Lindens are lovely easy-to-grow deciduous trees with large green leaves that cast rich shade in gardens, parks, and street plantings across the temperate world.
Their fragrant flowers are popular in teas and are loved by bees and other pollinators.
Lindens are of the Tilia genus, with at least 23 species and numerous hybrids native throughout Europe, Asia, and North America.
They’re often called lime trees but are not related to citrus trees; they are actually part of the Malvaceae (mallow) family.
Let’s learn about the different types of linden trees!
11 Different Linden Tree Types
1. American Basswood – Tilia americana
The American Basswood is the most common linden tree in North America.
It is a fast-growing tree, up to 2 ft per year, that makes a fantastic, easy-to-grow, low-maintenance native shade tree in yards with room for it to grow.
Best grown in full sun to partial shade in fine-textured sandy loams that are well-drained.
However, like other American linden varieties, it does not tolerate urban pollution, so it is not recommended for use in cities, but it works well in suburban and rural areas and provides important biodiversity values there.
Its soft, light wood is popular for use in carving, and its bark can be used as fiber for ropes, baskets, and other items. The foliage and flowers are used for delicious teas and herbal medicine.
The nectar-rich flowers attract lots of pollinators, and Basswood honey is a popular tasty treat.
Other Common Names: American Linden, American Lime
USDA Growing Zones: 2 – 8
Average Size at Maturity: 50 – 70 ft tall, 35 – 45 ft spread
Identifying Features: See Linden Tree Identification for how to identify American Basswood
Some Cultivars Available (from left to right):
- American Sentry Linden Tilia americana ‘McKSentry’ is a lovely symmetrical shade tree with spring and fall colors and fragrant flowers to attract butterflies and pollinators. It grows to 40 – 45 ft tall and 30 ft wide, making it suitable for more average-sized yards. Hardy in USDA Zones 3 – 8. – Image via Nature Hills.
- Redmond Linden Tilia americana ‘Redmond’ is another beautiful shade tree, but this one has a very uniform pyramidal growth habit and tolerates urban conditions and most soil types very well. In the fall, its gorgeous green leaves turn a lovely light yellow. It grows to 60 ft tall and 30 ft wide and is hardy USDA Zones 3 – 8. – Image via Nature Hills.
Available at: Nature Hills
2. Carolina Basswood – Tilia americana var. caroliniana
Carolina Basswood is a medium to large-sized deciduous tree with fragrant yellow or white drooping flowers that will attract loads of pollinators. Birds and small animals later eat the small fruits.
It is the most southern linden tree in North America, where it thrives in USDA Zones 7 – 9, allowing those in warmer climates to grow this lovely native tree.
The wood from the Carolina Basswood is harvested for use in interior woodworking.
Best grown in full sun to partial shade in rich, well-drained soil.
It has medium water requirements.
The Carolina Basswood is sometimes treated as its own species, Tilia caroliniana, which plant authorities usually consider a synonym of Tilia americana rather than a distinct species.
Other Common Names: Florida Basswood, Small-Leaved Basswood, Downy Basswood, Carolina Linden, Florida Linden, and Downy Linden.
USDA Growing Zones: 7 – 9
Average Size at Maturity: 30 – 60 ft tall, 20 – 30 ft spread
Identifying Features: See Linden Tree Identification for how to identify Carolina Basswood.
3. White Basswood – Tilia americana var. heterophylla
White Basswood is another botanical variant of American Basswood and is sometimes treated as its own species, Tilia heterophylla. However, plant authorities consider that a synonym of Tilia americana.
It closely resembles the American Basswood other than the lower surface of its leaves, which are conspicuously hairy, giving them a whitish appearance, and this variant its common name.
The White Basswood has beautiful creamy yellow flowers that hang in clusters from the tree in late spring, attracting lots of pollinators to your yard.
With dense foliage, it makes an excellent shade tree for suburban and rural areas but is intolerant of urban pollution and should not be grown in cities. Other varieties such as the Big-Leaved Linden or the Little-Leaf Linden will tolerate urban pollution much better.
Best grown in full sun or partial shade in moist, loamy, well-drained soil.
White Basswood trees grow better in cooler mountain climates than its cousin, the Carolina Basswood.
Other Common Names: Beetree Linden, Mountain Basswood
USDA Growing Zones: 3 – 7
Average Size at Maturity: 50 – 80 ft tall, 30 – 50 ft spread
Identifying Features: See Linden Tree Identification for how to identify White Basswood
4. Bigleaf Linden – Tilia platyphyllos
The Bigleaf Linden (or Big-Leaved Linden) gets its name from its large leaves that can grow to nearly 6” long, providing fantastic shade for larger yards.
