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Great Trees for Kansas

springtime in kansas image by Jason Branz from

The southern Great Plains brings both hot humid and cold dry air across the grasslands of Kansas. Located in USDA Hardiness Zones 5 and 6, trees grown must be resilient to the climate as well as wind, drought and neutral to alkaline soils. Consulting a local cooperative extension office provides a broader list of trees best suited to your region of the state.

Flowering Trees

Flowering trees serve dual purposes: providing shade as well as a seasonal display of ornamental blossoms. Across Kansas, gardenersenjoy success with many cultivars of crab apples (Malus spp.), such as Sargent's crab, as well as 'Donald Wyman', 'Prairiefire', 'Spring Snow', 'David' and 'Adams'. Redbuds produce flowers in mid-spring. Choose eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis) or the Oklahoma variety (Cercis reniformis 'Oklahoma'). Hawthorns (Crataegus viridis, Crataegus crusgalli var. inermis) provide persistent red fruits into the winter months, too. Callery pear (Pyrus calleryana) become nicely shaped street trees, but the Kansas Forest Service recommends avoiding the selection 'Bradford,' since its branches and trunk break and split in windy conditions. Lastly, consider growing the Japanese tree lilac (Syringa reticulata) for creamy white flowers in summertime.

Small Shade Trees

Growing 20 to 40 feet tall, these small shade trees lose their foliage in autumn to allow winter's sunlight to reach the soil or penetrate into a home's southern windows. Hedge maple (Aer campestre), Tartarian maple (Acer tartaricum), Chinese pistachio (Pistacia chinensis), western soapberry (Sapindus drummondii) and Osage orange (Maclura pomifera) provide interest in at least two seasons, just make sure you select thornless and fruitless Osage orange cultivars for formal landscape designs. Yellowwood (Cladastris kentukea), Chinese chestnut (Castanea mollissima), and silver linden (Tilia tomentosa) provide handsomely shaped canopies, too.

Large Shade Trees

If lots of space exists in your yard, consider growing these classic large trees, growing to mature heights of 50 to 70 feet in Kansas. Choose from specific varieties of maples, based on their tolerance to hot summer winds: red maple (Acer rubrum), sugar maple (Acer saccharum) or Norway maple (Acer platanoides). Northern catalpa (Catalpa speciosa), sugar hackberry (Celtis laevigata), white ash (Fraxinus Americana), Kentucky coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioica) and Japanese zelkova (Zelkova serrata) generally develop excellent branching structures. Slow-growing trees to consider include ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) and black walnut (Juglans nigra). Three oaks with a wide tolerance to garden conditions across most of the state are the turkey oak (quercus cerris), shingle oak (Quercus imbricaria) and Texas red oak (Quercus taxana/nuttallii). In moister, more acidic soils in eastern Kansas, many more oak species prosper.


The persistent needles of evergreen trees help block winds year round on a Kansas property, and bring color to the winter landscape when other trees stand barren. Chinese juniper (Juniperus chinensis), Black Hills spruce (Picea glauca var. densata), and ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) demonstrate good tolerances to most insect pests, dry soils and slightly alkaline soils.

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