The state of Delaware has a humid temperate climate and sits in between New England’s cold and the American South’s balmier climes. The state is only 35 miles wide and has only 3 counties.
The hardiness map of Delaware reflects its size, with the state sitting in zones 7a and 7b nearer the coast.
This mild winter state offers home gardeners plenty of tree species to choose from, including hardwoods, pines, and even some hardy palms.
19 Popular Trees To Plant in Delaware
1. Red Maple (Acer rubrum) – Native Tree
The Red Maple is the most numerous tree in the state of Delaware. They readily adapt to different growing conditions and are widely planted in urban areas for their vibrant fall colors, that change from shades of yellow to red.
Late winter to spring sees the production of small red to yellow flowers. The mature foliage is dark green and measures 2-6” in length with 3-5 lobes that are irregularly toothed.
This species of maple usually has an erect, upright, or oval shape. Twin seeds appear on the branch tips in drooping stems and are usually ripe by spring. The fruit are known as samaras which are small winged capsules and provide food for squirrels and other small mammals.
The Red maple prefers moist conditions but will tolerate some drought. It grows best in rich, loamy, moist, sandy, silty, well-drained clay soils.
Other Common Names: Swamp Maple, Water Maple, Soft Maple
Growing Zones: 3-9
Average Size at Maturity: 40-70 ft tall and 30-50 ft wide
Flowering Season: April – May
2. American Basswood (Tilia americana) – Native Tree
The American Basswood is the northernmost of the basswoods and can be found in Northern DE. Whilst this tree prefers deep and rich soils, it can also be planted in urban areas as it tolerates city pollution well. The American basswood is a tall, wide-spreading tree, conical in youth, developing a rounded crown with maturity.
The leaves are broadly oval, sometimes turning yellow in the fall, but often turn an unsightly shade of brown.
The creamy yellow flowers are small and inconspicuous, but fragrant and sought after by pollinators including bees who make strong flavored honey with its nectar. The American Basswood can function as a shade tree for those with larger yards. Grows best in rich, well-drained loamy soils.
Other Common Names: Bee Tree, Lime Tree, American Linden
Growing Zones: 2-8
Average Size at Maturity: 60-80 ft tall and 30-60 ft wide
Flowering Season: April – July
3. Black Gum (Nyssa sylvatica) – Native Tree
The Black Gum is an attractive deciduous native tree that grows in an oval shape. A member of the Tupelo family, It’s one of the last trees to come into leaf in the spring, and the leaves mature to a glossy shade of dark green.
The fall colors can range from anything between bright red, orange, yellow, and purple to scarlet. The leaves are simple, 3-6” in length. The bark matures to shades of dark gray with furrows and is said to resemble an alligator hide.
The greenish-white flowers are produced on separate male and female trees and are followed by small bluish/black fruit that ripens in late September or early October and is eaten by many species of birds and small mammals. The Black gum will grow in moist, acidic well-drained soils.
Other Common Names: Black Tupelo, Sourgum, Tupelo, Tupelogum, Pepperidge
Growing Zones: 3-9
Average Size at Maturity: 30-50 ft tall and 20-30 ft wide
Flowering Season: April – June
4. Laurel Oak (Quercus Laruifolia)
The Laurel Oak is a fast-growing tree often found in the sandy soils alongside rivers and swamps. It features a dense, rounded to oval canopy, with a trunk that flares at the base with age and can become deeply furrowed.
The leathery oval leaves are semi-deciduous, meaning the current year’s leaves remain on the tree whilst those of the previous year are shed. They are dark and glossy above and somewhat paler underneath.
The small, dark-colored acorns are covered with hairy scales and are saucer-shaped cups, that take two years to mature and provide food for birds and small animals. In the wild, they are often found in areas with predominantly clay soils, but they aren’t fussy about other soil types. Plant in humus-rich, acidic, medium to wet well-drained soils.
Other Common Names: Darlington Oak
Growing Zones: 7-10
Average Size at Maturity: 40-60 ft tall and 35-45 ft wide
Flowering Season: Spring
Mockernut Hickory is a deciduous tree with pinnately compound leaves and small, barely edible nuts encased in a thick shell. These hickory trees feature a dark and rough bark with shallow ridges and narrow furrows that sometimes form a net-like pattern. If the tree is kept from suffering drought, the leaves will turn a shade of bright yellow.
The wood of the Mockernut Hickory is prized in furniture making for its aesthetics. The Latin species name tomentosa refers to the soft hairs that are present under the surface of the leaflets. The Mockernut Hickory prefers dry, sandy, mesic, or rich soils. Plant in part shade.
