Smaller flowering tree recommendations for zone 5?

lyoshka(5)November 13, 2011

Hi! We are in Chicago suburbs (zone 5). I have redone the front yard and landscaping and next spring, it should finally emerge a garden... I'm looking to put a smaller (8-12 ft) flowering tree in a semicircle at the corner of the house. It'll have 3 twist and shout hydrangeas at its base and will be close to my climbing roses. Happy to post a pic of the layout if that helps..

I know nothing about garden trees, so I really need help... Did some looking online and so far, on paper, Weeping Snow Fountain Flowering Cherry sounds fabulous. Also, pink cascade weeping peach tree sounds interesting. (cherry really has my attention, though)... Are those good choices? Can you recommend any other trees?

Thank you!

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Sounds almost like you want a large shrub. Lilac or viburnum, or Serviceberry? Or maybe small trees like redbud, smaller magnolia, or some sort of crabapple (like the cherry and peach, you will have to clean up). I can't help you with the combinations, since my wife says I have no sense of asthetics ;)

    Bookmark   November 13, 2011 at 6:57PM
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Yeah, a smaller tree... I just don't want it to overpower the front of the house (it'll be on the right front corner of the landscape).. and if it's a tree that needs pruning, 10-12 feet seems manageable. Though easy care would be ideal...

I know that cherries and magnolias are magnificent, but bloom for such a short time.. but i don't know of any trees that would be dwarf(ish) and have a more extended bloom time?

I would love any ideas you have!

    Bookmark   November 13, 2011 at 10:18PM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

Hello, planning a tree planting is soo much fun.

Here is a list of Crab Apple cultivars. There are a couple which stay small. Check for cold hardiness. I have been happy with mine.

Here is a link that might be useful: Crab Apple List

    Bookmark   November 13, 2011 at 11:16PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

For crabapples, it would be a good idea to look closely at disease resistance. Multiple information sources (Morton Arboretum, University of Kentucky, North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service) would probably be a good idea. Your local extension service would be a good source for information about which problems were likely to be of concern in your area.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2011 at 12:04AM
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mainegrower(Z5b ME)

Like most cherries, 'Snow Fountain' puts on a display for a brief period, then recedes into the background for the next 50 or 51 weeks. Pest susceptibility, especially for borers and leaf diseases, is another issue.

Magnolias are relatively pest free and there are cultivars which bloom over a fairly extended period.

Since, however, whatever tree you choose will be in a prominent place, I'd look at trees with year round interest in addition to the spring blossom show. There are variegated leaf cultivars of many, many trees as well as
varieties that grow in unusual and striking forms. Almost any genus you can thing of has dwarfish varieties combined with other year round features.

Online nurseries such as Rarefind, Fairweather Gardens, Forestfarm and a host of others are great places to begin looking.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2011 at 5:29AM
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Toronado, thank you for the list of cultivars! Do you have any online nurseries you could recommend?

Brandon7, thanks... i will cross check with your suggested sites once I figure out what the heck I can plant lol

Mainegrower, thank you thank you thank you! Your suggestions make a lot of sense, and I really appreciate a concrete place to start looking(online nurseries). Would you be able to recommend any specific trees? Even amongst magnolias, there are SO many, and online info is usually so very limited to just growth habit...

maybe I could call the specified nurseries and ask for advice?

    Bookmark   November 14, 2011 at 7:30AM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

maybe I could call the specified nurseries and ask for advice?

Personally I wouldn't. Only ask them about availability.

For something more informal I'd plant a Acer shirasawanum �Autumn Moon� or if you perfer purple, Acer palmatum 'Fireglow'. Both these Japanese maples are a little more readily available. I know they don't flower but their airy texture and amazing fall colors won't disappoint.

If you really want something a little more formal and need the flowers get Malus sargentii 'Select A'. Will give a lush set of blooms and the abundent, persistant, bright red berries are such a treat starting now through winter. It is perhaps the MOST disease resistant Crabapple for our area.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2011 at 10:05AM
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arktrees(6b NW Arkansas)

Not the smallest size, but you might consider anyway. Stewartia pseudocamellia has allot going for it. If soil is suitable, then Franklinia alatamaha "Ben Franklin" Tree would be very nice, and not common.


