Top 6 Native Trees for Large Midwest Landscapes

Every year, more commercial and municipal professionals are choosing native plants for their facility landscapes and street and cityscapes.

Not only have they proven they can already tolerate the local soil and weather conditions, but native plants typically need less maintenance over time because they better adapt to local climate extremes. They’ve had years to adjust to regional stresses.

Natives also support biodiversity and local wildlife by providing food and shelter, as well as boost the soil and water health in your cityscape or community.

But you may not know which native plants provide the best color, interest, shade, or screen for your specific application.

Below are six of the best native plant species for large midwest landscapes so you can get a better understanding of some great options.

#1 & #2 American Hornbeam or American Hop Hornbeam

Native to the eastern half of the U.S., American hornbeams and American hop hornbeams are commonly found as understory trees in wooded areas in USDA zones 3 to 9.

Both trees, commonly called ironwood trees, can grow in shade or partial shade, share a similar leaf shape, and are known for having very hard wood, distinctive bark, showy catkins and brilliant yellow-ish orange fall color.

Where they differ is the American hornbeam tolerates wetter conditions, prefers more shade and is less drought tolerant, while the American hop hornbeam is more drought-tolerant, does not like flooding or wet conditions and can handle more sun. Their bark is another differentiation point -- a smooth blue-gray for the American hornbeam and a grooved brown for the American hop hornbeam.

The American hornbeam will grow about 12 inches per year, reaching an average height and spread of 20 to 30 feet. The American hop hornbeam will grow a little faster at 24 inches annually to a mature height of 25 to 45 feet and a width of 15 to 40 feet.

#3 Kentucky Coffeetree

Whether you manage a park, golf course, or large municipal or commercial site, an adaptable Kentucky coffeetree could be a great choice for you.

Why? This native tree is tough, growing 12 to 24 inches per year to a height of 60 to 75 feet and spread of 40 to 50 feet at maturity, providing tons of shade. It loves full sun and tolerates a host of soil types from acidic to alkaline to loamy, moist, rich, sandy, well-drained, and even clay. While it can handle wet soil, it also has good drought tolerance.

In late May to early June, clusters of greenish-white flowers bloom as leaves mature in USDA zones 3 to 8. The tree forms an oval or rounded shape as it fully leafs out.

#4 Swamp White Oak

This striking tree with attractive peeling bark, has lustrous, lobed leaves with dark green tops and silvery-white bottoms.

Great for city parks, this tree has a broad, round shape that beams with golden orange color in fall. The flaky peeling bark even reveals an orange inner color to match.

Growing to a mature height and width of 50 to 60 feet in full sun, this tree prefers USDA zones 4 to 8 and acidic, moist, well-drained soil.

#5 Serviceberry

Sometimes called Juneberry, this smaller tree billows with lacy, white blooms in spring, reddish-purple berries in June, and then blazing tangerine leaves in autumn.

Not only are these trees visually appealing, but serviceberries can grow well in wet soils as well as in shade at wood edges or in forests. In full sun to partial shade, this tree grows 13 to 24 inches per year to a height and spread of 15 to 25 feet.

What’s more: Birds love serviceberry fruit.

#6 Hackberry

Want a tree that tolerates city air pollution, strong winds, and wide ranges of annual rainfall and temperatures? Then the hackberry could be perfect for your commercial or municipal space.

In full sun and USDA zones 3 to 9, the hackberry can grow 13 to 24 inches per year to a height and spread of 40 to 60 feet. The broad crown grows to a rounded, vase-like shape with purple berry-like fruit that attracts winter birds like cedar waxwings and robins, as well as butterflies.

Looking for a native tree that looks great and performs well? Let Davey Nursery know which trees you need. We regularly have native tree varieties available and can talk to you about how they compare to non-native species or how they can best fit into your space.

Want to learn more about the tree species the Davey Nursery has in stock? Contact us for information about our current inventory list.

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