The Best Ornamental Trees for the Mid Atlantic Area
Ornamental trees add year-round interest to gardens and often attract birds and other wildlife. Some ornamental trees found in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States are considered invasive; avoid them due to their ability to displace native species. Fortunately, the region supports many native ornamental trees that require little care once established.
Chionanthus virginicus, known as the fringe tree, grows 15-35 feet tall. The fringe tree features clusters of green foliage at the end of its branches and thin, white flowers in the spring. Bluish purple fruits attract birds in the summer. In the fall, the leaves turn yellow. Plant fringe tree in the sun for best flowering results. Fringe tree grows well near water in soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5. The tree may grow shrubby and require pruning. Prune only after flowering has subsided.
Viburnum prunifolium grows up to 25 feet tall and 12 feet wide. When young, black haw grows with a round crown, but the lower branches droop as the tree ages. Oval dark green leaves sit in pairs along the stems. Black haw displays clusters of white flowers in the spring, followed by bluish-black berries that last through the winter. In the fall, the leaves turn red. Grow black haw in full sun or partial shade and moist, loamy soil.
Morus rubra, or red mulberry, grows as a low-branching tree with a rounded crown. It grows 20-60 feet tall and up to 40 feet wide. Red mulberry features reddish stems and bark and green, heart-shaped leaves that turn yellow in the fall. Purplish red fruit appears on female trees in the summer. Choose a location in full sun or partial shade for red mulberry. Once established, these hardy plants require little care.
Nyssa sylvatica, commonly known as sour gum or black gum, grows as a pyramid-shaped tree between 30 and 50 feet tall. Sour gum produces greenish white flowers in the spring and bluish fruit appears in the summer. Glossy, green leaves turn yellow, orange, red and purple in the fall. The ridges of the dark gray bark provide visual interest during the winter. Plant sour gum in nutrient-rich, acidic soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5. This tree performs best in full sun or light shade. Water regularly until the tree becomes established.
Cercis canadensis, or Eastern redbud, typically grows 20-35 feet tall. This tree has a short trunk and spreading branches that display bundles of reddish purple flowers in the spring. Grayish-green, heart-shaped leaves appear after flowering and turn yellow in the fall. The zigzag pattern of the branches provides winter interest. Plant Eastern red bud trees in full sun or partial shade. These trees tolerate both acidic and alkaline soils and rarely require watering once established.
- “Mid-Atlantic Gardener's Guide;” Andre Viette, Mark Viette and Jacqueline Heriteau; 2003
- “Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants;” C. Colston Burrell; 2006