With Winter temperatures that go as low as -60°F, gardening is a serious challenge for people who live in Zone 1. This planting zone is found in the low-lying areas of interior Alaska, including the city of Fairbanks.
In this article, we’ve made it easier for you to select the 18 hardiest trees you can grow in USDA Zone 1. This list includes 3 fruit trees, 3 drought-tolerant trees, 3 fast-growing trees, 6 evergreen trees, and 3 shrubs.
In the harsh Winter climate of Zone 1, your young trees and other garden crops may need heavy mulch and supplemental water. Putting them in sheltered locations like greenhouses or hoop tunnels will also help.
- Estimated last frost date for Zone 1: August 25-31
- Estimated first frost date for Zone 1: May 22- June 4
|Minimum Average Temperatures|
|Zone 1||-60 to -50 °F||-51 to -46 °C|
|Zone 1a||-60 to -55 °F||-51 to -48 °C|
|Zone 1b||-55 to -50 °F||-48 to -46 °C|
Fruit Trees for Zone 1
1. Apple (Malus domestica) — Fruit Tree
Among the most productive fruit trees you can grow in cold climates are Apple trees. In Spring, they bloom with lovely white flowers to attract bees, butterflies, and birds. In the Summer, you can enjoy an abundant harvest of sweet, tart fruits.
Although 2,500+ varieties of Apples are grown in the USA, only a handful are hardy to Zone 1. One we recommend is Rescue– a cross between apple and crabapple with a spicy-sweet taste. Heyer #12 bears fruit at a young age, and recovers well against winter injury.
The Patterson cultivar from Canada grows just as well in Alaska, producing juicy apples that keep well in storage. No matter which variety you pick, make sure to give your Apple tree access to plenty of sun, and a compatible tree nearby for pollination.
Other Common Names: Orchard Apple, Domestic Apple, Common Apple, Paradise Apple, Malus pumila
Growing Zones: 1-9
Average Size at Maturity: 10-30 feet tall, 10-40 feet wide
Fruiting Season:Summer to Fall
Other Apple Varieties Suitable for Zone 1: Alma Sweet, Chinese Golden Early, Clair #4, Dawn, Heyer #20, Noret, Norhey, Prairie Sun, September Ruby, Shafer, Dolgo Crabapple, Kerr Crabapple, Rosthern #18 Crabapple, Siberian Crabapple, Trailman Crabapple
2. Pear (Pyrus communis) — Fruit Tree
Growing pears in Zone 1 has largely been experimental. If you’re up for some trial and error, you can try your hand at some varieties: Ussurian Pears are hardy in Fairbanks and Anchorage, but their fruits are small and extremely bitter. They’re more valuable as ornamentals.
The ‘Hudar’ cultivar originates from New York, but it grows in Southcentral Alaska just fine. Its juicy fruits are ripe by September, best for eating fresh or canning. Though it’s self-fruitful, you might want to plant another pear tree nearby to help with pollination.
‘Ure’ stands incredibly well against cold, producing delicious medium-sized pears. ‘Nova’ also comes from New York, yielding high-quality fruits. Note that pear trees are notorious slow-growers, so expect to wait 5-10 years before seeing your first pears.
Other Common Names: Common Pear, Harbin Pear, Manchurian Pear, European Pear, Bhutan Pear, Wild Pear
Growing Zones: 1-3
Average Size at Maturity: 10-35 feet tall, 15-25 feet wide
Fruiting Season:Summer to Fall
3. European Mountain Ash (Sorbus aucuparia) — Fruit Tree
The ornamental value of the European Mountain Ash is second to none. Its dark green leaves will turn bright yellow before fully dropping in the Fall. Creamy white flowers appear in Summer, followed by decorative red berries that remain on the tree until Winter.
This display of colors and aromas attracts birds, butterflies, and other pollinators– bringing life and activity to any garden. You can harvest the sweet, tangy berries to make jams, jellies, and desserts. European Mountain Ash lives for up to 200 years.
Native to Europe and Asia, European Mountain Ashes do well in cold climates. Give them access to full sun and acidic well-drained soils. This type of Ash tree is highly drought-tolerant once established, but they’ll appreciate extra watering in their blooming and fruiting seasons.