Other Common Names: Bullnut, Hognut, Big Bud Hickory, Fragrant Hickory, Hardbark Hickory, White Hickory, Whiteheart Hickory
Growing Zones: 6-8
Average Size at Maturity: 60-70 ft tall and 20-30 ft wide
Flowering Season: April
6. Pecan (Carya llinoinensis)
Pecan is a member of the Walnut family and is the largest of the hickories. It’s grown for the edible nuts it provides for humans and wildlife, for shade, and not to mention its beautiful wood.
The Pecan tree features a massive trunk, supporting a symmetrical oval crown. The leaves of the pecan grow in groups of 11-17 pointed leaflets and are pinnately compound.
The flowers of the pecan are inconspicuous, with both sexes on the same tree; with males in elongated clusters. The nut is long and pointed with a hard shell.
The bark is gray-like slate and can remain smooth for years under favorable conditions. The Pecan grows best in moist, well-drained soil and can be extremely rewarding to grow for those who have the space.
Other Common Names: Pecan Nut Tree, Hardy Pecan
Growing Zones: 5-9
Average Size at Maturity: 70-100 ft tall and 40-70 ft wide
Flowering Season: April – May
7. Paw-Paw (Asimina triloba) – Native Fruit Tree
The Paw-Paw is a fruit tree native to the Eastern United States and grows as a large shrub or small tree. In the wild it grows as an understory tree, so requires shade. It can be found in moist, well-drained areas, alongside rivers and streams.
The fruit ripens at the end of September/ October and measures between 3-5” in length, changing from light green to dark brown.
The leaves of the Paw-Paw are 6-12” long and half as wide. Being native fruit trees, they support a wealth of local fauna, so if you want to create a wildlife garden in your DE yard, then consider planting a paw-paw.
Other Common Names: American Paw Paw, Pawpaw, Papaw, Pawpaw Apple, Indian Banana, Wild Banana, False Banana, Prairie Banana, Hillybilly Mango
Growing Zones: 5-8
Average Size at Maturity: 15-30 ft tall and 15-30 ft wide
Flowering Season: May – June
8. Honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos)
The Honeylocust is a fast-growing tree tolerant of poor growing conditions, making it useful as a shade tree. It’s a leguminous tree, so fixes nitrogen in the soil which can benefit other plants nearby.
The bean-like pods mature in early autumn and can be fed to livestock. The fragrant spring flowers provide a good source of nectar for pollinators, and the lumber is resistant to rot.
The leaflets turn yellow-to yellow-green in the fall. The Honeylocust will tolerate drought, salt, and urban conditions and will adapt to a wide range of soil types.
The honeylocust can be pollarded or coppiced if you don’t want them to reach their full size. Doing so will heighten the release of nitrogen from their roots into the surrounding soil.
Other Common Names: Common Honeylocust, Honey Locust, Honey Shucks Locust, Sweet Bean Tree, Thorny Locust, Sweet Locust
Growing Zones: 3-9
Average Size at Maturity: 30-70 ft tall and 30-70 ft tall
Flowering Season: Spring
The Loblolly Pine is the principal commercial pine of the Southern States. It’s a large fragrant tree with a rounded crown and spreading branches. With age, it sheds its lower branches and ages into a more open and rounded mature crown. The needles are dark green and measure between 6-10” in length.
The Loblolly Pine is the fastest growing of the southern Pines and as such is widely cultivated for its timber and pulpwood. The bark is grey and scaly and the foliage is resinous and has an aroma reminiscent of rosemary. The Loblolly Pine will grow in dry sandy, gravelly soil. The seeds are released between fall and winter and remain on the tree for a year.
Other Common Names: Bull Pine, Oldfield Pine, Rosemary Pine
Growing Zones: 6-9
Average Size at Maturity: 40-80 ft tall and 20-40 ft wide
Flowering Season: July/ August
Sassafras is a wide-spreading deciduous tree native to Eastern North America where it can be found in deciduous forests up to 4,900 ft above sea level. The bark of a mature tree is thick, dark red/brown, and deeply furrowed.
The shoots emerge bright yellow-green with a mucilaginous bark, and after two to three years produce shallow fissures. The leaves are yellow-green to green, ovate to obovate with a slender, gently grooved petiole.
The leaves come in three different shapes which can often be observed on the same branch; unlobed elliptical, three-lobed, and two-lobed. Fall sees the foliage change to shades of yellow and red. The flowers appear on drooping racemes in early spring just before the appearance of the leaves and are usually dioecious.
Sassafras prefers rich, well-drained sandy loam but will grow in any loose moist soil in full sun.