    Bookmark   November 14, 2011 at 11:04PM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

Lyoshka, someone up the line gave a list of Arboretums to check out. Go see them and pick a winner!

On line nurseries.....I like Forest Farm. Sure others will chime in with their favorites. There is a list called gardenwatchdog out there someplace which will tell ya which ones to avoid.

Whaas, any conifer ideas? Speaking of year round interest. I know they will not majically stop growing at twelve feet but if a plant can provide two decades of use then be cut and replaced a fifteen feet..

    Bookmark   November 14, 2011 at 11:35PM
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Whaas, exactly the info I was looking for! Year-round interest IS very important, something I was definitely thinking, just didn't articulate.. Japanese Maples are beautiful, but I think i do want flowers and more interest than what JMs offer.

Malus sargentii 'Select A' sounds fabulous! it's perhaps at the top of the list right now. My only concern... between different sites, it seems to be listed as growing 5-8 ft, with lots of them quoting closer to 5ft.. and that seems kind of...little? I was really hoping for ideally 8-12 ft (a little past first floor roof level?)... but, it sounds lovely, so I am still looking at it. Also trying to figure out how fast it grows? if it can get to its short height in full in a jiffy..well, that'd be great. I know, I know, I have to adjust my expectations, maybe :)

Arktrees, both the Stewartia pseudocamellia and Franklinia alatamaha "Ben Franklin" Tree sound really nice, but maybe a tad big for my space? it sounds like with the spread, they'll be knocking on my windows? though I have to say, the Ben Franklin sounds absolutely magnificent!

Toronado, thank you for the heads up about Gardenwatchdog. Googled it, it is actually a list of the TOP nurseries, Forest Farm being one of them :)

I'm so glad i posted here about my little tree, you guys are just full of so many good resources!

keep 'em coming!

Would it be helpful to post a pic of my landscrape situation?

    Bookmark   November 15, 2011 at 7:55AM
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oh and another question... once i do figure out which tree i want... I assume right now is too late to plant it? and provided I find a nursery that would still ship, is it better to wait till spring anyhow?

    Bookmark   November 15, 2011 at 8:32AM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

T brought up conifers. Would you be interested in a conifer? You just wouldn't be able to plant under it.

Picea pungens 'Spring Blast' is a nice one. Its almost as if it does bloom since it flushes a creamy gold in spring. It gets about 12' after 20 years.

As for the size of Malus sargentii 'Select A'. It is a slow grower indeed but thats what you need in order to maintain the height you're after.

Below is info from the nursery that introducted it. I'd go by what they have. The height will probably be more like 9' based on how high most standards are. I purchased mine right out the gate at 7' high for $80 at Minor's Nursery in Milwaukee. I went big because of the growth rate and it was going off the corner of the house and wanted immediate impact. I put a Picea abies 'Cupressina' behind for evergreen to set off the red berries.

Here is a link that might be useful: Firebird

    Bookmark   November 15, 2011 at 9:57AM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

No problem. We all seem to love talking about trees.

You might be able to get away with planting now. Especially if you pick a plant which is cold hardy to a couple zones colder than yours. No tenderfoot Japanese maple planting now though!

Probably would be best to wait until spring. Give yourself some time to decide in peace at the least.

Oh yeah, and yes a picture would be great. Sure to generate a number of out of the box ideas.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2011 at 10:37AM
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mainegrower(Z5b ME)

lyoshka: I would not recommend planting in mid November in Z5 - much too iffy.

I hesitate to recommend particular cultivars since I have no real sense of how they would do in your Midwest climate, but here goes anyway. Smallish trees with good bloom at a relatively young age. At least Z5 hardiness. No serious pest or disease problems. Relatively easy to grow. Adaptable to the same soil conditions and exposure as the hydrangas.

Red buckeye (aesculus pavia)

Star magnolia (magnolia stellata) Shrubby in growth habit, white to pale pink bloom in early spring. 'Merril' and the newish fully double 'Lyle's Legacy' are two very good ones. Very early blooming so late frosts may be a problem.

