Flowering trees are focal points in many yards because they allow you to make a bold statement. Additionally, their flowers often herald the return of spring and warmer weather if you live in a northern planting zone, so they can be a nice boost for any garden. Although any tree can be a backbone for your landscape, flowering trees go a few steps further and add a welcome bright spot to your yard that you’ll have trouble matching with other plants.
Flowering trees come in a huge range of sizes, looks, and colors, so you do want to do your research and find ones that complement your landscape design rather than clash. You should also consider the maintenance portion of the flowering tree you pick out too because some are much more time-consuming to clean up around than others. The goal is to find a tree that offers shade, color, and shape to your landscape while offering a bigger visual impact once spring rolls around and into the summer months.
If you’re not sure where to start with flowering trees, this list can be your guide. We’re going to highlight several great options for you, and you can use them to create a beautiful and functional landscape that looks great no matter the season.
1. Caesalpinia pulcherrima (Red Bird of Paradise)
This tree is a broadleaf evergreen, and it makes a spectacular flowering tree if you’re looking for something to give you pops of color all summer long. It’ll produce reddish-orange flowers starting in the spring, and it’ll keep producing more flowers through the summer. This is a taller option that can get up to 20 feet tall at full maturity, and it has a 6 to 12-foot spread to it, so you will have to give it some room. This is a toxic plant to have around, especially when you consider the seeds. So, you want to exercise caution if you put it in your yard with your pets or kids around.
This flowering tree does very well in dry conditions. Plant it outside in zones 8 to 10, and make sure it’s not moist or wet around the tree. It likes to get full for six to eight hours a day, and this can help dry the soil out too. This is actually a very drought-resistant tree once it establishes itself, so it’s less maintenance for you to tackle. Enrich the soil with manure or compost when you first plant the tree to give it a good start.
Caesalpinia pulcherrima by Joan Simon / CC BY-SA 2.0
2. Nerium oleander (Oleander)
Oleander is one flowering tree that many people think is a tall shrub. It can get up to 20-feet high if you get the growing conditions correct. This is another broadleaf evergreen that will give you a splash of color all year-round, and it offers very pretty pink or white blossoms. The tree will produce these flowers periodically through the season, but it has the most flowers per tree in May and June. You should be aware that oleander is a poisonous plant, so put it in a space where your children and pets can’t get at it to avoid accidents.
This flowering tree has a perk though. The toxicity levels make them immune to deer, so it’ll look lush and full all of the time. It is best planted in zones 8 to 10. You should put it in an area that gets at least six to eight hours of bright, direct sunlight every day. It won’t do well if you plant it in an area that gets a lot of shade. It’s not picky about the soil either. Instead, it’ll do very well in any soil type as long as the pH levels stay neutral. Water it sparingly.
Oleander by JP Newell / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
3. Magnolia stellata (Star Magnolia)
This flowering tree is native to Japan, and it’ll be one of the first trees in your landscape to bloom when the warmer weather comes along in the springtime. Usually, the white flowers on this tree will open even before the leaves have appeared, and it’s not uncommon for you to notice flowers when your other trees are only starting to produce buds. This is a slightly smaller tree at 15 to 20-feet for the maximum height. It also has a very similar spread, so you will have to give it a little room if you decide to plant more than one in the same location.
So, even though this flowering tree is shorter, it can beat your taller trees by blooming much earlier. Plant it outside in zones four to eight for the best results. Also, it requires a lot of bright, direct sunlight every day to stimulate flower and leaf production. The soil needs are slightly more finicky, but it really needs very dense clay-based soil. This soil will retain a decent amount of water, but it can be difficult to dig into when you plant this tree. Water it sparingly, and make sure that you don’t constantly saturate the soil.