Other Common Names: Common Sassafras, White Sassafras, Ague Tree, Cinnamon Wood, Mitten Tree
Growing Zones: 4-9
Average Size at Maturity: 30-60 ft tall and 25-40 ft wide
Flowering Season: Early to mid-spring
11. American Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana)
If you’re looking for a native fruit tree, then consider planting an American Persimmon in your yard. The American Persimmon is a deciduous tree with a spreading crown of pendulous branches of glossy green oval leaves, which turn pinkish, reddish/purple in the fall.
The fruit ripens in the fall to an orange/reddish color and can persist on the tree for weeks. Spring sees the emergence of fragrant bell-shaped flowers that are mostly hidden by the foliage.
The sweet fruit can be eaten straight from the tree or made into numerous food or beverage preparations, or simply left for wildlife. The bark is deeply furrowed and patterned, which provides interest in the winter. The American Persimmon will grow in dry to medium well-drained soil and is drought tolerant once established.
Other Common Names: Common Persimmon Possumwood, Virginian Date Plum, Eastern Persimmon, Winter Plum, American Date Plum
Growing Zones: 4-10
Average Size at Maturity: 35-60 ft tall and 25-35 ft wide
Flowering Season: Late spring to early summer
12. Fringe Tree (Chionanthus virginicus)
The Fringe Tree is a small deciduous flowering tree or shrub. Late spring or early summer sees the whole tree covered in fragrant creamy white flowers hanging off drooping panicles. When the flowers fade, the delicate petals fall to the ground, leaving a carpet of ‘snow’ under the tree.
The Fringe tree is dioecious, with separate male and female trees. Female flowers give way to dark blue fruit which is a valuable food source for many birds and wildlife. The male flowers are slightly longer and showier.
The Fringe tree has a wide and spreading habit, and the leaves are spear-shaped and turn golden-yellow when the weather turns in the fall. This native of the eastern United States tolerates pollution well so is well-suited for urban planting. Grows best in well-drained clay or loam.
Other Common Names: North American Fringe Tree, Old Man’s Beard, Virginian Snow Flower, Poison Ash
Growing Zones: 3-9
Average Size at Maturity: 12-20 ft tall and 12-20 ft wide
Flowering Season: Late spring or early summer
13. White Pine (Pinus strobus)
The White Pine is the largest conifer native to the Eastern states. It’s a fast-growing tree with green/blue needles and a rounded to pyramidal growth habit. The White pine can be grown as a single specimen tree, for shade, as a windbreak, or even planted in groups and trained as a hedge. The White Pine bears 5 needles per bunch, as is the only easter pine to do so.
The White Pine’s cones are resinous and grow best in medium moisture, well-drained soil that’s on the acidic side. Plant in full sun to partial shade. The hotter the area, the more tolerant of shade it’ll be. Prefers humid, cool weather, but can tolerate some dryness provided the soil remains moist.
Other Common Names: Eastern White Pine, Northern White Pine, Weymouth Pine
Growing Zones: 3-8
Average Size at Maturity: 50-80 ft tall and 20-40 ft wide
Flowering Season: Spring
14. American Holly (Ilex opaca)
The American Holly is a pyramidal evergreen shrub that bears dark green, non-glossy, spine-tipped leaves. The new growth pushes off the old leaves in the spring. Bright red berries appear on female trees. The American Holly will grow in full sun to shade, with plants grown in shade being shorter and multi-stemmed. The bark has a light gray color.
American Holly’s can be grown as single specimens, for shade, or trained into a hedge, but bear in mind that it’s a slow-growing species. Both male and female trees must be grown in close proximity if you want the production of the berries, which are both ornamental and a valuable source of food for wildlife.
Plant in well-drained acidic, sandy, sandy-loams, and medium loam soils.
Other Common Names: White Holly, Prickly Holly, Evergreen Holly, Yule Holly, Christmas Holly
Growing Zones: 5-10
Average Size at Maturity: 15-30 ft tall and 10-20 ft wide
Flowering Season: March – June
15. Pindo Palm (Butia capitata)
Whilst the humid continental climate of DE isn’t the most conducive to the cultivation of palm trees, with a bit of care and attention and the right micro climate, home growers can cultivate certain cold hardy palms in their DE yard.
The southern half of the state sits in zone 7b, with and influenced by the Atlantic ocean. Pindo palms are one of the hardiest palms and are a slow-growing species with a trunk diameter between 1 and 1.5 meters.
Pindo palms produce male and female red, white or yellow flowers occurring at a ratio of two male flowers to one female. Following the flowers is a red/orange/brownish fruit that can be eaten fresh or cooked into a preserve.
Planted as a specimen, the sweet fruit attracts many forms of wildlife. Plant in full sun or partial shade in any well-draining soil.
Pindo palms are salt, wind, and heat tolerant.