Hybrid "tulip flowered" magnolias. 'Golden Gift' Tight columnar form, true yellow flowers, low growing. 'Daybreak' pink very fragrant flowers. Will get taller than 12', but only after many years. Lots more to chose from in the Rarefind and Fairweather catalogs.

Laburnum. "Weeping golden chain tree" is a very descriptive common name.

Halesia 'Uconn Wedding Bells' much smaller than the species. Starts to bloom when very young.

Cercis 'Covey' aka 'Lavender Twist' Weeping form of redbud. Probably more tricky to grow than the others, so worth checking with an arboretum or county extension service about adaptability to your area.

What you find beautiful and interesting is the best choice after all is said and done.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2011 at 11:53AM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Be prepared to get blasted with alot of fine choices. MG just opened up a few more doors.

Perhaps a pic with a decription of soil moisture, type and exposure will help quite a bit.

The redbud suggestion made me think of Cercis canadensis 'Ace Of Hearts'.

My last suggestion would be to start checking for suggestions and availability with your local nursery if you WANT a larger sized tree. You can bring those suggestions back to the GW then.

If you are patient and can get a smaller tree the sky is the limit with mail order.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2011 at 12:45PM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

Chionanthus virginicus should be added.


    Bookmark   November 16, 2011 at 9:54AM
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you guys are awesome!!! I'll be back tomorrow with a pic of my landscaping attempts (permanent attempts now :) ).....

will plant the tree in the spring, STILL have stuff to do in garden and it's getting cold FAST, so i'm not going to even try and rush it with this thing.. will do my research, find the right nursery, save up the $ (since I'll want immediate gratification, too) and will get my little tree (or two) in 3-4 months...

be back tomorrow with thought on your comments...

    Bookmark   November 16, 2011 at 9:46PM
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...and another: Pagoda dogwood. This native plant does have flowers, though possibly not as showy as you are desiring. But it has great form, is approximately within your size parameters, and also offers good fall color.

And there's more.........


    Bookmark   November 19, 2011 at 5:21PM
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nick_b79(4/5 Southeast MN)

I second the recommendation of Fringetree. Excellent large shrub/small tree.

I'd also suggest Heptacodium (Seven Son's Flower). I've seen one 10 ft tall, and it was really lovely. It's also the most bee-attracting plant I have EVER seen in my life; I could hear the bees before I could even see the tree :-)

    Bookmark   November 20, 2011 at 4:34AM
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mainegrower(Z5b ME)

Pagoda dogwood is a beautiful native tree, especially the variegated forms. The horizontal branching pattern goes well with the more vertical structure of houses except those which are horizontal themselves. The mature height is, however, about double the 12' limit and these are pretty fast growing trees. Planted too close to the house will also mean pruning the branches on the house side thereby creating an odd looking lopsided tree.

A possibility I forgot in my previous list is one of the smaller forms of cornus kousa. 'Wolf Eyes' is a very nice variegated, dainty leafed variety that would look very nice as contrast to the larger coarser leaves of hydrangeas.'Wolf Eyes' does best with some afternoon shade, but there are other more sun tolerant variegated dwarf kousas.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2011 at 5:53AM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Just wondering if one of the Sorbus would do the job? Would they thrive in your climate? You get flowers, pretty leaves, berries (red, orange, yellow, pink, white - depending on species/ hybrid) and Autumn colour.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sorbus list

    Bookmark   November 20, 2011 at 6:38AM
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Ok, posting a couple angles of my flower bed.. disclaimer: still work in progress, so don't judge too harshly :)

I made the flower bed last fall, then this summer, had a semi-truck worth of dirt delivered and dumped on my front lawn.. had to dig up all my plants to raise the level about 12 inches.. and we also leveled the front yard, as well. it was very wavy and uneven. So, as a result, half of my plants got killed, and I still don't have grass. Planning on putting the starter fertilizer and grass seed down tomorrow, so the snow puts it in the ground and it can come up in the spring. Is that the best way?

Back to the tree... i have marked a few things on pics to help you better understand where it will be going.
here you go:

Here is a link that might be useful: Front yard flower bed..

