in the fall, and they even provide sweet-smelling flowers in summer.
13. Apple tree
Apple trees can work quite well in backyards if you have the time and space for annual maintenance. Semi-dwarf varieties are best for smaller yards, and are commonly available at nurseries. These trees will only grow to about 15-20 feet when mature, so they won’t take up too much space. Plus, you can enjoy your own homegrown apples each year!
14. Katsura tree
Japanese katsura trees are best suited for larger backyards but they can work well in smaller yards if you’re willing to keep up with annual pruning. They reach up to 30 feet in height when mature and feature beautiful heart-shaped leaves that turn yellow-orange in the fall. Plus, they even provide a sweet smell of caramel and burning sugar when they’re in bloom!
15. Peach tree
Another high-maintenance yet high-reward tree option is the peach tree. Semi-dwarf trees reach up to 15 feet at maturity, but need plenty of pruning each year for best results. They produce beautiful pink blossoms in the spring and sweet peaches that are perfect for fresh eating or baking. Whether you’re looking to add a bit of color or great taste to your backyard, peach trees can’t be beat!
16. Apricot tree
Apricot trees can also work well in backyards with the right amount of space and maintenance. Semi-dwarf varieties reach up to 15 feet at maturity, and they produce beautiful pink blossoms in the spring followed by sweet apricots that are perfect for eating fresh or baking. In addition to their edible fruit, apricot trees can add a bit of color to your backyard!
No matter the size of your yard, there’s a tree that can fit in perfectly and add plenty of beauty and benefit. Whether you’re looking for shade, fruit, or simply foliage, one of these best trees for backyards is sure to make your outdoor space even more enjoyable. With careful selection and upkeep, you can find the perfect tree to best suit your needs and make your backyard even more beautiful!
FAQs about choosing the best trees for the backyard
What is the best tree for a small backyard?
The best trees for small backyards include amur maple, Japanese maple, magnolia, dwarf evergreens, small fruit trees, and columnar varieties of oak and other hardwoods.
What are some fast-growing trees for privacy?
Fast-growing trees for privacy include Leyland Cypress, Thuja Green Giant, Eastern red cedar, and Arborvitae.
Are fruit trees good for small yards?
Yes, many varieties of fruit trees can work in smaller yards, including dwarf apple and pear trees, apricots, nectarines, peaches, plums, and cherries. Semi-dwarf varieties are best for small backyards as they reach up to 15 feet at maturity and require only minimal pruning.
What is the best tree for soil with poor drainage?
Trees that do best in soil with poor drainage include bald cypress, willows, red maple, and black tupelo. These trees are best suited for wet soils and can often tolerate occasional flooding.
What is the best tree for a shady backyard?
Trees best suited for shady backyards include magnolia, dogwood, Japanese maple, and redbud. These trees can tolerate partial shade and will still provide plenty of beauty in your backyard.
What is the best flowering tree for a small yard?
Some great flowering trees for small yards include magnolia, flowering cherry, crape myrtle, and dogwood. These trees will reach less than 15 feet at maturity, so they won’t take up too much space in your yard. Plus, their beautiful flowers will add a splash of color to your outdoor space!
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