10 great flowering trees

May 6, 2014

I believe that every plant should holds its own in more than one season.  In small gardens you need your plants to do double duty.

Why have just another tree when you could have a tree that flowers and has cool bark, great fall color or edible fruit?

Don’t settle, get more out of your plants with these great flowering trees:

Stewartia pseudocamellia – Japanese Stewartia

Japanese Stewartia is a fantastic tree if you are looking for year-round interest.  During the winter months the tree shows off its mottled grey, red, pink and cream colored bark.  The summer brings rich green leaves followed by white and yellow camellia-like flowers by July.  Stewartia pseudocamellia also has fantastic fall colors from yellow to red-orange.  I’ve seen it preform best with protection from hot afternoon sun unless has summer irrigation then you can go for full sun.  Japanese Stewartia is hardy down to zone 5 making it a definite winner here in the Pacific Northwest.

Stewartia pseudocamellia 03

Stewartia pseudocamellia

Clerodendrum trichotomum – Harlequin Glorybower

This small tree is great in containers or smaller gardens.  Harlequin Glorybower puts on a show with its fragrant white petals set in red calyx in summer.  The white petals are followed by bright blue berries atop the still present red calyx.  What is even more interesting than the flowers is the fragrance of the foliage.  Some call it ‘peanut butter tree’ because the smell produced when you rub the leaves.  Go easy on pruning this one to prevent suckers, although this shouldn’t be tempting as the tree only grows to about 15′.

Fleurs violettes et blanches

Clerodendron trichotomum

Cercis canadensis – Eastern Redbud

The flowers on this tree are unlike most we typically see around.  The deep rose to reddish-purple blooms appear before the leaves come on in spring.  Somewhat small and pea-shaped they hug the branches making the stems appear pink from a distance.  Redbud is a small tree, only growing 20′ or so in the Pacific Northwest.  There are many varieties at nurseries now, my favorite being the Forest Pansy for the burgundy summer foliage that turns red-orange in fall.

Cercis canadensis redbud mid profuse

Cercis canadensis

Chionanthus virginicus – White Fringetree

Fringetree is a great small tree, often growing to 15-18′.  The key feature of this tree is its long display of white strap-like flowers from late spring to early summer.  Female plants will follow the flowers up with attractive clusters of dark berries in late summer.  Chionanthus fall color is variable but often a pale yellow color.

Chionanthus virginicus a1

Chionanthus virginicus

Lagerstroemia hybridsCrape Myrtle

Crape Myrtle, although only hardy to zone 6 or 7, is a fantastic small tree for milder areas in the Puget Sound area.  It rivals the Stewartia in its multi-season interest.  It can make gardeners nervous every spring, as it is one of the last plants to leaf leaving us to think it has died.  When it finally leafs out the dark green glossy leaves have an almost evergreen like quality to them.  The peeling mottled bark reveals red, orange, pink and creamy tones that look even better in the rain which is a bonus around here.  In LATE summer the flowers appear at the tips of the branches.  To get a good show it prefers a hot sunny location.  I’ve seen it as a street tree, against concrete walls and on blazing hot patios.  My favorite is Zuni for its bright pink flowers.  Oh, and to top it all off the fall color is deep red to burgundy!

Lagerstroemia indica blooming

Lagerstroemia indica

Oxydendrum arboreum – Sourwood

I know this article is about flowers but to be honest what I love most is the fall color of the Sourwood tree.  It has the most spectacular orange to dark red fall color. This underutilized tree has chains of white flowers in late summer.  A great, low maintenance small to medium tree.  If you are looking for fall color this is it!

Sourwood in autumn (foliage closeup)

Oxydendrum arboreum (fall color with flower remnants)

Heptacodium miconioides – Seven Son Flower

This tree has been a recent obsession of mine.  Just when the summer seems to be winding down that’s when Helptacodium starts to shine.  In late summer it produces masses of fragrant white flowers with rose colored calyxes (lower part of the flower) that persist through fall.  The flowers are followed by attractive purple fruit.  During the summer months the exfoliating pale tan bark reveals streaks of dark inner bark.  This is best grown as a multi-stemmed specimen with little pruning.

Heptacodium miconoides

Heptacodium miconoides

Cornus alternifolia – Pagoda Dogwood

The graceful horizontal branching structure provides makes it an architectural element in the garden.   In late spring the Pagoda Dogwood’s tiered branches are covered with clusters of small white flowers. There are a few common cultivars seen in the nurseries with plain green and variegated leaves.  My favorite, and hardy to find, is Golden Shadows which has gold and green variegated foliage.  Fall color tends toward the red-orange, mimicking the reddish colors of the new growth.

Cornus alternifolia 5473422

Cornus alternifolia

Cornus mas – Cornelian Cherry

For all you urban homesteaders out there Cornus mas is the flowering tree for you.  Not only does it produce masses of bright yellow flowers in late winter before the leaves emerge but it has edible fruit!  The small red ‘cherries’ ripen in summer if you can get them before the birds.  Cornelian cherry fruit are a bit tart but if you’re into baking and preserving they’ll hit the spot.  Another great smaller tree usually growing to only 20′.

Cornus mas F

Cornus mas

Syringa reticulata – Japanese Tree Lilac

In late spring to early summer the Tree Lilac is covered with cones of creamy white fragrant flowers that attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Syringa reticulata is a great smaller tree growing to about 20′ it is best suited in a sunny spot.  Keep your eye out for a cultivar called Golden Eclipse if you like variegated golden foliage.

Syringa reticulata USDA2

Syringa reticulata

Do you have a favorite tree? Great fall color, flowers or cool bark?  Leave us a comment below and let us know your favorite multi-season trees!

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