Our Hardiness Zone Map Gets a Refresh

The Arbor Day Foundation distributes millions of trees every year, so it’s important that we have an accurate hardiness zone map. This map separates the country into ten different temperature zones to help people select the right trees to plant where they live. Knowing this information helps us—and you—ensure the trees you receive have the best chance of thriving. It’s one of the important tools in any tree planter’s arsenal.

Hardiness-Zone-MapBecause of this, we gave ours an update. Take a moment to check out the Arbor Day Foundation’s new 2015 Hardiness Zone Map, based upon data from 5,000 National Climatic Data Center cooperative stations across the continental United States.

We like to revise the map every 10 years or so to keep up with any temperature shifts that may have occurred. While not many areas changed with this update, people living in the  northeast or along the Ohio River Valley may be in a new zone.

Not sure what hardiness zone you’re in? We have a simple hardiness zone lookup tool to help you figure it out.

Washington Hawthorn: A Blossom Amongst Thorns

 (crataegus phaenopyrum)

Washington-Hawthorn_1-846[1]If you’re looking to fill in the open spaces in your yard, or just add a bit of color to your landscaping, the Washington hawthorn is a great option. First introduced to Pennsylvania from Washington, the tree earned its name because of its prominent thorns.

Legend has it that Paul Bunyan used the Washington hawthorn’s branches as a back scratcher. Here are a few things to note if you’re considering adding one to your landscape.

Environmental Factors

  • Grows 1-2 feet a year reaching 25-30 feet at maturity.
  • Versatile tree, growing in a wide variety of hardiness zone (4-8).
  • Prefers full sun (6 hours of direct sunlight a day).
  • Drought-tolerant, grows in acidic, alkaline, loamy, moist, sandy, well-drained, wet and clay soils.

Physical Attributes

  • Blooms white flowers with reddish-purple leaves.
  • Produces bright red berries that hang until the winter. It is popular amongst birds.
  • Develops thorns on its branches, making it an effective barrier.
washington hawthorn berry

Flickr | Taryn Domingos

Do you have a Washington hawthorn in your yard? Share a picture below!

Texas Ebony: The Deciduous Evergreen

Flickr | Dick Culbert

(Pithecellobium flexicaule)

Although summer may be dwindling down, the heat of the sun and limited rainfall is not backing off. This year’s current conditions could be a hint to what next summer will be like. If you’re planning ahead for alternative ways to stay cool in the long-run, then planting a tree is the way to go.

As the name implies, the Texas ebony is native to Texas and only grows in the southwest region of the country. This tree has several unique traits, a notable one being that it doesn’t drop its leaves. If you’re searching for The Right Tree in the Right Place and are limited on space, then check out what this tree can offer to your landscape.

Environmental conditions

  • Grows in several different soils including acidic, loamy, moist, sandy, well-drained and clay. Can survive in the driest conditions once tree is established.
  • Grows at medium growth rate of 1-2 feet a year, and can reach anywhere from 35-80 feet at maturity.
  • Prefers full sun, at least 6 hours of direct sunlight every day.

Physical Attributes

  • This is an evergreen tree and keeps its dense foliage year-round.
  • Blooms fragrant, creamy white and yellow flowers and has 4-6 inch brown seed pods. Fun fact: the seeds have been dried and made into jewelry and shells have been used as an alternative to coffee.
  • Can grow in compact spaces, making it a practical choice if you don’t have a lot of yard space. (Has a spread of 20-30 feet).The Texas ebony is a wonderful tree if you’re looking for shade but don’t have the space. You get the benefit of a larger shade tree with its dense foliage and colorful flowers, and the advantage of an evergreen with year-round foliage

    TX ebony leaves

    Flickr | Wendy Cutler

Do you have a Texas ebony? Share a picture below!

 

 

 

 

Desert-Willow: The Tree That Blooms in Drought

(Chilopsis linearis)

desert willow flower

Flickr | Gailhampshire

Mother Nature doesn’t always work in our favor when it comes to nurturing our garden. Although many plants adapt to unpredictable environmental conditions, there are still a number of trees and shrubs that are too stubborn to conform. It can be especially challenging to landscape your yard if you live in an arid climate where water is scarce. The selections are limited, and planting a tree outside of your hardiness zone isn’t wise.

