The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

Selecting Trees for Their Showy Flowers

Photo of Sandra Mason

Sandra Mason
Extension Educator, Horticulture
slmason@illinois.edu

Many trees bloom this time of year. Except for allergy sufferers, maples, oaks and ash flowers are hardly noticed by most people.

Some trees however demand a second look in the spring. Our native redbud adds a delicate color to woodland areas and our landscapes. Redbuds and dogwoods may come to mind as flowering trees, but there are many trees to select and enjoy for their flowers.

Crabapples are certainly lovely now. There are so many different sizes, flower colors and fruit sizes that I'm sure there is a crabapple for your landscape. Always select disease-resistant varieties and especially look for crabapples resistant to the fungal disease apple scab. Annual fungicide sprays would be required to keep the trees from losing their leaves in August from apple scab. Resistant varieties are a much better option.

Blackhaw viburnum (Viburnum prunifolium) leaves are tinged red when they emerge in spring. The creamy white flowers are just now coming into their glory in native woodlands such as Allerton Park. The fruits are edible and have been used to make preserves since colonial times. Some blackhaw viburnums have a nice red to bronze fall color. They usually reach 12 to 15 feet tall.

Serviceberries (Amelanchier spp.) are lovely native trees. They grow 15 to 25 feet tall and are usually found as multistemmed trees. The white flowers cover the tree as the leaves appear in mid to late April. The pioneers named the trees serviceberries. When the serviceberries bloomed, the pioneers knew it was time for the preacher to start his circuit through the countryside, and the settlers could plan weddings and funerals.

Serviceberries are attractive all year. The leaves turn yellow, orange, and red in fall. The grey bark is also ornamental in the winter landscape. If you can get them before the birds, the blue-black berries are quite tasty much like blueberries. Be sure to pay attention to the mature size and habit when purchasing serviceberries since there are different types. Serviceberries are shade tolerant and make nice plants for woodland edges.

Japanese Tree Lilac (Syringa reticulata) is splashy for later flowering in early to mid-June. The fragrant white flowers are held in clusters 6 to 10 inches wide and 6 to 12 inches long. Japanese Tree Lilac should be planted in full sun for best flowering. These trees grow to 20 to 30 feet tall. Japanese Tree Lilacs also have lovely reddish brown cherry-like bark and are nice in group plantings, as street trees or as specimen trees.

Japanese Pagoda Tree (Sophora japonica) also offers summer flowering. The mildly fragrant creamy white flowers are borne in spikes 6 to 12 inches long from late May through mid-August–what a dramatic sight on a 50 to 75 feet tall tree. However, patience is required. The tree does not produce flowers until it is 10 to 15 years old but it's well worth the wait. It is somewhat susceptible to cold injury when young, but is resistant to heat, drought and pollution once it's mature.

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