Star magnolia by tutincommon / CC BY-NC 2.0
4. Hamamelis virginiana or Hamamelis vernalis (Witch Hazel)
This is one flowering tree that is also available in shrub form. Some of these trees are very early spring bloomers, but you can also pick out ones that bloom during the fall months. You’ll typically see witch hazel grown as a tall hedge, shrubby border, or as a screening plant. If you’re in the United States, you can usually get one of two types of this plant. One will grow up to 20-feet tall at full maturity, and one that will only get between 10 and 15-feet. The shorter option blooms from October into December and the taller version blooms from later in the winter months to very early spring.
To keep this flowering tree happy and thriving, plant it outside in zones three to eight. It offers a bright yellow coloring with red-hued centers that contrast nicely, and this makes it a very bright choice for your garden. This tree loves to have full sun for several hours a day, but it needs filtered sun if you live in a very hot and humid climate to avoid scorching. It’s not picky about soil, and it’ll do well in virtually any soil as long as you amend it. This includes heavier clay-based soil. Water it routinely, making sure to soak the earth each time you do.
Witch hazel blooming by CAJC: in the PNW / CC BY-SA 2.0
5. Cotinus coggygria (Smoke Tree)
Also referred to as smoke bush, you can find this flowering tree in small tree form or large bush form, depending on your needs. No matter the size, you’ll get a fun “smoking” display when it decides to bloom each year. It produces large clusters of flowers that have a very fuzzy appearance, and these come in pink or purple coloring to add both color and texture to your yard or garden. It typically gets between 10 and 15-feet tall and 12-feet wide, so be sure you space it out a little bit when you plant it. This is one of the few trees that will only produce flowers on new wood, so you do have to prune it every year in the late winter or early spring.
This eccentric-looking flowering tree works well in informal landscape designs when you use it as a screening plant or focal point. It is best planted in zones five to eight. This tree also likes bright, full sun each day to encourage flower production. For the soil, it really likes loam if you have it. However, it’ll tolerate almost any type of soil very well except poorly-drained, wet soil. So, make a point to water sparingly and make sure that you don’t have clay-based soil.
Smoke Tree by Susannah Anderson / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
6. Hibiscus syriacus (Rose of Sharon)
The Rose of Sharon is typically classified as a large flowering shrub, but many people think that it’s a very small flowering tree. When you grow this plant as a small tree, it usually won’t get over 12-feet tall at full maturity. It has a slightly larger spread too at 10-feet, so space it out accordingly. This tree is a very long bloomer that goes from early June until the end of October when the first frosts hit. So, you can use it to complement trees that bloom early in the spring and finish by the middle of summer. You’ll typically find this plant used in hedges and foundation plantings where people group them in mass as a shrub border.
To keep this flowering tree happy, you have to be in zones five to eight when you plant it outside. It comes in red, lavender, blue, white, or pink, so they offer splashes of color when they bloom. It likes to be in an area that gets full sun, but it also does well with partial shade. It’s also not picky about the soil, and this makes it slightly easier to grow. You can plant this tree in virtually any type of soil without a problem as long as you take the time to mix in organic fertilizer.
Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) by Kari Nousiainen / CC BY-NC 2.0
7. Cornus kousa (Wolf Eyes)
If there’s one type of flowering tree that it’s hard to go wrong with, try wolf eyes. This is a pretty variety of Kousa dogwood. As such, it’ll start to flower later in the spring and into the early summer months, and it can bloom for an impressive six weeks straight. However, the fact that it flowers vigorously is only one perk for this tree. It also offers variegated foliage. So, when the fall months come around, the foliage develops streaks of color that range from deep red to brilliant pink. It’ll only get around 10-feet tall at the biggest point, but it’s a stunner all season long.
This flowering tree does require to be in zones five to eight to keep it thriving and healthy. You should make sure that it has partial shade. It won’t do well if you put it in a space that gets full, direct sunlight because it can very easily scorch. The soil is slightly finicky. It has to drain very well between watering sessions, but it should also be slightly acidic. You want to keep the acidity level as even as possible around the tree.
