Flowering Trees of Tennessee
The colorful blooms and unique silhouettes of flowering trees add year-round interest to the home landscape. Many flowering trees that grow wild across the state of Tennessee make attractive specimen plants in gardens. These native trees attract wildlife and prevent the invasion of aggressive, non-native species. Native flowering trees also require less attention than non-native trees because they have adapted to the climate and conditions of the region.
Eastern redbud, or Cercis canadensis, grows quickly to a height of 25 to 35 feet. The horizontal branching habit and rounded crown look attractive throughout the year. In early spring, clusters of pink or lavender flowers bloom from the twigs and branches of the tree before the dark green leaves emerge. Plant eastern redbud in full sun or light shade and provide water during dry periods. Prune only during the dormant season or after blooming to prevent damage to the tree. Eastern redbud grows well in woodland gardens and also makes a nice small shade tree.
The white, bell-shaped flowers of Halesia carolina, commonly known as Carolina silverbell, bloom in the spring. The oval greenish yellow leaves turn bright yellow in the fall. Winged fruit follows the flowers and remains on the tree throughout winter. Reaching up to 40 feet tall and 35 feet wide, this Tennessee native works well as a small shade tree. It typically grows with multiple trunks but can be trained to a single trunk when young. Carolina silverbell grows best in filtered sunlight and rich, acidic, well-drained soil.
The slow-growing sourwood, or Oxydendrum arboreum, typically grows between 25 and 30 feet tall but may occasionally reach up to 50 feet. The pyramidal shape, slightly weeping branches and thin trunk provide winter interest. In mid-summer, white, drooping flower clusters hang from the tips of the branches. The rich green summer foliage turns orange or red in the fall. Sourwood will grow in partial shade but performs best in full sun. Plant this tree in acidic, well-drained soil and provide regular water.
The dense branches of Stewartia ovata, commonly known as mountain stewartia, grow in a shrub-like form and reach between 10 and 15 feet tall. White flowers with slightly frilled edges emerge in the summer and the exfoliating bark looks attractive throughout winter. Provide mountain stewartia with moist, acidic, rich soil and full sun or partial shade.
The small tree known as American snowbell, or Styrax americanus, grows up to 15 feet tall. Bright green, oval-shaped leaves cling to the dark, crooked branches. In spring, fragrant, white, bell-shaped flowers bloom singly or in clusters. The deep, nonaggressive root system allows other plants to thrive if planted under this tree. Plant American snowbell in full sun or light shade and moist, acidic, sandy soil. Water regularly during periods of drought.
- University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service: Small Flowering Trees for Tennessee Landscapes
- “The Southern Living Garden Book”; Steve Bender; 2004