Flowering Tree Species

Overview

Flowering trees come in every size and grow in nearly every climate zone. They can add grace and beauty to residential lots, streetscapes, parks and commercial properties Many of the showy species, such as dogwoods, flowering cherries and crabapples bloom in the spring; but some, like stewartia and franklinia bear blossoms in the summer. Many flowering specimens also offer interesting leaf shapes and decorative fruits.

Tall Flowering Species

Among the tallest flowering trees is the tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), which can grow 70 to 90 feet in height or taller under ideal conditions. Tulip poplar flowers are yellow-green, white and orange and are shaped something like tulips. The northern catalpa tree (Catalpa speciosa) grows 40 to 60 feet tall, with heart-shaped leaves and long, bean-like seed pods. The flowers are frilly and white, with distinctive freckles. They appear in tall panicles or flowerheads in the spring. Aesculus hippocastanum or common horse chestnut, soars to 50 to 75 feet tall or more. Like the catalpa, it has upright flower panicles. The horse chestnut flowers are fragrant and white, with touches of pink and yellow.

Medium Flowering Trees

The beautiful Magnolia x soulangiana or saucer magnolia leads the list of medium height flowering trees. The trees can grow to 30 feet tall and sport cupped spring flowers in shades of cream, pink or purple. The common flowering dogwood, Cornus florida, can reach 30 to 40 feet tall, with four-petaled flowers of white or pink and attractive red fruits in the fall. Blooming two to three weeks later than Cornus florida, the Kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa) usually sports creamy white bracts or petal-like leaves. The popular Japanese flowering cherry trees, including the best-selling 'Kwanzan' rise to 20 to 25 feet tall. Cercis canadensis, the eastern redbud combines tiny rosy pink flowers in the spring with heart-shaped leaves that appear just after flowering. It grows 20 to 30 feet tall.

Short Flowering Trees

There are numerous cultivated varieties of flowering crabapple, but most are small trees, reaching anywhere from 8 to 20 feet tall with single or double flowers in shades of pink, white or red. Magnolia stellata, the star magnolia features pink or white star-like flowers and grows from 15 to 20 feet tall. Franklinia alatamaha, the franklinia tree, is a similar size and bears white, five-petaled flowers in July or August.

Culture

The most important consideration in the culture of flowering trees is proper siting. Most flowering specimens need sunny spots for best flower production. When planting any tree, always be sure to consider its eventual height and spread (the width of the crown). Large specimens should not be planted too close to structures, sidewalks or streets, as mature crowns and root systems can crowd against structures and dislocated paving materials.

Considerations

Flowering trees are beautiful, but the litter caused by dropped petals can be a nuisance to clean up. Some flowering species, like the Callery pear and the tulip poplar, are noted for having relatively brittle wood that can cause branch loss during wind or other storms. Such species should not be placed near heavy traffic areas.

Keywords: flowering trees, ornamental trees, tall flowering trees, small flowering trees

About this Author

Elisabeth Ginsburg, a writer with twenty years' experience, earned an M.A. from Northwestern University and has done advanced study in horticulture at the New York Botanical Garden. Her work has been published in the "New York Times," "Christian Science Monitor," "Horticulture Magazine" and other national and regional publications.