Cornus kousa by David Short / CC BY 2.0
8. Magnolia grandiflora (Southern Magnolia)
It’s hard to take a trip through the southern United States and not see this flowering tree all over. The magnolia tree is a symbol of the south. When you think about this classic plant, you most likely imagine very large white blooms with pretty evergreen leaves. However, this variety will also give you reddish seed pods every year that are attractive. This is a larger tree to have in your yard or garden, and it can easily get up to 80-feet tall with an impressive 50-foot spread. The flowers will start to appear early in May and June before getting followed by the reddish seed clusters. It has a very high tolerance for polluted urban environments.
This large flowering tree does best when you plant it in zones seven to nine, so it has a slightly more restricted planting zone. It likes to get full to partial sunshine each day. It won’t do well in deep shade, but it can tolerate full sun in cooler areas. The soil for this plant can be difficult to maintain, and this makes it harder to grow. It likes loamy, sandy, acidic soil that drains very well. It can also do okay in clay soils as long as you make a point to amend them.
Southern Magnolia Tree by Carol VanHook / CC BY-SA 2.0
9. Ailanthus altissima (Tree of Heaven)
This flowering tree has a warning attached to it that you want to heed if you’re considering planting it. Although the tree of heaven can be a beautiful one to add to your garden or yard, it’s an invasive species. This plant is native to the Far East. If you choose to have this plant in your yard, you will want to watch it very closely. The versatility of the growing conditions allows it to take over and edge out your native plants, so you could have sick trees on your hands if you don’t keep it pruned back and in line.
This flowering tree does well in zones five to eight. It’ll produce reddish-green or yellowish-green foliage. The leaves are long and oval. Since this has such a vigorous growth habit, it does very well in any type of sunlight from full sun to full shade. The same goes for the soil. It can survive in very dry and loamy soil or very dense and clay-based soil without a problem. It’s a good idea to weigh the pros and cons with this plant since it’s invasive, and check and see if you’re allowed to have it before you plant it.
Ailanthus altissima_leaves_P7030012 by Teresa Grau Ros / CC BY-SA 2.0
10. Aesculus x carnea (Red Chestnut)
Chestnut trees work well in forest gardens. American chestnut trees produce edible nuts that are very popular. However, the red chestnut tree is one flowering tree that you grow purely for how it looks. This red-flowering kind is extremely attractive, and it’s a hybrid species that is a mix of the red buckeye tree and the common horse chestnut tree. Around May each year, you’ll get a host of pretty red flowers. This tree can reach a mature height of 35 to 40-feet, and the nuts aren’t edible. In fact, the nuts from this tree are highly toxic.
This flowering tree does best when you plant it in zones five to eight. It likes to be in an area that gets full to partial sun, and you want to avoid deep shade. The soil should drain very well when you water it so that the roots don’t sit in water, but you want it to stay consistently moist too. Also, you’ll want to keep the soil acidic for the tree to grow and produce the reddish-hued flowers. The flowers have an upright growth habit with clusters, and you’ll get yellow centers.
May07 513 by mike wright / CC BY-ND 2.0
11. Sorbus americana (Mountain Ash)
This flowering tree is one that is best known for the pretty and bright reddish-orange clusters of berries. However, you’ll also get a very attractive flat-topped white flower that grows in clusters in the spring months. The flowers will eventually give way to the berries that will last through the summer and into the fall to provide a pop of visual interest. The leaves are deep green with a slightly oval shape and serrated edges, and they tend to hang down around the flowers to provide a nice contrast. Over time, this tree can easily reach 30-feet high when it hits full maturity.
To keep this flowering tree healthy, plant it in zones three to six. It likes warmer environments, and you should give it partial to full sun each day. If you can, aim for at least six hours of sunlight every day. The soil should drain very well and be slightly loose. However, it also needs to be slightly more acidic than normal. Try to keep the soil consistently moist without saturating it. It can also adapt to clay-based or rocky soil, and keep in mind that this tree is sensitive to light and heat.