This European and southwestern Asian native is a medium to large-sized deciduous broadleaf tree with a moderate growth rate, slower than the North American species.
Best grown in full sun to partial shade in loamy, rich, moist, alkaline soil, although it will also tolerate other soil types.
This variety has moderate tolerance to drought, salt spray, and urban pollution and the Bigleaf Linden can even tolerate heavier pruning than some of the lindens.
This tree does not appear on any invasive species databases.
Other Common Names: Largeleaf Linden, Large-Leaved Linden, Large-Leaved Lime, Big Leaf Lime, Big-Leaved Linden, Broadleave Lime, Broadleaf Lime and Bigleaf Lime
USDA Growing Zones: 3 – 7
Average Size at Maturity: 60 – 80 ft (to 120 ft) tall, 30 – 50 ft spread
Identifying Features: See Linden Tree Identification for how to identify Bigleaf Linden
5. Little-Leaf Linden – Tilia cordata
Little-Leaf Linden doesn’t actually have very small leaves; they are just smaller than other types of linden trees.
They are widely planted as shade and street trees in cities because they tolerate urban pollution.
Best grown in full sun to partial shade in loamy, well-drained soils that are acidic to mildly alkaline.
The Little Leaf Linden will tolerate heavy pruning and can even be trained into bonsai if done slowly.
It is intolerant of drought and prone to leaf scorch, and may require irrigation.
This Linden variety can survive short periods of flooding but is intolerant of saline soils and water.
It is a host tree for the invasive Gypsy (Spongy) Moth Lymantria dispar dispar. Egg masses should be removed to prevent the spread of these highly invasive insects.
While the Little Leaf Linden tree is not currently on invasive species databases, it is starting to be recognized as having invasive potential; therefore, its status could soon change.
Other Common Names: Small-Leaved Lime, Little-Leaf Linden, Littleleaf Linden, Pry, or Pry Tree.
USDA Growing Zones: 3 – 7
Average Size at Maturity: 50 – 70 ft tall, 35 – 50 ft spread
Identifying Features: See Linden Tree Identification for how to identify Little-Leaf Linden
Some Cultivars Available:
- Greenspire Linden Tilia cordata ‘PNI 6025’ is a medium-sized tree growing up to 50 ft tall and 35 ft wide with a formal, symmetrical, pyramidal shape and relatively small heart-shaped leaves that turn a gorgeous yellow in the fall. It is highly adaptable to urban conditions. Hardy in USDA Zones 4 – 7. – Images via Nature Hills – Combined by Lyrae Willis for Tree Vitalize.
Available at: Nature Hills
6. European Linden – Tilia × europaea
The European Linden is a common naturally occurring hybrid tree with Bigleaf Linden (Tilia platyphyllos) and the Little-Leaf Linden (Tilia cordata) as its parents.
It has a rounded growth habit that is very popular for use as a shade tree in yards or as a street tree.
It requires pruning, however, to create a single tree. Otherwise, it can become a multi-trunked mass of small trees or shrubs.
It has a higher tolerance for urban pollution and has better deer resistance than many of the other linden tree varieties.
Best grown in full sun to partial shade, the European Linden grows best in moist, fertile, well-drained soils. However, it will also adapt to other soil conditions.
Other Common Names: European Lime, Common Lime, and Common Linden
USDA Growing Zones: 3 – 7
Average Size at Maturity: 50 – 70 ft tall, 30 – 50 ft spread
Identifying Features: See Linden Tree Identification for how to identify European Linden
7. Crimean Linden – Tilia x euchlora
The Crimean Linden is a short-lived tree, often lasting only about 20 years, making it highly suitable for growing in pots on patios.
It is a sterile hybrid originating from seeds collected from the Ukraine Crimea in the 1800s. Its parentage is unclear but believed to be a cross of the Little-Leaf Linden and Tilia dasystyla, a rare narrow endemic of southern Crimea.
Crimean Lindens produce yellowish-white flowers that are loved by pollinators, and its leaves turn a beautiful shade of yellow in the fall.
Best grown in full sun or partial shade in moist, well-drained sand, clay, or loamy soils.
This linden species is highly tolerant of urban conditions compared to other varieties.
Crimean Lindens are propagated solely by cuttings, and grafted trees are often sold. Basal suckers on grafted trees should be removed.
Other Common Names: Caucasian Lime, Caucasian Linden
USDA Growing Zones: 3 – 8
Average Size at Maturity: 30 – 60* ft tall, 20 – 30 ft spread *much smaller if grown in pots
Identifying Features: See Linden Tree Identification for how to identify Crimean Linden
8. Silver Linden – Tilia tomentosa
Silver Linden gets its name from the undersides of its leaves, which are coated with small whitish hairs that shimmer in the breeze and appear silver.