The Desert-Willow is quite deceiving; despite the name this tree has no relation to the willow other than its resembling appearance.  In fact, unlike willows, this tree cannot grow in wet or heavy soils. As the name implies, desert-willows prefer dry conditions and full sun. They are an extremely drought-tolerant species once established. If you’ve been struggling to find a flowering tree resilient enough to put up with the heat, then check out a few of the qualities this tree can bring to your yard.

Environmental Conditions

  • Desert-willow is a medium growing tree, growing 1-2 feet a year and reaching 15-25 feet in height.
  • This tree loves full sun, at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day.
  • It is a versatile tree and will grow in most soils as long as it is well drained. This includes acidic, alkaline, loamy, sandy and clay. Grows in hardiness zones 7-9. 

Physical Attributes

  • Blooms fragrant, pink flowers midsummer and has 10” papery pods that hang in the winter. Note that these pods will drop seeds and attract wildlife.
  • Usually develops multiple trunks and many branches, making it useful as a wide screen or tall hedge.  Added bonus: the tree can be pruned into a bush. The more it is pruned, the more it flowers.
  • Have willow-like leaves that are long and slender.
desert willow pods

Flickr | Jason Hollinger

If you’re in the Western United States then you may not be a stranger to the desert-willow. It’s a versatile tree that can add color to your landscape. Do you have one in your yard? Share a picture below!

Is the western soapberry the tree for you?

(sapindus drummondii)

Western Soapberry full tree

Flickr| David Elckhoff

Named because of the lather the fruit gives off when mixed with water, western soapberry is a North American native and an excellent shade or ornamental tree to adorn your landscape. If you’re looking to add a little more green to the yard and want something drought tolerant, then this tree may be the tree for you. Below are a few attributes that make the western soapberry stand out.

Environmental conditions

  • This tree grows well in a variety of soils with dryer climates in the South and Southwest (hardiness zones 6-9). It prefers full sun and partial shade, meaning a minimum of 4 hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day would suffice.
  • Tolerates wind, drought, compacted soil and infertile soil
  • Transplants easily and establishes with minimal irrigation

Physical traits

  • The western soapberry will grow two feet a year and reach 25-50 feet in height with an equal spread
  • Blooms May to June with loose panicles of yellowish-white flowers
  • Produces orange fruits that resemble cherries and lather when mixed with water. Fun fact: Native Americans used the berry-like drupes as a soap substitute.
  • The western soapberry is a favorite of butterflies in early summer

 

western soap berry

Flickr| David Elckhoff

If you’re looking for something unique to add to your landscape then the western soapberry may be a good choice.  It requires little care and offers great shade from the summer heat. Check out Inviting all butterflies! Create an oasis designed for them! If you’re looking to attract more butterflies to your garden.

Do you have a western soapberry? Share a picture below.

What you should know before planting a sycamore

Largest Sycamore

Flickr | Ted Van Pelt

Choosing the Right Tree in the Right Place can be a daunting task. Should I plant a fruit tree or flowering? Will it be fast growing or slow? Will it even grow in my zone?

There are numerous factors to consider with each tree. Here are a few more things to note if you’re flirting with the idea of adding a sycamore tree to the family.

  • There are 10 species of sycamore, most of them sharing similar characteristics.
  • Sycamore trees are majestic in nature, averaging 40-100 feet in height and spreading 40-70 feet in width.
  • They are fast growing, growing more than two feet a year.
  • With its natural inclination to establish a sturdy trunk, it tends to have an aggressive root system, so be prepared to plant your sycamore at least 15 feet from your house or sidewalk. Planting it too close to surrounding structures not only threatens the tree’s health, but you also risk spending a bunch of money repairing any damage it may do to your home’s water lines, foundation, or driveway.
  • Some sycamores develop multiple trunks.
  • These trees are nicknamed “buttonball” trees because of the 1-inch balls that hang from the tree. These dry, hairy fruits hang in groups of 2-7 and encase small seeds. Their fruits will also drop in the fall.
  • Sycamores are among the oldest species of trees on Earth, known for their longevity and hardiness.

 

Sycamore Seed Strand

Flickr| Curandera vision

Sycamore trees can add character to your landscape, with their ashy white bark and lush green foliage. They also house food and nesting sites for birds including red-tailed hawks, woodpeckers, and hummingbirds.

Do you have a Sycamore tree? Share a picture in the comments.

One tree, two trees, my trees are small trees!

Planting in small areas can be challenging, especially if you want to add some height to your landscape. Consider adding small trees that will excite your senses!

