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Top 11 Trees to Transform Your Backyard Oasis

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Written By Lyrae Willis

Environmental Scientist & Plant Ecologist

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Home » Tree Selection » Top 11 Trees to Transform Your Backyard Oasis

Choosing trees for backyard landscaping can be lots of fun, but there are a few important factors to consider when choosing the best tree for your yard.

Think about what you want the tree for (shade, color, border, etc.), then see if it will fit your yard when mature, and be sure to check its climate, soil, and water preferences to ensure it will grow and thrive in your location.

Let’s look at eleven of the best trees for backyard landscaping!

11 Best Trees to Landscape Your Backyard

1. Magnolias – Magnolia x ‘Butterflies’ and Magnolia grandiflora

Magnolia grandiflora and Magnolia Butterflies
Images by Lyrae Willis and via Nature Hills – Combined by Lyrae Willis for Tree Vitalize

Magnolias are an excellent choice to beautify any backyard with their big, beautiful, and luxurious spring blossoms.

Magnolia Butterflies is an excellent choice in cool or temperate climates since it’s cold and heat tolerant and highly adaptable to urban conditions. This deciduous tree has gorgeous yellow double flowers that appear in spring.

If you live in a warmer, more southern climate, the evergreen Southern Magnolia is a spectacular tree with luxurious glossy green leaves and massive white blossoms up to a foot wide!

Magnolias are great trees to plant if you are looking to make your house look more expensive.

No matter which magnolia tree you choose, you will not be disappointed!

USDA Growing Zones: Magnolia Butterflies Zone 4 – 9; Southern Magnolia Zones 7 – 9

Average Size at Maturity: Magnolia Butterflies 20 – 30 ft tall, 15 – 20 ft spread; Southern Magnolia 40 – 50 ft tall, 25 – 35 ft spread.

Flowering Season: Magnolia Butterflies March – April; Southern Magnolia May – July

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

2. White Oak – Quercus alba

White Oak Quercus alba
Images by Lyrae Willis and via Fast Growing Trees – Combined by Lyrae Willis for Tree Vitalize

The White Oak is a favorite North American native that makes an amazing tall, sturdy shade tree with a thick trunk and broad canopy that spreads as wide as it does tall. It is an excellent choice for those with backyards big enough for it to grow.

These highly adaptable trees thrive in nearly any soil and environment, from areas with frigid winters to those with nearly no winter at all; this beauty will also handle urban and rural landscapes alike.

In the fall, its lovely, deeply lobed leaves turn various shades of yellow-brown to crimson red.

USDA Growing Zones: 3(2 with protection) – 9

Average Size at Maturity: 50 – 80 ft tall, 50 – 80 ft spread

Flowering / Fruiting Season: Inconspicuous catkins emerge in early spring; edible acorns mature in early fall

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

3. Green Giant Arborvitae – Thuja plicata ‘Green Giant’

Green Giant Arborvitae Trees and as hedge
Images via Nature Hills – Combined by Lyrae Willis for Tree Vitalize

Green Giant Arborvitae, also called Thuja Green Giant, is a cross between the Western Red Cedar and the Japanese Arborvitae, producing one of the fastest-growing arborvitaes (3 – 5ft per year) available today.

Their feathery sprays of vibrant green leaves retain their rich color all year round.

Green Giant Arborvitae’s large size and rapid growth make a fantastic privacy screen or border tree to block out neighbors or other unsightly views to create an oasis of natural beauty in your backyard.

These beautiful trees are exceptionally easy to grow in most soil types.

USDA Growing Zones: 5 – 8

Average Size at Maturity: 40 – 50 ft tall, 8 – 12 ft spread

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

4. Northern Catalpa – Catalpa speciosa

Northern Catalpa Catalpa speciosa
Images via Nature Hills

Northern Catalpa is a gorgeous tree native to North America that produces beautiful, almost tropical-looking, trumpet-shaped flowers and huge, vibrant green heart-shaped leaves that create wonderful summer shade.

While this highly adaptable tree will grow in almost any soil type, it often grows naturally in riparian areas. This makes it an excellent choice if you have a wet backyard or poorly draining soil.

Northern Catalpa would make a spectacular focal point in your yard, where you can place a bench for sitting in its rich summer shade. Be sure to plant it in an open location with room to grow.

USDA Growing Zones: 4 – 8

Average Size at Maturity: 40 – 60 ft tall, 20 – 40 ft spread

Flowering / Fruiting Season: Flowers bloom in late spring or early summer; long, slender bean-like seed pods mature in fall and persist through winter

Available at: Nature Hills

5. Sugar Maple – Acer saccharum

Sugar Maple Acer saccharum

Images via Fast Growing Trees – Combined by Lyrae Willis for Tree Vitalize

The Sugar Maple is a favorite native eastern North American tree. It makes a fabulous ornamental shade tree with its beautiful classic maple-like leaves that create perfect summer shade before putting on a spectacular fall color display of brilliant yellows, oranges, and orange-reds.

Sugar Maple is also highly adaptable, tolerating almost any soil except pure sand or permanently wet soils. With its deep roots, it can tolerate wind and drier conditions. It also tolerates both full sun and full shade. However, it does not tolerate urban conditions well and is best used in rural or suburban areas.

USDA Growing Zones: 3 – 7 (Syrup production is best in zones 3 – 5)

Average Size at Maturity: 60 – 115 ft (to 150) ft tall, 40 – 50 ft spread

Flowering / Fruiting Season: Inconspicuous yellow flowers appear from April to May; samaras (winged seeds) mature in September

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

6. Yoshino Flowering Cherry – Prunus x yedoensis

Yoshino Cherry Prunus x yedoensis
Images via Fast Growing Trees – Combined by Lyrae Willis for Tree Vitalize

The Yoshino Flowering Cherry is famous worldwide for its profuse early spring bloom of beautiful, delicate pinkish-white cherry blossoms.