In the fall, the lovely foliage turns a beautiful shade of yellow, providing three seasons of color.
It is popular as a street or shade tree in cities due to its excellent air pollution tolerance. It also tolerates soil compaction and is more tolerant of heat and drought than other linden types.
The Silver Linden is best grown in full sun to partial shade in moist, well-drained, alkaline soil.
Flowers of this linden species are often used in herbal remedies as an antispasmodic, diaphoretic, and sedative.
The belief that the nectar of the Silver Linden contains mannose, toxic to bees, is untrue. The presence of comatose bees could be due to the presence of caffeine, which may lead bees to make suboptimal foraging decisions, according to recent studies done by Koch and Stevenson.
Other Common Names: Silver Lime
USDA Growing Zones: 4 – 7
Average Size at Maturity: 50 – 70 ft (to 100 ft) tall, 25 – 50 ft spread
Identifying Features: See Linden Tree Identification for how to identify Silver Linden
Some Cultivars Available:
- Sterling Silver Linden Tilia tomentosa ‘Sterling’ has a uniform narrow oval canopy and growth habit with smooth gray bark and dark green heart-shaped leaves with fuzzy silvery undersides that turn a spectacular golden yellow in the fall. It tolerates urban conditions well and has a preference for alkaline soils. – Image via Nature Hills.
9. Weeping Silver Linden – Tilia tomentosa var. petiolaris
The Weeping Silver Linden is a gorgeous tree with branches that droop toward the ground and leaves with the same whitish hairs as the Silver Linden that shimmer in the wind, appearing silver.
It is a moderate-sized linden with a very low, dense canopy that makes it a fantastic shade tree, even in cities where it thrives with a higher tolerance for urban pollution than most linden trees.
Once established, the Weeping Silver Linden shows better drought tolerance than most other linden types.
This variety is best grown in full sun to partial shade in moist, well-drained, and moderately fertile soil. It also has some tolerance for dry or compacted soils.
This Weeping Silver Linden tree has gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.
While it is sometimes classified as its own species, Tilia petiolaris, plant authorities consider it a synonym of Tilia tomentosa.
Other Common Names: Pendant Silver Linden, Weeping Silver Lime.
USDA Growing Zones: 5 – 9
Average Size at Maturity: 50 – 70 ft (to 98 ft) tall, 25 – 40 ft spread
Identifying Features: See Linden Tree Identification for how to identify Weeping Silver Linden
10. Henry’s Lime – Tilia henryana
Henry’s Lime is a unique linden tree native to China and first discovered by Augustine Henry from Ireland.
It has unique sea-green leaves with long bristly awns protruding from the ends of the leaf veins that are also coated in white star-shaped hairs that trap the light, enhancing their look.
It has dense, fragrant clusters of flowers that open much later than other lindens, providing late summer fragrance and fresh teas for those who grow it.
It is the slowest growing of all species of lindens, seldom growing more than 1 ft per year.
While it is often said to require milder conditions in sheltered areas, it has successfully been grown in areas with colder winters and hotter summers.
Best grown in full sun to partial shade Henry’s Lime grows best in moist, well-drained, alkaline to neutral soil. It is mildly tolerant of acidic soils.
Other Common Names: Toothed Chinese Linden
USDA Growing Zones: 6 – 8
Average Size at Maturity: 20 – 30 ft (to 50 ft) tall, 20 – 30 ft spread
Identifying Features: See Linden Tree Identification for how to identify Henry’s Lime
11. Glenleven Linden – Tilia flavescens ‘Glenleven’
The Glenleven Linden is one of many cultivars derived from the hybrid often called Tilia flavescens, with intermediate features between its parents, the American Basswood and the Little-Leaf Linden.
Cultivars result from open-pollinated hybrids either created commercially or occurring naturally, where both parents are grown in areas with warm summers.
Glenleven Linden is a fast-growing upright linden with a straight trunk and a narrowly pyramidal crown that requires no pruning to maintain its shape.
It has a somewhat open canopy that casts moderate shade, and in the fall, the leaves turn a lovely shade of yellow.
This linden tree species is a prolific bloomer with small fragrant flowers that remain on the tree for some time after they have dried, providing delicious healthy tea for most of the summer.
Glenleven Linden trees are very pollution-tolerant and adaptable trees that can handle various soil types
Other Common Names: Tilia cordata ‘Glenleven’
USDA Growing Zones: 4 – 7
Average Size at Maturity: 40 – 50 ft tall, 25 – 30 ft spread
Identifying Features: See Linden Tree Identification for how to identify Glenleven Linden
Available at: Nature Hills
Lovely Species of Linden Trees
Growing Linden Trees in Your Garden
It is easy to grow linden’s if you have the right conditions.