Small trees are perfect for any landscape and add color to entry ways, curbs, and long sidewalks. These small trees are sure to standout and add charm next to your home every spring and some even all year round! Continue reading to discover which small trees have caught our interest.

Smoketree_1-920The mutli-stemmed smoketree holds true to its name- growing blooms that are wispy clumps of filaments. This easy-to-grow specimen turns a smoky pink color from June through August. Growing 10’ to 15’, it is a good choice for a shrub border or other grouping.

Ann-Magnolia_1-860The ann magnolia is a member of the “Little Girl” group of hybrid magnolias developed in the mid-50s at the U.S. National Arboretum. Its profusion of deep purple-red blossoms resemble tulips and bloom in mid-to late March.  Sometimes, the tree blooms again in the summer. At maturity, the Ann magnolia grows to a height of 8’ to 10’.

Japanese-Red-Maple_1-866After 300 years of cultivation, the Japanese red maple is still a beloved tree. It offers a warm touch of red to any yard in the spring and fall, and features a green summer leaf. Red, winged seeds attract squirrels, chipmunks, quail and songbirds. This taller landscape tree matures to about 15’ to 25’.

Purpleleaf-Sand-Cherry_1-816Purpleleaf sand cherry  tree‘s year-round beauty and smaller size makes it an excellent choice for landscaping. Its fragrant white and pink flowers blossom in spring while featuring simple leaves with an intense reddish-purple color. The small yields of plump red berries are an important food source for small birds and mammals including robins and cardinals. The Purpleleaf matures to 15’ to 25’.

Downy-Serviceberry_1-919A phenomenal large shrub that can be trained into a single trunk tree is the downy serviceberry. The combination of flowers, vibrant fall foliage and wildlife value will add lots of visual enjoyment to your yard. This wonderful little tree reaches 15′ to 25′ at maturity and produces plump red berries for pies, preserves and fresh eating.

Did your favorite small tree make the list? If not, share your favorite in the comments!

Before you start planting, get helpful tips and information on tree care, and to find out which trees grow best in each hardiness zone. You can find all of these trees and more in our Tree Nursery. Get a discount on all of your trees when you become an Arbor Day Foundation member.

Peaches, cherries, and plums! Oh my!

Wouldn’t it be fun to pick fruit from your own trees at home? We have selected a variety of choices that are both delicious and add beauty to your landscape. Each selection grows in both a standard and dwarf sizes- suitable for many types of landscapes and gardens. Before planting, consult our fruit tree spacing guide to make sure you reap full benefits of your yummy fruit trees.

Golden-Jubilee-Peach_1-892The Golden jubilee peach tree begins to produce abundant yields of high-quality, tender and juicy fruit between ages 3-4. It survives colder climates better than other peaches and can be expected to grow in zones 5-8. This popular yellow freestone peach ripens around July, several weeks before Elberta peach trees. Scented pink blossoms appear in spring, adding a sweet bonus to your landscape.

Bing-Cherry_1-809America’s favorite cherry tree, bing cherry, produces sweet large fruit by the pound- as much as 50-100 lbs. per year. Excellent for fresh eating and preserves, the fruit ripens in mid-June to mid-summer. Its white spring blossoms also add beauty to your landscape in spring. Ideal for zone 5- 8.

Methley-Plum_1-907A cultivar of Japanese plum, Methley produces heavy, annual crops of sweet and juicy plums perfect for fresh eating or jelly. Sweetly fragrant white flowers bloom in early spring and fruit ripens in late May to mid-July. This tree is self-fertile and grows in zones 5-9.

Add flavor, color, and more beauty to your landscape by creating your home orchard. Be sure to read an earlier blog post for helpful steps before you begin planting! Visit the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree Nursery to find more variety of fruit trees, perfect for your landscape. Get a discount on all of your trees when you become an Arbor Day Foundation member.

Soak it in! Designing your own rain garden is easy

Have you been thinking about adding a rain garden to your landscaping? Well, this is the perfect time! In spring, the soil is softer to dig and the rainy weather contributes to the initial watering. Rain gardens are a beautiful way to enhance your landscape both visually and sustainably — benefiting everyone. So let’s get started!

Raingarden buildA rain garden is a garden in a shallow depression made to naturally gather and filter rain water -designed to temporarily collect storm water runoff from roofs, driveways, walkways, patios, and lawns. Once the water is collected, it percolates down into the soil, which is then absorbed by trees, shrubs and other plants – cleaning the water of pollutants such as pesticides and fertilizers. Rain gardens are also a natural habitat for butterflies, birds and beneficial insects. We call that a win-win!