Other Common Names: Mountain Ash, Rowan Tree, Roan, Rowanberry, Quickbeam, Ranty, Rantry
Growing Zones: 1-6
Average Size at Maturity: 15-50 feet tall, 10-20 feet wide
Flowering Season:Spring to Summer
Drought-tolerant Trees for Zone 1
The Quaking Aspen is a record-breaker of all sorts. Did you know that the biggest organism on Earth, named “The Trembling Giant”, is made up of more than 40,000 Aspen trees sharing the same root system? It’s 80,000 years old and spans 108 acres across.
Among the hardiest trees you can plant is the Quaking Aspen. It’s native to Alaska, so it’s not a stranger to dry conditions and high winds. These trees tend to grow very quickly; more than 24 inches a year and up to 50 feet tall. They can survive for about 60 years.
The Quaking Aspen’s ornamental value is also unrivaled! Its cream white trunks and golden leaves are a sight to behold in the Fall. The leaves and branches easily “quake” or tremble on light breezes, giving life to your garden with its swaying movement and relaxing rustle.
Other Common Names: American Aspen, Mountain Aspen, Golden Aspen, Trembling Aspen, Trembling Poplar, White Poplar, Popple, Alamo Blanco
Growing Zones: 1-8
Average Size at Maturity: 40-50 feet tall, 20-30 feet wide
5. Siberian Larch (Larix sibirica) — Drought-tolerant Tree
Hailing from Russia and Siberia, the Siberian Larch is perfectly primed to survive bitter cold Alaskan winters. Alas, it grows extremely slowly, but that gives the trunk plenty of time to develop and harden. In fact, the durable and versatile lumber of this tree is highly-coveted in the construction industry.
Initially, these conifers have a narrow conical crown when young but they become more broad and open with age. At ages 10-15, your Siberian Larch will produce seed-bearing cones which persist on the tree for years. Every Fall season, the leaves turn bright yellow before dropping.
Siberian Larches are highly drought-tolerant once established, but remember to deep-water young trees more frequently. Give your tree access to full sun and moist, well-drained soils. This conifer lives for 70 years or longer. One specimen has a cross-dated age of 750 years!
Other Common Names: Russian Larch, Larix russica
Growing Zones: 1-8
Average Size at Maturity: 65-200 feet tall, 25 feet wide
6. Dahurian Larch (Larix gmelinii) — Drought-tolerant Tree
The Dahurian Larch is native to the coldest regions of Asia, but it grows just as well in USDA Zone 1. Impressively, it is recorded as the global northernmost tree, lining the edge of habitable conditions for all trees. In fact, it’s the most cold-hardy tree in the world!
The appeal of Dahurian Larch comes from its symmetrical conical crown and its soft green needles. In the Fall, these needles turn golden yellow before they drop to reveal reddish-brown shoots. The tree takes decades to produce its first purple to light brown seed-bearing cones.
You’ll be delighted to know that your Dahurian Larch tree is drought-tolerant, fast-growing, and resistant to most pests. Plant it in a sunny location with access to moist, well-drained soils. It will survive in your yard for a very long time; The oldest specimens have been growing for over 900 years!
Other Common Names: Dahurian Larch, Gmelin Larch, Kurile Larch
Growing Zones: 1-5
Average Size at Maturity: 40-60 feet tall,15-30 feet wide
Fast-growing Trees for Zone 1
At the northernmost tree line of North America, you’ll find no other hardwood than the Balsam Poplar. As an Alaskan native, this extremely cold-hardy tree should be easy to care for if you’re in Zone 1. It quickly reaches maturity, living up to 200 years in ideal conditions.
The strong, sweet fragrance of the Balsam Poplar is a favorite of many (quite like the Balsam Fir which is a popular Christmas tree). In the Fall, this species of poplar sheds its green leaves to reveal brownish orange twigs. Male specimens produce hanging catkins before the leaves grow back in Spring.
Balsam Poplar makes an excellent windbreak in rural areas. Its deep roots are well-suited to control flooding in wetlands, so remember to water it adequately (it can’t tolerate drought!). Plant your tree under full sun in moist, well-drained soils. If pruning is desired, Winter is the best time.
