Spring-flowering trees

The Taiwan flowering cherry tree in my yard is just beginning to bloom. Photo by Kathie Rowel

Our flowering cherry tree just finished blooming.

The early-blooming varieties of Oriental magnolia may have been ruined by the hard freezes we’ve had recently, but my late-bloomer still looks good.

It won’t be long until all of Louisiana takes on the pastel colors of a Monet painting.

Can you tell I love spring-flowering trees? I’d plant a forest of them if I had room.

And I’m not the only one.

“There are few spring- flowering trees that I don’t like,” said retired LSU AgCenter area horticulturist Denyse Cummins. “If I don’t like it, it’s because I’ve never seen it.”

If you’d like to add one – or a dozen – to your yard, check out these recommendations for Louisiana’s best :

DenyseCummins, LSU AgCenter horticulturist

  • Redbud – “Common and a little weedy but nothing like it in the early spring, especially in a woodland setting. There are a few terrific new varieties with double flowers that I saw in Dallas and hope to track down.”
  • Japanese magnolia Sundance. Photo courtesy of Denyse Cummins.

    Any Japanese magnolia or hybrid magnolia cross. “Galaxy has huge flowers. I am fascinated with the yellows and have not given up on them but have yet to see one that totally wows me. Perhaps my trees just need to get a little bigger. Sundance is here at the office, as well as Galaxy.”

  • Magnolia stellata – The Japanese saucer magnolias always steal their thunder but they are just as impressive and tough as nails.
  • Taiwan cherry – “A deep rose color, it’s the earliest of the flowering cherries. Only the spring magnolias are earlier.”
  • Okame cherry – “We have these at our office. A little later than the Taiwan cherry, they are pale pink blushed with deeper pink and absolutely lovely.”
  • Silverbell – “A Louisiana native that I have actually owned on property in Ruston as a wild tree. I’ve since bought them from nurseries. Dr. Willis of Willis Farm in Doyline has sold me some improved selections and I can’t wait to see how they do.”
  • Dogwood: “Dogwood is, of course, beloved if you grew up in the South. They used to be all over the woods in North Louisiana and have been greatly thinned out by clearing woodland for development and exposing them to too much sun to make it through dry times. They can be hard to establish but if you can get them going they are a real pleasure. Mine is red. They have had some problems with anthracnose but I think that the major issues with them are more environmental: loss of wild habitat, poor watering the first year of planting and damage to bark and drought stress on established trees. Willis Farm is selling the Tennessee varieties that have anthracnose resistance. If they die you have only yourself to blame. I killed mine by leaving town during a drought.”
  • Chinese fringe: Chinese fringe (Chionanthus retusa) so puts our native grancy graybeard in the shadows that I would not consider a grancy in my yard again. The Chinese species has a pristine white, short fringe that totally covers the tree in spring. I’ve loved it since I saw the first one.”
  • Flowering peach – “I have a white double but have seen a pink/peppermint one on my street. They are quite early and I really like to bring the branches in when they are loaded with buds and force them in the house.”
  • Chinese witch hazel:  Our native witch hazel has very insignificant blooms, but the Chinese are yellow or orange with big, fringy flowers. I have seen it well-grown in Southern gardens but unfortunately cannot vouch for it here because I keep letting drought kill mine.”

Ricky Kilpatrick, LSU AgCenter forester:

  • Silverbell.

    Silverbell: “There’s a pretty shape and form to the tree itself as well as the flowers. It’s a wonderful tree to have outside your kitchen window where you can sit and look at it.   A good alternative to a dogwood. I love dogwoods, but if you’re not in the right place or soil, a silverbell is a good alternative.”

  • Redbud:  “A big problem I run into close to the Red River is soil pH is too high for a lot of trees. Redbuds will handle a wide range of soils, including high pH.”
  • Yellow poplar: “This is a much larger tree.  It has a yellow tulip-shaped, pretty showy flowers. Not a tree you’ll plant and have flowering in three years.  It will reach 90 or 100 feet.”
  • Fringe trees or grancy graybeard: Grancy graybeards are neat.  They have a different kind of flower but they are certainly pretty.”
  • Flowering crabapple: “If I was dead set on a flowering  pear, I would look at a crabapple instead. Something native and not as bad about splitting and breaking.”
  • Buckeye: “The very first thing that the blooms is the buckeyes. Nice to put one on the back side of a flower bed.”

What’s your favorite spring-flowering tree?

Pink dogwood. Photo courtesy of Denyse Cummins.