When choosing a rain garden site, first, decide where the rain garden will be filtering storm water from such as a downspout, driveway or sump pump. This area should receive water regularly from its source during a rainstorm. Also, make sure to choose a garden site that is at least 10 feet away from building foundations and septic system to avoid storm water from leaking into these areas.

Determine your hardiness zone before picking out your trees and shrubs. Knowing which hardiness zone you live in will clarify which trees will grow properly in your area. Also, select plants that will add beauty but also have the ability to thrive in wet areas. Find information on trees and shrubs through the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree Guide.

Sweetbay MagnoliaOne recomendation we have for your design is the sweetbay magnolia, thriving in zones 5-9. Its creamy white flowers have a light lemon scent and are visible in late spring and early summer. Bright scarlet-red seeded fruit ripens in the fall attracting a variety of songbirds.

Redosier DogwoodAnother colorful choice is the redosier dogwood. It has a wide range of tolerance except for extremely dry conditions. Its fibrous root system provides effective erosion control on banks and slopes. The shrub also has vibrant red stems that remain in winter-adding color all year round in zones 2-7.

Another bird-friendly option is the prairifire flowering crabapple. Long-lasting spring blossoms add variety and color to the year-round beauty it offers. Withstanding climates in zones 3-8, this ornamental is disease-resistant and able to adapt to many different conditions.Flowering Crabapple

In the final steps of designing a rain garden, dig the desired area and arrange the spacing of plants according to their directions.  Mulch the area with woodchips that won’t float away and apply so it is two to three inches deep. Remember to water!

Most importantly, while your plants are soaking in the water, you can soak in the splendor you have just created! Visit the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree Nursery to find a wide variety of trees and shrubs, perfect for your rain garden. Get a discount on all of your trees when you become an Arbor Day Foundation member.

Fast Growing Trees

Fast growing trees are becoming more and more popular. The reason being, home owners get to enjoy the benefits of a mature tree sooner. Fast growing trees are especially great when landscaping. Some act as quick solutions to privacy and others as shade trees.

Let’s take a closer look at six fast growing trees available in the Arbor Day Foundation Tree Nursery.

weeping willowFirst, is the weeping willow. Depending on the cultivar, weeping willow trees can grow from 3’ to 8’ per year, making it one of the fastest of the fast growing trees.  Often seen as one of the first indications of spring, the weeping willow’s yellow twigs and green foliage appear early in the season—sometimes as early as February.

Quaking aspen quaking aspen has the widest natural range of any tree in North America- fit for zones 1-7.  The name stems from how it adds movement and a soft, pleasant sound to the landscape due to the “quaking” leaves. It grows 40’ to 50’ with a 25’ spread and averaging 2’ to 3’ per year. It has stunning golden-yellow foliage in the fall to accompany its iconic white bark.

red mapleRed maple stays true to its name by featuring something red all year round-—buds in winter, flowers in spring, leafstalks in summer, and brilliant red or yellow foliage in autumn. Homeowners are growing this favorite across the Unites States because of its tolerance to a wide range of soils and deer resistant bark.

green giant arborvitaeThe green giant arborvitae  is large and vigorous. This is an exceptional landscape tree for use as a screen, hedge or single specimen. Once established, it is resistant to wind and can withstand heavy ice or snow, making it a good choice for a natural windbreak. Arborvitae provides nesting sites and cover for birds and small animals. The flower buds, seeds and foliage are a food source, although this cultivar has greater resistance to deer browsing than most arborvitae.

tuliptreeTuliptree features aromatic stems, bright green leaves, and cup-shaped flowers, which bloom in May and June. It grows well in a variety of soils and reaches heights between 70’ and 90’. Tuliptree seeds, maturing in summer and persisting into winter, provide food for both birds and mammals, including finches, cardinals, quail, mice, rabbits, and squirrels.

river birchRiver birch as its name suggests, naturally grows alongside river banks but can be grown almost anywhere in the United States. Features include being the most borer-resistant birch, works well for holding stream banks, and control erosion.

When planted properly, these trees will grow strong, healthy, and tall. Get helpful tips and information on tree care, and to find out which trees grow best in each hardiness zone.

You can find all of these trees and more in our Tree Nursery. Get a discount on all of your trees when you become an Arbor Day Foundation member.

Did your favorite fast growing tree make the list? If not, share your favorite tree in the comments!