One important thing to note about the North American linden trees is that they’re quite sensitive to air pollution and do poorly in urban environments. This is unlike their Asian and European counterparts, which tend to tolerate urban conditions much better.
However, they have been developing cultivars from American species that show much better tolerance to urban conditions. And, of course, if you live in a rural or suburban area of eastern North America, I strongly encourage you to grow your beautiful native lindens.
Climate Requirements for Linden Tree Species
Most linden trees thrive in temperate climates in the range of zones 5 – 8, with some doing well in cooler and even cold climates down to USDA Zone 2 and some doing well into USDA Zone 9.
Be sure to choose the right tree for your climatic zone to ensure successful establishment and growth.
If you are unsure of your zone, check out the USDA Planting Zones by zip code and state to determine your zone and whether linden species will grow in your climate range.
Linden trees are all sun-loving trees that make excellent shade trees and perform best in full sun to partial light shade. They will not do well if planted in areas with only partial sun or full shade, where they will grow spindly and flower poorly.
They are also all moderate water users that prefer moist soil. Most are intolerant of drought, although some species and cultivars can handle short-term drought better than others. If your area is prone to any extended drought, irrigation will be necessary. Or choose drought-tolerant trees like junipers or certain ash trees or pine trees.
Regarding soil, linden trees are a bit unusual for their generally good tolerance and even preference for alkaline soil. This is great news for those with higher pH soils that many other deciduous and evergreen trees will not grow well in.
Otherwise, they generally prefer well-drained loamy soils that are higher in sand to allow for drainage, although a few linden species or cultivars will handle clay and compacted soils.
When making a selection of Linden types to plant, it is always best to choose a tree carefully that will tolerate your conditions rather than attempting to alter your conditions for the tree.
Check out How to Pick A Tree For Your Yard if you want more information about the process of making the right choice of tree for your yard.
Most linden trees are not very deer resistant, so if you live in an area with a very large deer population, you may need to protect your young trees with a fence until they get large enough to survive some browsing. A couple of European species seem to be less palatable to deer.
Linden aphids, Eucallipterus tiliae, also know as the lime aphid, is a problem for linden’s, with the sap-sucking insects population tending to boom just as the linden tree is blooming.
Japanese beetles are another pest often found affecting various species of basswood, but the damage these beetles does is largely cosmetic in mature trees as they feed on the linden’s foliage. Japanese beetles may be of more concern to young trees and newly planted lindens at risk of complete tree leaf defoliation.
Lindens tend to be larger trees with large spreading roots that can become invasive, so they should never be planted right next to buildings or foundations.
Linden wood tends to be quite weak and prone to breakage. Pruning their crowns in windy areas can protect them from breakage. However, ensure pruning cuts are less than 3” in diameter since most do not do well with heavy pruning.
Interesting Facts About Linden Species of Trees
Linden trees can live for hundreds of years.
The oldest Bigleaf Linden might be the 700-year-old Bojnice Linden at Bojnice Castle in Slovakia.
The largest American Basswood is 78 ft tall with a trunk diameter at breast height of 7.75 ft.
The Najevnik linden tree, a Little-Leaf Linden in Slovenia, is about 700 years old and the thickest tree in Slovenia. It is a place of cultural and political meetings.
Human Uses of Linden Trees
Linden wood has been used for carving, shield and puppet making, musical instruments, furniture, and more for thousands of years, popular for its lightweight and lack of grain.
Most parts of the tree are used for firewood and ropemaking.
It was widely spread throughout Europe in the Middle Ages for its uses as a bast (fiber) and honey tree.
In traditional medicine, the tree is high in tannins and used as an astringent. The charcoal can be ingested to treat edema.
Leaves and flowers are often made into delicious and nutritious teas and medicinal tinctures.
Young leaves are edible and are sometimes cooked like spinach.
Linden species are important for beekeepers, producing richly flavored, pale honey.
The wood is often used to cultivate shitake and other mushrooms with good success.
Linden trees are widely used as ornamental and shade trees in streets and yards across the temperate world.
Wildlife Values Linden Trees Provide
Bees, butterflies, and other pollinators feed on rich and copious nectar.
Certain moths and butterflies use linden trees as food plants during their larval stage.
Birds and small animals eat the seeds in the small dry drupes.
Linden trees are widely used as nesting sites for birds and squirrels and as habitat or shelter by other animals.
Deer and other animals routinely browse on the the tree leaves.
I hope you have enjoyed learning more about the lovely linden trees.
If you want to learn how to identify these beautiful trees, check out Linden Tree Identification for more information.
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