    Bookmark   November 20, 2011 at 12:05PM
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let me see if I can post all pics in one post:

    Bookmark   November 20, 2011 at 12:24PM
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Yes, I misread the height requirements. Pagoda dogwood would get bigger than you want.


    Bookmark   November 20, 2011 at 5:49PM
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How about a hardy hibiscus. There's some that are hardy in zone 5 and I've seen purple and white ones.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2011 at 12:35AM
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happy summer, everyone! Oy! How did we skip spring entirely this year?? Crazy.

anyhooo... i thought I had time and didn't really research the tree much this winter and now we are nearing 80s. In March. In Chicago. I would like to order the tree in the next month to get it acclimated properly..

any other suggestions that come to mind, anyone? I like some of the ideas posted already, but wanted to brain storm one more time before making a decision.

thanks for sharing your wealth of information!

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 7:27AM
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BUMP again :)
Wanted to follow up here and ask for more concrete advice... I believe I have narrowed my selections down to 3 trees to choose from and wanted to ask you all for your opinions. I have never seen any of these trees IRL, so I want to make sure I'm heading in the right direction..

Quick reminder about what I'm trying to accomplish:
-small tree, no conifers (have hydrangeas twsit-n-shout planted underneath)
-8-12 high and similar spread (climbring roses to the left in the background)
-several seasons interest strongly preferred

I'm also uploading pics of my garden for you to take a look at. Not too much has changed since the last posted pics ,I still have to finish up some stuff, but at least you get a better idea of plants in place, since last pictures were taken in gloomy November. And I have grass now! Always a plus :)

So.... here are my top pics:
1) Twisty Baby� Dwarf Black Locust- Love the unusual trunk shape, love the apple green leaves and the flowers sound interesting.

2) The Rising Sun Cercis canadensis Redbud Tree - seems within my required size, foliage and flowers are beautiful and constant color change on the leaves seems very interesting

3) Malus Sargentii "Select A" - classical beauty; like the more formal look to go with my climbing roses. Love the flower show.

Since I'm going strictly by internet research, I'm very interested in your opinions as to how these trees will look like in my garden.

Tree will go where the bird bath is right now, all the way to the right...

    Bookmark   September 14, 2012 at 7:47PM
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sorry, but why can't you plant a tree in the grass? It would have more space and the roots wouldn't be crowded. BTW I also would reccomend the Red Bud as you said, Crape Mrtle, Cornus Florida, and Weeping Cherry.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 7:44PM
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Gardeningapprentice, do you mean on the front lawn? Grass would certainly be easier, but I built the flower bed for a nice clean look, and let me tell ya, a lot of swearing went into laying those bricks down :)..and there really isn't space on the front lawn for a tree. Plus, I think an accent tree of the right size and shape in that semi-circle will look fantastic and will complete the border nicely.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 10:20PM
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The redbuds are nice. Cercis canadensis 'Hearts of Gold' or 'The Rising Sun' are great. While visiting Michigan in July, I seen Cercis canadensis 'Hearts of Gold' first hand for the first time. I must say I never thought much of it while searching the internet. It's a nice tree! I've purchased one for fall planting.

Cercis canadensis 'Hearts of Gold' (picture taking at Duvall Nursery, Michigan)

I always wanted a Robinia pseudoacacia 'Lace Lady', 'Twisty Baby' because of the cool contorted branches. Well I purchased it two years ago, and I've hated it since. I live in Southern U.S., so it may be hardier here. It grows like a weed! It grew about 4 ft in every direction the first year. I pruned it extremely hard back to the trunk. This year, it has grown 6 feet in every direction. I can handle the very aggressive growth because I enjoy pruning for shape. The main issue is the suckering. I have black locust shoots popping up 4-8 feet away from the trunk in my surrounding bed. I'm constantly removing them. Earlier in the summer, I missed a shoot from below the graft site. I was waiting until fall/winter to remove it because it was too large, and I tried to prevent making a large cut during the harsh summer conditions. Well...What a mistake! Now the shoot is a 1.5 inch caliper (almost as large as the main trunk) and 8 ft tall Robinia pseudoacacia covered with thorns extending straight up. I'm removing the tree this fall! I think it might be larger than what you're looking for.