In the summer, their rich green leaves provide lovely shade before turning yellow to bronze or reddish in the fall. Their bronze bark with lenticels provides some winter interest, giving you four full seasons of enjoyment.

These gorgeous trees make a great focal point, specimen tree, or even a colorful and beautiful border tree. While bigger than some flowering cherries, they are still compact enough to fit in most backyards.

Yoshino Cherry trees easily grow in moist, moderately rich, well-drained soils.

USDA Growing Zones: 5 – 8

Average Size at Maturity: 40 – 50 ft tall, 25 – 40 ft spread

Flowering / Fruiting Season: Flowers emerge from March to April; inedible drupes mature in late summer and are loved by birds

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

7. Weeping Willow – Salix babylonica

Weeping Willow is hands down the most common willow tree used in landscaping today, made popular for its delicate weeping branches and long weeping classic willow-like leaves that droop right down to ground level.

This incredibly fast-growing tree can rapidly fill your yard with beauty and shade. It makes a great specimen tree that works well planted along the edge of a pond or any other body of water, easily tolerating wet soils.

However, Its roots can be aggressive, so don’t plant it right next to your home or pool.

USDA Growing Zones: 6 – 9

Average Size at Maturity: 30 – 50 ft tall, 30 – 50 ft spread

Flowering Season: Small yellow flowers bloom in April or May or as early as February in more southern climates

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

8. Paper Birch – Betula papyrifera

Paper Birch Betula papyrifera
Images by Lyrae Willis, Own Work – for Tree Vitalize

Paper Birch is an excellent choice for those in colder climates since these lovely trees are extremely cold-hardy down to USDA Zone 1.

These fast-growing trees grow tall with a single or multi-trunk covered with bright white bark that exfoliates attractively like sheets of paper, giving it its common name.

The rich green leaves make great summer shade, and in the fall, they turn a pleasant yellow color that looks gorgeous against their beautiful white bark.

While Paper Birch is often grown in groves to create a backyard woodland effect, it is equally lovely grown as a single specimen tree.

USDA Growing Zones: 1 – 7

Average Size at Maturity: 45 – 70 ft (to 100 ft) tall, 25 – 50 ft spread

Flowering Season: Inconspicuous catkins appear in early spring

Available at: Nature Hills

9. Crabapples – Malus x varieties

Flowering Crabapples Malus spp
Images by Lyrae Willis, Own Work – for Tree Vitalize

Crabapples are the perfect trees for any backyard, producing profuse spring blossoms in various colors, including classic white like the Spring Snow Crabapple or gorgeous pinks like the Indian Magic Crabapple, both pictured above.

You can get other crabapples with double blossoms, stunning fall colors, and even edible fruits. With so many options, you should have no trouble finding one that suits your backyard’s particular style.

Not only are these trees gorgeous, but they are also very useful for gardeners. When in bloom, they will attract tons of pollinators to your yard, helping pollinate your garden plants simultaneously.

USDA Growing Zones: Most varieties are hardy in 4 – 8

Average Size at Maturity: 6 – 25 ft tall, 9 – 25 ft spread* *height varies with variety

Flowering / Fruiting Season: Most varieties bloom from March to April; fruits mature mid to late summer.

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

10. Wichita Blue Juniper – Juniperus scopulorum ‘Wichita’

The Wichita Blue Juniper is a gorgeous juniper tree with stunning icy blue-green scale-like leaves that will really stand out in your backyard and retain their stunning color in all four seasons.

The compact habit makes these trees suitable for most yards, whether used as a single specimen tree or planted in a border or privacy screen, and their sturdy form makes them useful as a beautiful windbreak. They also take very well to pruning and can be pruned into a formal hedge.

Wichita Blue Juniper is cold-hardy and easy to grow in any well-drained soil in full sun.

USDA Growing Zones: 3 – 7

Average Size at Maturity: 15 – 25 ft tall, 6 – 8 ft spread

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees

11. Silver Maple – Acer saccharinum

If you want a large native maple and live in the city, try the hardy Silver Maple. It is extremely tolerant of various conditions and thrives in urban environments.

These gorgeous trees grow exceptionally fast and have classic maple-like leaves with silver-white undersides that flash when they flutter in the wind. In autumn, they turn beautiful shades of orange and yellow.

Silver Maples have shallow, aggressive roots, so be sure to plant them well away from buildings and sidewalks.

Their rapid growth makes them great at removing carbon dioxide.

USDA Growing Zones: 3 – 9

Average Size at Maturity: 50 – 80 ft (to 100 ft) tall, 35 – 50 ft spread

Flowering / Fruiting Season: Inconspicuous flowers emerge in March or April; samaras (winged seeds) mature in June

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

Choosing The Right Trees For Your Backyard Landscaping

Before you choose your backyard tree(s), ensure you understand your USDA Planting Zone. Next, consider the trees’ light, water, and soil requirements to ensure you have the right conditions for it. Check out How to Pick A Tree For Your Yard for more information.

Choosing the right tree for your conditions will allow it to thrive, helping you create your own private green oasis, no matter where you live.

Now for the fun part: buying your new tree! Enjoy!

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Lyrae Willis

Environmental Scientist & Plant Ecologist

Lyrae grew up in the forests of BC, Canada, where she got a BSc. in Environmental Sciences. Her whole life, she has loved studying plants, from the tiniest flowers to the most massive trees. She is currently researching native plants of North America and spends her time traveling, hiking, documenting, and writing. When not researching, she is homeschooling her brilliant autistic son, who travels with her and benefits from a unique hands-on education about the environment around him.