The USDA plant hardiness zones in North Carolina go from zone 6 through zone 8. Unlike most other parts of the country, where the lowest zone is in the north and the highest in the south, the zones in North Carolina go from lowest in the west to highest in the east. The low winter temperatures in North Carolina range from minus 5 in the west to 15 degrees Fahrenheit in the east. This puts North Carolina in the northern part of the southern zones, allowing many of the colorful flowering trees of the south to grow and thrive in North Carolina.
Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis L.) is native to the United States. The tree has a short, maroon-colored trunk and grows to between 15 and 30 feet tall. The tree produces pink flowers that grow in clusters all along the stems and branches in March, April and May, and heart-shaped, deciduous leaves and a red or brown fruit that appear after the flowers are gone. The natural habitat for the eastern redbud ranges from the Atlantic coast to central Texas. The flowers are edible and are used in salads. The tree needs partial to full sun and moist, fertile, well-drained soil.
Okame' cherry (Prunus x incamp) grows from 15 to 20 feet tall and 20 feet wide. The tree produces dark green leaves that grow from 1 to 2 inches long and turn yellow, orange and red in the fall and pink flowers on red stalks that bloom from winter to early spring. The tree is hardy from zone 6B to 9B, grows in full sun, partial shade or full shade and in any type of soil as long as it is well-drained.
Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) grows to 30 feet tall and 35 feet wide. The tree produces deciduous medium green leaves that turn red and purple in the fall and clusters of small yellow flowers that give way to bright red football-shaped fruits that can last into the winter. Its natural habitat ranges from Massachusetts west to Ontario and Michigan then south to eastern Texas and Mexico and then back east to central Florida. The tree grows best in partial shade, but can take a full sun location and it needs a soil that is moist and well-drained and is hardy in zones 5 through 9.
Carolina Cherry Laurel
Carolina cherry laurel (Prunus caroliniana) grows from 20 to 40 feet tall and produces glossy yellow-green to dark green leaves that grow from 2 to 4 inches long and 1 inch wide and fragrant white flowers in late winter and early spring. Blue-black fruits appear when the flowers are done. The fruits attract birds, but they are toxic to humans. The native habitat runs from North Carolina to Florida and then west to Texas and Louisiana. The plant prefers sun but can survive in shade and needs a moist soil and is hardy in zones 7 through 9.