Other Common Names: Eastern Balsam Poplar, Bam, Bamtree, Hackmatack, Tacamahaca Poplar, Tacmahac
Growing Zones: 1-7
Average Size at Maturity: 50-80 feet tall, 25-40 feet wide
8. Eastern Larch (Larix laricina) — Fast-growing Tree
The Eastern Larch usually sports soft green fragrant needles, but the tree is more beloved for its display of golden Fall colors. Then, the needles drop to the ground and reemerge in Spring. Within 15-35 years of planting this tree, you’ll see the first pinkish to brown seed-bearing cones appear.
Native to interior Alaska, Eastern Larch is a haven for birds and wildlife in Zone 1. Historically, it was used by indigenous tribes for food, medicine, ship-building, and much more. Today, its lumber is highly valued for its flexibility and strong resistance against decay.
Eastern Larches grow incredibly fast. They thrive in a wide variety of soil conditions. However, you’ll need to provide them with access to full sun and frequent watering. You can grow one as a bonsai plant, an ornamental tree, or a windbreak. It can live for up to 180 years.
Other Common Names: Tamarack, Alaska Larch, American Larch, Hackmatack, Black Larch, Red Larch
Growing Zones: 1-5
Average Size at Maturity: 40-80 feet tall,15-30 feet wide
9. Thinleaf Alder (Alnus incana ssp. tenuifolia) — Fast-growing Tree
The Thinleaf Alder is an excellent windbreak or ornamental tree for any yard. It boasts deep green leaves, punctuated by red and gold hanging flowers in the Summer. Even when it sheds its leaves in the winter, you can enjoy the grayish gleam of the bark.
Planting Thinleaf Alders can reward you in many ways. These trees release nitrogen, making the soil more fertile for nearby plants. They also help control soil erosion. You can expect each tree to live up to 50 years, growing at a rapid pace.
With their dense-spreading habit, Thinleaf Alders are ideal accent shrubs. Line them in rows along fence lines or beneath other trees. Younger plants will need to be watered everyday, and remember to keep these out of direct sunlight until established.
Other Common Names: Mountain Alder, Speckled Alder, Gray Elder, River Alder
Growing Zones: 1-6
Average Size at Maturity: 15-40 feet tall, 15-20 feet wide
Evergreen Trees for Zone 1
10. Subalpine Fir (Abies lasiocarpa) — Evergreen Tree
Add some year-round greenery to your garden with the Subalpine Fir. This tree is prized for its pleasant conical crown and deep purple cones which appear by year 20. Its soft and fragrant needles make it one of the most popular varieties of Christmas trees.
This conifer grows quite large. If you have limited space, you may opt for shrub varieties which are easier to manage. Look for Compacta cultivars ‘Arizonica’, ‘Glauca’, and ‘Green Globe’. Plant them in rows to make a privacy hedge, or enjoy them as ornamental bonsai in small pots.
Native to the mountainous areas of the Northwestern USA and Canada, Subalpine Firs prefer cooler, moderate sunlight. They’ll do fine in moist to dry, sandy or loamy soils. You’ll have a breeze caring for them in Zone 1. They live for about 120 years!
Other Common Names: Rocky Mountain Fir, Alpine Fir, Balsam Fir, White Fir, White Balsam, Western Balsam Fir, Corkbark Fir, Sapin Concolor
Growing Zones: 1-5
Average Size at Maturity: 80-130 feet tall, 20-25 feet wide
11. Siberian Fir (Abies sibirica) — Evergreen Tree
Majestic rows of Siberian Firs grow natively in the northern outskirts of Asia, but there’s no reason you can’t enjoy this tall tree in USDA Zone 1. It’s one of the hardiest trees in existence, plus it’s unusually tolerant of shaded locations.
The refreshing, earthy smell of the Siberian Fir’s needles is its best feature. In fact, if you look up its name on Google, the top results you’ll see are product listings of Siberian Fir essential oil. The scent also makes this evergreen conifer a popular Christmas tree.
Plant your Siberian Fir tree in moist, acidic, well-drained soils for best growth. It can thrive even in full shade, but it will grow faster under full sun. This conifer is ideal as a windbreak, a specimen plant, or a landscape tree. It reaches an average lifespan of 150-200 years.
