8 Tough Trees for Midwest Landscaping

Planting a tree is a long-term commitment and investment. If you choose wisely your trees with provide a lifetime of beauty to your yard. It is important that you do not choose a one-tree-fits-all mentality because every yard has distinctive variables. A few things you need to keep in mind when picking out your trees are the soil type, whether the tree will have enough room to mature (especially if there are power lines), and whether it is cold-hardy in your area.

The following describes four small ornamental trees and four top picks for larger trees that offer great shade.

Small Ornamental Trees


Japanese Tree Lilac

The Japanese tree lilac is an excellent choice for an accent plant and the most adaptable lilac for challenging sites. It shows attractive plumes of flowers that are creamy-white in early summer when other lilacs have faded. When winter comes around, its coppery red bark stands out in. your landscape. The Japanese tree lilac is low-maintenance and does not produce suckers, rarely succumbs to disease, and requires little pruning. It should be planted in full sun and prefers loose, well-drained soil; however, it can tolerate clay. You should allow enough space for good air circulation.

Pagoda Dogwood

Pagoda Dogwoods are quite attractive and a favorite of wildlife gardeners. Its design and scaffolding branches are decorative, and it has a 15-to-25-foot height and spread. You can expect clusters of fragrant white flowers in spring and blue fruits and purple color during the fall. You will need to plant it in the sun or partial shade in moist, rich acidic soil to get the best results. Do not plant alongside the street where urban pollution is an issue.


Serviceberries are a four-season tree, meaning you will get spectacular spring flowers, edible berries, and magnificent fall color and ornamental gray bark. Serviceberries are very adaptable and have no major diseases or insect problems. You will want to plant them in moist, well-drained soil in the sun or shade.

Seven-Son Flower

The Seven-son flower provides you with an attractive peeling bark, fruit, seed heads, and white flowers. It develops to pinkish red in the fall, it is drought-tolerant, does not have any serious insect or disease issues, and can survive in a wide range of soils in full sun or part shade. The Seven-son flower can grow to be a multi-stemmed shrub or be trained as a single-trunk tree.

Larger Trees


Black Gum

Black gum trees offer you beautiful autumn colors that begin with glossy foliage that turns yellow, orange, and scarlet. They can grow anywhere from 30 to 50 feet tall with a pyramidal shape. Black gum trees are known the be slow growers and are also known as sour gum or black tupelo and has a 30-foot spread. They need to be planted in full sun or partial shade in moist, well-drained, acidic soil.

Bitternut Hickory

The Bitternut hickory is one of the fastest growing hickories. It has sulphur yellow leaf buds and a clean, vivid yellow fall leaf color that is the best out of all the hickories. The bitternut hickory grows to be between 60-75 feet tall and has a 40-to-50-foot spread. The nuts that it produces are inedible to humans, but many animals consume them. The bitternut hickory grows the best in moister soil, but it can also adapt well to dry sites and poor soil.

Northern Red Oak

The northern red oak is the fastest growing oak and is not as prone to chlorosis as pin oak. It also creates a wonderful shade tree for larger lawns that can handle its 60–80-foot height and 40–60-foot spread. The northern red oak can also handle pollution and different types of soil, such as compacted soil. During the fall, you are able to enjoy magnificent orange, brown, and red foliage.

Chinkapin Oak

The chinkapin oak does prefer deep, rich bottomland soils; however, it does adapt to a variety of soil types, such as the Midwest’s more alkaline and limestone soils. It is a great choice for those with larger lawns because it grows 50-60 feet tall with a similar spread, and it produces sweet nuts that wildlife love. You will want to plant the chinkapin oak in full sun.

These are just a few small and large trees that work great for many Midwest lawns. There are also many more to choose from, so if you are interested in planting one or more trees in your yard, contact Bluegrass Landscape and Snow Management at (314) 770-2828. Our expert team members can help you choose which tree is best for your needs and which tree will work best for the type of soil you have. Adding trees to your landscape, whether they are big or small, can add beauty and relaxation to your everyday life. Call us today!