If you’ve taken a walk through a neighborhood or a hike on one of our beautiful local trails in the springtime, one of the sure signs that spring is here is when the flowering trees start to bloom.
Whether you’d like to reap some of the many benefits of trees by planting some on your property, or you’re just wondering what kinds of trees bloom here, we’ve listed some of our favorite spring-flowering trees in the Triad area below. There are many more to choose from, but these beauties definitely top our list.
Other common names include Japanese magnolia, Mulan magnolia (or Mulan tree), purple magnolia, red magnolia, and brilliant magnolia.
Smaller than most types of magnolia trees, Magnolia liliflora grows to about 8 to 12 feet tall, so it’s often used as a shrub or hedge. The unique flowers look very similar to tulips, which is where it gets one of its many names.
One of the things that makes the tulip magnolia especially stunning is that the flowers tend to appear before the leaves, drawing even more attention to the dark pink blooms. The trees with the darkest floral colors are usually tulip magnolias or Mulan trees, whereas the larger, pinker blooms usually appear on the more common Saucer Magnolia tree, a hybrid.
Magnolia trees do best in full sun for the best flowering, but they will survive in partial shade. They don’t do well in strong winds or freezing temperatures and should be planted in well-drained, rich soils with a slight acidity. Mulch can be beneficial to help retain moisture and to protect from the cold. Prune occasionally, but only right after flowering, or you might reduce the flower production the following spring.
Cultivars worth considering are ‘Nigra’ and ‘Star Wars.’
While the magnolia tree has adapted to our climate from its native China, the eastern redbud tree is a North Carolina native. Cercis canadensis will grow 20 to 30 feet tall, and, just like the tulip magnolia, can be grown as a large shrub or an ornamental tree.
You might spot the small purplish blooms while out for a hike, as it grows wild all across the state. The small flowers have been called “pea-like,” (it’s actually part of the same family as peas and the flowers apparently taste like them!) and appear on bare branches starting in March or April.
Though the flowers are the show-stopping element of this tree, the heart-shaped dark green leaves bring interest to your yard all summer long, and turn bright yellow in the fall.
If you’d like to add it to your landscape, be sure to pick the right location, as it needs well-drained soil and sun to partial shade, and does not transplant well.
There are many excellent redbud cultivars to choose from, each with different features that make them stand out. Below are some you may want to plant on your property:
- ‘Ace of Hearts’
- ‘Alba’ – white flowers
- ‘Appalachian Red’ – hot pink flowers
- ‘Covey’ – weeping form
- ‘Flame’ – double flowers, seedless
- ‘Floating Clouds’ – variegated green/white foliage
- ‘Forest Pansy’ – purple foliage, pink flowers
- ‘Greswan’ – purple foliage
- ‘Hearts of Gold’ – golden foliage
- ‘Ruby Falls’ – weeping with purple foliage
- ‘Rising Sun’ – golden foliage with orange overtones in new growth
- ‘Silver Cloud’ – variegated green/white foliage
- ‘Tom Thumb’ – miniature foliage
- ‘Whitewater’ – weeping with variegated green and white foliage
- ‘Wither’s Pink Charm’
We’ve focused on a North Carolina native tree, but now we’ll step it up a notch and talk about North Carolina’s state flower – the dogwood!
There are three different kinds of dogwood trees native to North Carolina, but the flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) is the most recognizable. Dogwoods are known for their white or pink flowers, but – surprise! – the flowers are actually small, greenish-yellow and rarely noticed. It’s the four “bracts” surrounding the flowers that look more “floral” and get all the attention.
Dogwoods can grow 30 to 40 feet, and are often wider than tall when full-grown, so make sure you have adequate room for it to grow outwards. They like acidic and well-drained soil, partial shade, and mulch to keep the soil moist.
While dogwood trees provide interest year-round with their “flowers”, foliage, fruit, and attractiveness to wildlife, they are dogged (pun intended) with a number of issues. They don’t do well in drought or around pollution, and are susceptible to many pests and diseases, leading to the death of many dogwoods in our area. So keep in mind that while beautiful, they may need some extra TLC.
An alternative to the native dogwood tree is an Asian variety, Cornus kousa, which is more resistant to pests and diseases. This Asian Dogwood needs full sun and blooms later than its American counterpart, showing off its flowers against a backdrop of dark green leaves.
You can still enjoy our native dogwood trees by visiting one of North Carolina’s many dogwood festivals across the state every April.
Cultivars that do well in our area include Cornus florida ‘Rubra’ and Cornus kousa ‘Wolf Eyes’.
Black or Wild Cherry
Also called rum cherry or mountain cherry, Prunus serotina ia a native deciduous tree that grows much larger than the previously mentioned trees, reaching heights of 50 to 80 (and occasionally, 100) feet. It tends to grow quickly and last a long time; some black cherry trees are over 250 years old.
The small spring flowers of the black or wild cherry tree are white and form in long clusters that eventually turn to cherries. The fruit are inedible in their natural state but are often used in jams and jellies or to flavor liquors (hence the “rum” name). The flowers appear alongside the shiny leaves in late April or May, so it flowers later than other trees.
Black cherry trees like sun or partial shade and can survive in a variety of soil types. They tend to be messy and prone to storm damage. While the fruit may be consumed, all other parts (including the pits, stems, twigs, and leaves) are poisonous because they contain cyanogenic glycosides. Keep this in mind if you have pets – this is one kind of stick that a dog should not fetch (or chew!)
Black cherry trees are most often recognized by their bark, which is dark gray or black when mature. The wood from black cherry trees is the reddish-brown wood commonly used in making cabinets and furniture.
There’s also a form of cherry tree that is actually named for our state, the Carolina cherry laurel tree (Prunus caroliniana), but this tree is just as poisonous as the black cherry tree, so plant with caution if there are pets around. The Carolina cherry laurel tree is much smaller, growing to only 15-36 feet tall. It is often planted as an evergreen shrub, and has similar small white flowers to the black cherry tree that grow in clusters.
One black cherry cultivar to consider is ‘Spring Sparkle’.
If you’re interested in adding some spring-flowering trees to your property in the Triad area, give us a call at 336-416-0550. We’d be happy to help you choose the right tree for your yard.