Other Common Names: Siberian Silver Fir
Growing Zones: 1-7
Average Size at Maturity: 40 feet tall, 20 feet wide
12. Siberian Spruce (Picea obovata) — Evergreen Tree
Growing even in the Arctic tree line, the Siberian Spruce will have no problem surviving in sub-zero Alaska. Unfortunately, it’s not very common in cultivation, so you might have a hard time finding this evergreen conifer in nurseries or garden centers.
The ‘Arctos’ is a grafted cultivar that’s potentially hardy to Zone 1. It has a unique silvery blue color, with a broad upright habit. It was bred for its winter-hardiness and durability. The Arctos Siberian Spruce grows at a rapid pace– up to 20 feet tall and 10 feet wide.
In its original form, the Siberian Spruce closely resembles the more common Norway Spruce. This tree grows in the mountains and river basins of Siberia, Russia, China, Mongolia, and neighboring countries. Adding to the tree’s appeal are reddish to purple cones.
No Other Common Names
Growing Zones: 1-2
Average Size at Maturity: 50-130 feet tall, 20-25 feet wide
13. Arolla Pine (Pinus cembra) — Evergreen Tree
The Arolla Pine adds so much appeal to your landscape, you might be surprised at how easy it is to care for. This medium-sized conifer is drought-resistant, extremely cold-hardy, and tolerant of urban pollution. It’s also not picky when it comes to soil type and pH.
The soft needles of the Arolla Pine remain green to silvery blue throughout the year. 30-60 years after being planted, the tree will produce colorful pine cones– purple at first and turning brown with age. Impressively, this conifer reaches 500-1000 years of growth in its native range!
With a dense, conical, upright growth, the Arolla Pine is the ideal specimen for narrow locations. It grows really slowly, so pruning won’t be a problem. Plant it in moist, well-drained soils under full sun or partial shade. You can even eat the popular pine nuts which are rich in flavor and nutrients!
Other Common Names: Swiss Stone Pine, Swiss Pine, Austrian Stone Pine, Stone Pine, Arolla
Growing Zones: 1-7
Average Size at Maturity: 30-40 feet tall, 15-20 feet wide
14. Siberian Dwarf Pine (Pinus pumila) — Evergreen Tree
The Siberian Dwarf Pine is unique from other evergreen conifers, growing more like a shrub than a tree. It’s native to Japan and northeastern Asia. The cones which bear colorful seeds (called pine nuts) give it high ornamental value. You’ll see green, purple, red, blue, or brown pine nuts.
You can grow the Siberian Dwarf Pine as an accent or a specimen plant. It goes well in perennial beds and borders, prairies and meadows, and rock gardens. The stiff, bluish green needles grow in clustered shoots of five. There’s minimal pruning required for this shrub.
Give your Siberian Dwarf Pine access to full sun and moist, well-drained soils. It’s highly tolerant of drought, but it cannot grow in the shade. Note that you’ll need both male and female specimens for pollination to occur. It’s well-adapted to Zone 1’s extreme climates.
Other Common Names: Japanese Stone Pine, Dwarf Siberian Pine, Dwarf Stone Pine, Creeping Pine
Growing Zones: 1-5
Average Size at Maturity: 2-16 feet tall, 4-15 feet wide
15. Engelmann Spruce (Picea engelmannii) — Evergreen Tree
The Engelmann is a dense, upright spruce tree that brings vertical interest to any landscape. It is extremely hardy, growing even in USDA Zone 1. The gray-blue needles are a delightful sight all year-round. Also worthy of note is the tree’s scent: piney, berry-like, somewhat sweet.
Initially narrow and conical when young, the Engelmann Spruce’s shape becomes more cylindrical with age. It sports sharp, bluish green needles and a flaky, reddish-brown bark. At age 15-40, it produces attractive purple cones which eventually fade to brown.
Growing quite large, this conifer might not be for you if you have a small backyard. However, it takes 150 years for this tree to reach full maturity! It then survives for another 400 years. For optimal growth, plant your Engelmann Spruce under full sun in moist, well-drained soils.
