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Shade Trees - zone 5 - Southeastern Wisconsin

Posted by maggie2 5 (My Page) on
Sun, May 16, 10 at 8:45

Good Morning! I think I have my husband talked into "tree shopping" today. May I ask for suggestions for shade trees, full sun, windy location, clay soil, and medium to fast growing. I don't have a green thumb, so they need to be able to fend for themselves. Thanks for any suggestions.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Shade Trees - zone 5 - Southeastern Wisconsin

There's just so many. You'd be best to go looking around locally and see what's available BUT don't buy anything on your first visit. First come back here and tell us what you found that you like and we can give you opinions on what you found. It's also much easier to tell you some trees to avoid. The most commonly available tree found in garden centers is flowering callery pear and that's one you definitely want to avoid.

RE: Shade Trees - zone 5 - Southeastern Wisconsin

Here are the suggestions we received from our local nurseries.

Maple, Norway, Crimson King
Maple, Freemani, Autumn Blaze
Bur Oak
Red Oak
Amelanchier, Autumn Brilliance

Any comments or suggestions? Are these a good choice?


RE: Shade Trees - zone 5 - Southeastern Wisconsin

You found some good ones, some mediocre ones and one to definitely avoid.

Starting with my personal favs...
Northern Red Oak. Huge tree. Fast growing. very desirable. Godd fall color. Big leaves
Bur oak. The same but without the fall color and not as fast growing.
Amalanchier (aka serviceberry) very nice tree. It is a small tree. I'd recommend it for use with a small grouping of them for massing effect of the flowers, berries and fall foliage. You should note however that these send up suckers big time which means you'll have to get out there 2-3 times a season to cut them unless you want it to turn into a multistemmed colony. Would also make a nice specimen tree for a small front yard.
The hawthorns can be variable. The best on the market right now is probably winter king. It's another small tree with a wide-spreading canopy.
Freemans maple is a cross between an undesirable species, silver maple and a desireable species, red maple. This hybrid is advantageous for folks out west with alkaline soils that silver maple tolerates but red maple doesn't. If this soil issue is not a concern for you, I would recommend red maple instead. There are countless cultivars like october glory, red sunset and the list goes on and on. There are some issues I have with autumn blaze maples but I won't get into that.
Hackberry. On the blah side. Has some issues with pest/disease but tolerant of tough sites. Not the most ornamental of the bunch but wildlife is attracted to the fruit.
Norway maple is an exotic maple that has become a pest species in a portion of the country. They are slow growing and usually have poor to fair fall color. They come in all shapes and sizes though. Most look like a dense lollipop. A far better alternative to norway maple is sugar maple. Depending on the use, sugar maple is not a good choice such as for a street tree as they are not as tolerant of road salts and urban stresses. I don't know if that's an issue though. Personally, I'd plant a sugar maple instead and ask your nursery why they are selling an invasive species like norway maple. If you want more of a lollipop with med-fast rate of growth, October Glory Red Maple. Ask for it by name.

RE: Shade Trees - zone 5 - Southeastern Wisconsin

  • Posted by whaas 5a Milwaukee (My Page) on
    Sat, May 22, 10 at 9:47

Which nursery are you going to?

Also is it going to be just a tree on its own or do you plan to plant around it in the future?

Hackberry - no
Hawthorn - depends on the cultivar (like Thornless Cockspur, Winter King if you don't have junipers and other rose family trees in the area)
Maple, Norway, Crimson King - no, only cultivar I recommend in Norwegian Sunset
Maple, Freemani, Autumn Blaze - Only recommend if you aren't going to plant around it. Also this is a better choice for SE WI than Red Maple.
Bur Oak - If you have the space, this is my first choice
Red Oak - no, oak wilt is getting to be more of an issue here.
Amelanchier, Autumn Brilliance - no, I don't consider this a shade tree. Doesn't like windy locations all that much either.

Other choices to consider Swamp White Oak (you'll like this more than Burr Oak) and Silver Linden.

How windy is it? Are you in a new subdivision with no trees / limited structures?

Also I highly suggest you get the tree planted, otherwise you should wait till fall or spring.

RE: Shade Trees - zone 5 - Southeastern Wisconsin

Chances are that clay soil in SE WI has a relatively high pH, so I'd agree with whaas that Autumn Blaze is a better choice than red maple (avoid Red Sunset and October Glory, which don't handle the higher pH very well). Autumn Blaze is over-planted and does have its own set of problems, but it's still a reasonable choice. Autumn Fantasy or Redpointe would be preferable to Autumn Blaze (if you can find them). I'd agree with the other posters that you should avoid Norway maples, including Crimson King (CK is relatively slow growing as well). Norwegian Sunset is a hybrid Norway maple, but in my opinion not much better than regular Norway maple, and fall color is inconsistent.

Not sure how much oak wilt disease is in your area, but lots of Red Oaks are planted here in SE MI without too much of a problem (oak wilt is here, but doesn't seem to be as prevalent as in some areas of WI & MN).

Bur Oak & Swamp White Oak are good trees, but some would say Bur is "on the blah side". Neither generally has good fall color. In my opinion, Heritage Oak (a Bur x English hybrid) is a better looking tree than either Bur or Swamp White - Heritage has nice dark green, glossy leaves, and occasionally has decent yellow fall color.

If fast growth is a priority, you could also consider one of the newer hybrid elms - Accolade and Triumph are both good looking trees, and are disease resistant. But neither has very good fall color (true for most elms).

RE: Shade Trees - zone 5 - Southeastern Wisconsin

Thanks for the information.

whaas, the nurseries we have visited are Paul Swartz in Burlington, Breezy Hill in Salem and Arbor Vista in Delavan. Since you are in our area, do you have any other suggestions for nurseries? Also, the trees will be on their own - no plantings underneath. Yes, it is very windy here. We live on 5 acres that was once a wheat field.

When I was doing research on trees for our area, there were some trees recommended; however, the nurseries we visited didn't seem to have any or some of them. Those trees were Tuliptree, Quaking Aspen and Horsechestnut. What do you think of those and would you recommend planting them?

RE: Shade Trees - zone 5 - Southeastern Wisconsin

  • Posted by whaas 5a Milwaukee (My Page) on
    Sat, May 29, 10 at 12:27

For that situation I'd recommend mixing it up with these trees below. Most are moderately to highly drought tolerate and have no issues with open windy sites. Plus they are readily available at decent prices. Once you go along and get these established than you can move to more interesting trees like Yellowwood, Paperbark Maple, Homestead Buckeye, Tuliptree, Magnolia, american Beech, Seven Son Flower, Kousa Dogwood etc.

Minors Garden Center has good stock and prices...only recommend planting early spring (like early April) and then fall (late sept/early oct)

Faster Growing Big Trees:
Swamp White Oak
Bur Oak
Freeman Maples
Acolade Elm
Dura heat or Heritage River Birch

Slower Growing Big Trees:
Silver Linden
Autumn Gold Gingko

Medium Size Flowering trees:
Crusader Hawthorn
Prarie Fire or Donald Wyman Crabapple
Lilac tree

Other medium size trees:
Ostrya virginiana
Carpinus caroliniana (moderately wind and drought tolerate)

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