The best small flowering trees for Western Pennsylvania
Question: We are looking to add a small flowering tree to our front garden. The area gets sun throughout the early part of the day, but is shaded by a larger tree in the late afternoon and evening. Do you have any good suggestions?
Answer: There are many lovely small flowering trees that would be a good fit for that area.
Here are a few of my favorites.
Serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia): Serviceberry is a deciduous, multi-stemmed tree that’s native to North America. It reaches 4 to 6 feet in height with an equal spread. It’s fully hardy here in Western Pennsylvania and well beyond, and thrives in full to partial sun conditions. The tree is upright and produces ¾-inch wide, fragrant white flowers in the spring. The leaves are a bluish green with light undersides. Later in the season, the tree is graced with red berries that turn purple. The berries are edible and quite tasty. The fall color is a lovely yellow-orange. Serviceberry tolerate less-than-ideal soils, drought and cold winters.
‘Wolf Eyes’ dogwood (Cornus kousa ‘Wolf Eyes’): This Asian dogwood is similar to our native dogwoods, but flowers later in the spring. The leaves of this variety are a gorgeous light green with a creamy, white edge and the flowers are also white. I have a ‘Wolf Eyes’ dogwood on the front corner of our home, and the leaf variegation is beautiful. Eventually, this little tree reaches about 20 feet high, so it’s a great choice for under utility wires. ‘Wolf Eyes’ requires only partial sun.
Japanese Stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia): Japanese stewartia has beautiful, mottled bark, flower buds that resemble green velvety pearls, lovely camellia-like white flowers and an amazing red-orange fall color. This has always been one of my most favorite trees. In the winter, the bark and structure of the tree make it a real standout. Japanese stewartias reach 30 to 40 feet tall, but they’re slow growing, so it will be many, many years until it reaches its potential. Full to partial sun is best for this flowering tree.
White Fringe Tree (Chionanthus virginicus): Though the Chinese variety of this tree is probably more common in our local nursery trade, I suggest opting for the native species instead, if you can find it. White fringe trees can be either single trunked or multi-stemmed. Creamy white, fringe-like flowers cover the tree in late spring, and they are followed by purple/blue berries in the autumn. White fringe trees grow to about 20 feet tall.
Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis): Another North American native tree, this flowering beauty grows 15 to 20 feet tall and has a canopy that spreads up to 25 feet wide. In early spring, redbuds are covered with tiny, purple-pink blooms that are held tight to the branches in dense clusters. Soon after bloom, perfectly heart-shaped, green leaves appear, layered along the branches. The flowers are occasionally followed by flat, bean-like seedpods. Redbuds often have a yellow fall color and the flowers are edible and make a colorful addition to spring salads.
Moonglow sweetbay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana ‘Moonglow’): If ever there were a tree that smelled like heaven, in my book, this would be it. An American native, sweetbay magnolia is a very versatile tree, but this particular variety is super-special because of its incredible fragrance. Sweetbays tolerate very wet, as well as very dry, soils. Though the look delicate and fragile, they’re tough and resilient. Most sweetbay magnolias are multi-stemmed and produce flowers in late spring to early summer. The leaves are green on top and whitish underneath, and they remain on the tree through the winter. ‘Moonglow’ tops out at 30 feet tall and is a fairly quick grower.
Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio with Doug Oster. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden,” “Good Bug, Bad Bug,” and her newest title, “Container Gardening Complete.” Her website is jessicawalliser.com. Send your gardening or landscaping questions to [email protected] or The Good Earth, 622 Cabin Hill Drive, Greensburg, PA 15601.