Other Common Names: Jelly Palm, Wine Palm
Growing Zones: 7b-11
Average Size at Maturity: 10-15ft tall and 7-10 ft wide
Flowering Season: Summer
16. European Fan Palm (Chamaerops humilis)
The European Fan Palm is one of the hardiest palm species, so is suitable for those DE gardeners looking to add a lush sense of serenity to their yards that palm fronds provide so well.
The evergreen leaves make it a favorite for borders, in understories, or driveways. Its small size makes it suitable for even the smallest of yards, and it will happily adapt to container growth.
They form multiple-trunked clumps that tend to lean out from the center. Removing basal suckers can leave you with a taller, single palm should you wish to do so.
The trunks tend to be covered in brown fibers from old leaves, lending them a charming rugged appeal. The leaves are triangular, fan-shaped or palmate, and up to 25” in width. The stems are covered in sharp thorns.
Late spring sees bright yellow flowers, followed by green fruit that turn yellow, orange, red, and finally brown and are enjoyed by birds. European Fan Palms are low maintenance, only needing well-draining soil. They are extremely salt and drought tolerant, being Mediterranean natives.
Other Common Names: Mediterranean Fan Palm, Palmito, European Palmetto, Dwarf Fan Palm
Growing Zones: 7b-11
Average Size at Maturity: 6-15 ft tall and 6-20 ft wide
Flowering Season: Late spring
17. Windmill Palm (Trachycarpus fortunei)
The Windmill Palm is another of the hardiest palm trees out there, making it suitable for DE gardeners who want to try their hand at palm cultivation.
It has a slow-to-moderate growth rate and can grow as far north as New York State in the east and Vancouver, British Columbia, according to Palmpedia. The windmill palm has fan-shaped leaves up to 3 ft in length.
Fibers are produced from the leaf shafts that can be used to make ropes, brooms mats, hats, and brushes. Windmills palms are dioecious, being either male or female. The fragrant flowers are cream or yellow on a female and green on a male.
You’ll need at least one of each if you want the clusters of purple ornamental fruit. Windmill palms are salt-tolerant and prefer a shady location. However since DE is at the edge of their range, they may be better off in full sun.
Windmill Palms will grow in just about any well-draining soil.
Other Common Names: Chusan Palm, Hemp Palm, Nepalese Fan Palm, Chinese Windmill Palm
Growing Zones: 7b-11
Average Size at Maturity: 10-40 ft tall and 6-10 ft wide
Flowering Season: Summer. They tend to flower best the year after a baking hot summer
18. Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens)
Saw Palmetto occurs naturally on the coastal plain from South Carolina to southeastern Louisiana. It grows in seaside sand, to dry dunes, pine forests, moist forests, and wetlands. Needless to say, it’s certainly a hardy species. In certain areas, it’s even the predominant ground cover.
The fan-shaped leaves remain just above the ground, but in some cases, they can develop an arching trunk that elevates the leaves 2-16 ft above the ground.
The petioles (leaf stems) are about 2 ft long and covered in sharp teeth. Saw Palmetto can grow as solitary trees but more often grow in clumps in the wild. The fruit is black when ripe and purportedly is of medicinal value.
The Saw Palmetto will grow in partial shade, in any alkaline clay or sand, or acidic loam. It has high drought and salt tolerance.
Other Common Names: Saw Palmetto
Growing Zones: 7-11
Average Size at Maturity: 10-12 ft tall and 4-10 ft wide
Flowering Season: Late spring to midsummer
The Great Rhododendron is a flowering small tree or shrub native to Nova Scotia and Ontario, south to Georgia, with the greatest concentration found in the southern Appalachians. It has an upright, loose and multi-stemmed habit.
The bark is thin, smooth, and lightly brown on young trees, becoming lightly scaled with age. The Great Rhododendron flowers late, and attracts birds, bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and other pollinators. The flowers are pink-to-white, rose-to purple, often with orange green-to olive spots.
The Great Rhododendron prefers organically rich, moist acidic soils in dappled shade protected from the afternoon sun. It won’t tolerate dense clay, which can cause root rot. The root system is shallow and fibrous and benefits immensely from a layer of wood chips, bark, or pine needles as mulch.
Other Common Names: White Laurel, Rosebay Rhododendron
Growing Zones: 4-8
Average Size at Maturity: 8-20 ft tall and 15-25 ft wide
Flowering Season: June to August
Delaware sites in zone 7a in the northerly reaches and 7b in the southern coastal areas. The relatively mild winters mean that many species of trees can be grown in the state. In the wild, hardwoods dominate the northern part whilst pines can be found in greater abundance nearer the coast.
Adventurous DE gardeners after a tropical splash in their yard can even try their hand at growing one of several hardy palm species. Whatever species you choose to grow, make sure it’s suitable to your local conditions for the best chances of success.