Mountain Ash Tree by Todd Petit / CC BY-NC 2.0
12. Cornus florida (Dogwood)
Dogwood is a flowering tree that will offer a nice amount of visual interest for your landscape in the fall and winter months, and it has pretty spring blooms. During the fall months, the foliage turns from a very glossy green color to bold red hues. It also offers colorful berries for further interest, and you’ll get very interesting branching patterns. It tops out at 15 to 30-feet tall, and many people plant it as a specimen tree or use it in small groupings throughout their yards. Stress can make the tree more prone to issues with diseases or pests, so getting the growing conditions right is key.
It does best when you plant this flowering tree in zones five to nine. It needs full sun to partial shade to produce the white flowers in the spring. The soil should drain very well and stay at a medium moisture level. Don’t overwater it, and don’t allow it to get bone dry either. Watch for a fungal disease called dogwood anthracnose, and remove any affected limbs if you see it to prevent it from spreading and killing your tree.
Dogwood by alvaroreguly / CC BY 2.0
13. Cercis canadensis (Eastern Redbud)
This flowering tree is very similar to dogwood. It’s native to North America, and it produces some of the best spring flowers out of most of the trees on the list. It’ll start to bloom in early April, but the flowers aren’t very large. What makes them stand out is the fact that it’s so early in the spring. The blooms will line the tree’s bare branches to give them a very purple-pink fuzzy appearance. It can get up to 30 feet high and wide, so it does require a decent amount of space. Many people choose to use this tree in shrub borders, as a specimen, in naturalized woodland settings, or as a lawn or street tree.
Redbuds are one flowering tree that is very prone to developing canker diseases from bacteria or fungi. Promptly removing damaged limbs and getting the growing conditions correct can help you prevent them. Plant it in zones four to nine. It requires anything from partial shade to full sun for light each day. The soil should drain well and be very rich. Ideally, you’ll try to keep it at a medium moisture level that doesn’t soak the root system or allow it to dry out.
Eastern redwoods after a rain by Glenna Barlow / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
14. Crataegus spp. (Hawthorn)
Hawthorns are one of the few flowering trees that give you color past the mid-spring season. This tree will typically start to bloom late in the spring into the early summer. They can bloom in red, white, or pink shades, and they’ll produce berries that the birds will eat in the fall months. There are a few types that have excellent cold hardiness, including Crataegus crus-galli and Crataegus laevigata. This tree also doesn’t require much in the way of pruning, but you do want to make a point to remove suckers from the base of the trunk regularly to keep it healthy. The tree is also prone to pests, so spraying it seasonally is a good idea.
This flowering tree does well in zones three to eight, depending on which species you pick out. The color it turns will also depend on which species you get. This tree does require full, bright sun for it to thrive, and it won’t tolerate shady conditions. The soil should drain very well between watering sessions, but it also likes to keep it at a medium moisture level.
Hawthorn by Simon G.Bradley Roberts / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
15. Pyrus calleryana (Callery Pear)
There was one particular cultivar of this flowering tree that earned the whole species a bad reputation because it had thinner branches that would snap under pressure from wind, snow, or ice. There are now more hardy newer cultivars on the market that survive much better. This is a thornless tree that will get between 35 and 45-feet high, and it produces a huge amount of pure white flowers in the spring before the leaves bud. The foliage will switch to a pretty orange or yellow in the fall, and it’s a popular residential tree for shade. This tree is also prone to a bacterial infection called blight, so avoid heavily pruning the tree and feed it very lightly to stop excessive growth.
This flowering tree likes to be in zones five to nine. It does require full, direct sunlight for at least six to eight hours every day. The soil should be loose and drain very well. However, it also likes to be in consistently moist soil, so keep this in mind when you set up a watering schedule.
Callery pear blossoms by Thomas Cizauskas / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
These 15 flowering trees can add pretty color and form to your landscape design. For the best results, you should see which ones do best in your planting zones. Most of the picks on the list will do well with partial shade to full sun, but some are more picky than others. Do your research, use this guide, and find the flowering trees that work best in your landscape design to help fill in areas and provide visual interest all growing season long.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.