Branch Out: Pick the Best Trees for Your Environment

Trees provide food and habitat for wildlife, improve air quality and shade your home, reducing energy use.

oak tree

Plant trees according to your area's climate trends.

Shutterstock

Content Tools

Trees provide food and habitat for wildlife, improve air quality and shade your home, reducing energy use.

Age-old wisdom

Native trees’ long-term adaptation bolsters survival, says National Gardening Association senior horticulturist Charlie Nardozzi. Native trees naturally fight pests and disease and control soil erosion.

Community diversity

Pay attention to what’s already in your neighborhood, suggests Arbor Day Foundation arborist Robert Smith. If an area includes few tree species, disease can wipe them out more easily, leaving whole blocks barren. Work with your community forester to plant greater tree diversity.

Right tree, right place

Size, growth rate, purpose and other site-specific concerns dictate tree selection. An Arbor Day Foundation online quiz helps sift through options.

Remember your roots

Trees sold at many garden centers are grown using methods that leave much of the root system behind. Look for trees grown in rootbags, loose-soil berms or gravel to make transplanting easier. And don’t give up too soon—transplanted trees often need a few years to recover.

Pacific Northwest
Pacific dogwood, Cornus nuttallii 
Bartlett pear, Pyrus communis
Hazelnut, Corylus avellana

California
Valley oak, Quercus lobata
Coast live oak (also known as California live oak), Quercus agrifolia
Blue oak, Quercus douglasii 

Southwest
Pinyon pine (also known as Rocky Mountain pinyon), Pinus edulis
Arizona sycamore, Platanus wrightii
Blue paloverde, Parkinsonia florida

Rocky Mountains 
Ponderosa pine, Pinus ponderosa
Gambel oak, Quercus gambelii
Bigtooth maple (also known as canyon maple), Acer grandidentatum

Great Plains
Bur oak, Quercus macrocarpa
Kentucky coffeetree, Gymnocladus dioicus
Shagbark hickory, Carya ovata 

Great Lakes
Montmorency cherry (also known as sour cherry), Prunus cerasus
Balsam fir, Abies balsamea
Apple, Malus sylvestris var. domestica 

Ohio Valley
Yellow buckeye, Aesculus flava
Yellowwood, Cladrastis lutea (or Cladrastis kentukea)
Slippery elm, Ulmus rubra

Southeast
Tuliptree, also known as yellow poplar, Liriodendron tulipifera
Longleaf pine, Pinus palustris
Peach, Prunus persica

Florida
Live oak, Quercus virginiana
Bald cypress, Taxodium distichum (a deciduous conifer)
Southern magnolia, Magnolia grandiflora 

Mid-Atlantic
American holly, Ilex opaca
Chestnut oak, Quercus prinus
Sassafras, Sassafras albidum

Northeast
Serviceberry, also known as shadblow, Amelanchier spp.
American beech, Fagus grandifolia
Balsam fir, Abies balsamea

Alaska
Paper birch, Betula papyrifera
Tamarack, also known as American Larch, Larix laricina (a deciduous conifer)
White spruce, Picea glauca 

Hawaiian Islands
Hawaiian white hibiscus, Hibiscus waimeae
Alahe'e, Psydrax odorata (easily grown from seed)
Ohia, also known as lehua, Metrosideros polymorpha (food source for rare honeycreeper birds)

—Tree selections by Robert Smith, arborist, Arbor Day Foundation, Twitter user ID  @treeplanting