Other Common Names: White Spruce, Mountain Spruce, Silver Spruce, Columbian Spruce, Pino Real, Engelmann’s Spruce
Growing Zones: 1-7
Average Size at Maturity: 70-100 feet tall, 10-15 feet wide
Shrubs for Zone 1
16. Red Osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea) — Shrub
Growing natively in Alaska, the Red Osier Dogwood is a shrub with excellent ornamental features. It showcases white flowers in Spring followed by red berries which you can harvest in the Summer. The flavor is tart but bitter, and they’re best cooked or dried for later use.
The Red Osier Dogwood is important to local wildlife. Its leaves are browsed by deer, while the berries can attract 95 types of birds in its native range. Note that this shrub will shed its leaves in the Fall, but you can still enjoy the bright red colors of the bare branches.
This shrub grows fast, but it’s short-lived with an average life span of 30 years. Red Osier Dogwood is traditionally planted in wetlands to control riverbank erosion. As such, it will prefer moderately wet soil when planted in your garden. Give it access to full sun or partial shade.
Other Common Names: Red Brush, Red Willow, Redstem Dogwood, Red Twig Dogwood, Red-rood, American Dogwood, Creek Dogwood, Western Dogwood, Poison Red Brush
Growing Zones: 1-7
Average Size at Maturity: 6-12 feet tall, 6-12 feet wide
Flowering Season:Late Spring to Early Summer
17. American Green Elder (Alnus viridis subsp. crispa) — Shrub
You’ll readily find the American Green Alder widespread across northern Alaska. Growing as a dense thicket, it provides cover for deer, moose, and other wildlife in Zone 1. Birds also eat the catkins and seeds. Indigenous tribes used the tree’s astringent bark for medicine.
Though the American Green Alder has no distinct ornamental features, it’s an exceptional plant in its own right. It’s versatile, shade-tolerant, and can grow in nutritionally-poor soils. It also fixes nitrogen, therefore conditioning the soil for nearby plants.
American Green Alder bears female flowers which look like mini pine cones, persisting throughout the Winter. It also has male hanging yellow catkins. Planted in your backyard, it will thrive in moist or wet soil, under partial shade to full sun. It drops its leaves in the Fall.
Other Common Names: Mountain Alder, Green Alder, Sitka Alder, Wavyleaf Alder, Slide Alder
Growing Zones: 1-7
Average Size at Maturity: 3-13 feet tall, 9 feet wide
18. American Dwarf Birch (Betula glandulosa) — Shrub
The American Dwarf Birch is the most common shrub you’ll find in interior Alaska. Extremely cold-hardy, it survives even in the northern outskirts of Zone 1 where very few plants grow. As such, it’s an important food source for local moose, deer, elks, bears, birds, and various insects.
Its scalloped-shaped leaves are usually green. However, just before they drop in the Fall, they blanket the ground with shades of orange, purple, or red. American Dwarf Birch can either spread as a dense low-lying shrub, or it can grow like a multi-stemmed dwarf tree.
The root system of an American Dwarf Birch can help control soil erosion and stabilize stream banks. If you’re planting one, it’s important to have it in moist (but well-drained) soil since it’s a wetlands species. It thrives in full sun to partial shade.
Other Common Names: Resin Birch, Glandular Birch, Dwarf Birch, Bog Birch, Scrub Birch, Swamp Birch
Average Size at Maturity: 1-10 feet tall, 10 feet wide
Tough Trees For Harsh Winters
Lying outside of the conterminous United States, Planting Zone 1 is the coldest region in the country. It’s found within the state of Alaska. If you live here, that means you’ll have to pick only the toughest trees and shrubs that can survive the harsh winters.
Depending on your needs and preferences, you can plant fruit trees for food or for their decorative flowers. Drought-tolerant trees will require little maintenance in dry seasons. Fast-growing trees are fun to watch as they quickly grow taller than you. Evergreen trees provide fresh scenery all year. Shrubs are ideal for small spaces.
Luckily, arborists and long-time gardeners in Alaska have narrowed down the choices for us. So pick a tree in the list above, and start planting!
Eliza is a plant hobbyist from the botanically diverse country of the Philippines. She grew up surrounded by trees, farms, and all sorts of flora which sparked her passion for the conservation of nature.
When Eliza is not busy reading and writing about plants, you will find her digging and growing in the garden where she feels the happiest.
She equally loves animals, cosmology, books, music, and art.