Other slow growing maple considerations
Acer pseudoplatanus 'Esk Sunset'
Acer campestre 'Carnival'

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 12:30AM
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but still... the lawn would be more suitable, because some roots can get invasive and knock/move the house's foundation. Trust me the lawn is always best for planting a tree, even if the roots aren't invasive. A word of advice: if your tree is supposed to be short and stout, it won't be short and stout. When the needs of the tree are met, or overly met it continues to gain height.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 3:51PM
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8-12' is very small, even as small or dwarf trees go. I'd eliminate both the redbud and the 'Twisty Baby' based on that requirement. Plus, the contorted robinia seldom produces flowers, although both the foliage and branch structure are pretty interesting. The crabapple is great selection. But I wouldn't necessarily cross Japanese maples off my list. Yes they do flower (although not as one normally considers "flowering") but the foliage on most cultivars goes through several color changes during the course of the season and they can often have very sculptural form. They are as ornamental as any sort of traditional 'flowering' tree, none of which have an prolonged or extended bloom season.

Another consideration is a tree form hydrangea, like Hydrangea paniculata 'Grandiflora' (PeeGee) or 'Tardiva', etc. These will max out within your height requirements, have a very extended bloom season and look enough unlike the 'Twist and Shout' so as to appear a different type of plant altogether.

And small/dwarf trees are no threat to a foundation. FWIW, few full size trees have root systems that are disruptive to foundations unless the foundation is structurally unsound. If the tree fits in that planting area, there is absolutely no sound reason why "the lawn is always best for planting a tree". It often is not and a dwarf tree can look ridiculous plunked down in the middle of an expanse of lawn. Like no thought was given to its placement at all.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 5:14PM
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jimbobfeeny(5a IN)

I would recommend Leatherwood (Dirca palustris). The flowers aren't particularly showy, but it only gets about 8 feet tall and can be very effectively trained as a small tree.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2012 at 7:40PM
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You guys are killing me. I narrow down the choices and you go and throw out more! gah! hehhehe No, seriously, thank you for all your input and recommendations. I feel I should make a decision, or it'll be too cold again to plant.....

I think I may save the Twisty Baby for the other side of the house (front, other side of the garage), there I won't care if it gets bigger).

Not worried about the tree threatening the foundation (maybe if I were planting a wisteria or smth equally vicious), the tree is not going to be big enough to cause problems. Plus, it's removed from the house by design.

The Hydrangea PeeGee sounds very nice! I have 3 Twist-n-Shouts planted at the base of the tree-to-be, so this would be a very nice combination.

So, right now, I think I'm considering these ones strongly:

*Hydrangea PeeGee (love the idea of a pretty hydrangea in a tree form!)

*Redbud Rising Sun (in love with the leaf color changes)

* Malus Sargentii Select A (Love the more formal presentation, which would compliment my roses, as well as flowers for summer and red fruits for winter)

Other recommendations?
And, from above choices, any pros and cons?

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 9:40AM
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jimbobfeeny(5a IN)

How about Halesia diptera (two-winged silverbell)? It gets from 10-15 feet tall, has outstanding white flowers, and isn't very common in the landscape. Why plant what everyone else does? Dare to be different!

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 2:27PM
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thanks for the suggestion. I checked out halesia diptera and the flowers really are lovely, I can see why they call it a snowdrop :) However, the tree itself... meh. Not very interesting?

I don't mind planting something not everyone has, but it's not a main requirement for me. I don't know that much about trees (thus, requiring expertise of all of you :) ), and just want a showy tree that can be a multi-season interest.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2012 at 8:28AM
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hey guys, found this one-Lavender Twist Weeping Redbud..

Can anyone comment? It says 4-10 feet high, 4 would be too small for me, since I do want a tree. 10 feet would be ideal and I think would look awesome and quirky! Any reviews?

    Bookmark   October 18, 2012 at 8:48AM
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I have grown Lavender Twist myself and it is beautiful. People would always stop and comment on it. Mine was about six feet tall. A good choice.

Also, try anything on standard. Dwarf Korean Lilac or Rose of Sharon...Knockout Rose on standard. All good choices.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2012 at 4:24PM
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