Trees are not only gorgeous to look at but they provide our homes with much-needed shade during the summer, which can really help save money on the electric bill while allowing us to enjoy our yards more without the worry of getting sunburns. They also offer some protection from those biting Minnesota winter winds and give us fresher, cleaner air to breathe.
However, if you’re thinking of growing a tree in Minnesota, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the type of soil you have in your area. Minnesota has a varied ecosystem, and many types of soil conditions in which some trees can thrive while others may falter.
Below, we will show you some of the best trees to grow in Minnesota by breaking down our list into four separate regions.
Manchurian Apricot [Prunus armeniaca var. Mandshurica]
First on our list of best trees to grow in Minnesota is the Manchurian Apricot. This fast-growing tree is native to Korea and Manchuria with a rounded, spreading form. It’s drought-resistant and winter hardy and produces white flowers in the spring, golden-orange fall foilage, and edible fruit. Due to early flowering, the fruits are vulnerable to frost damage.
Kentucky Coffeetree [Gymnocladus dioicus]
The Kentucky Coffeetree is a popular choice for large properties such as golf courses and parks. Many cities also use it as a street or ornamental tree. Its picturesque profile really stands out during any season as its branches often form a narrow crown. They are also pollution and drought-resistant.
Patriot Elm [Ulmus Wilsonian hybrid]
The Patriot Elm is a fantastic tree often planted by towns as street trees. They have gorgeously dense, green foliage and form a vase-shaped crown. They are hybrids bred to withstand diseases, pollution, posts, salt well, and poor soil. They are beautiful and very resilient trees.
White Fir [Abies concolor]
The White Fir is an ornamental evergreen native to North America. It has gorgeous green-blue needles that curve upward and outward and, when they are crushed, emit a delightful lemon scent. This plant can tolerate various harsh conditions such as heat, drought, and cold temperatures.
Ponderosa Pine [Pinus ponderosa]
The Ponderosa Pine is the largest western pine species with light wood ranging from yellow to cream to a pale reddish-brown. It has a large crown and a straight trunk. And on hot days, their bark smells like vanilla, and if you break a twig, it has a smell similar to oranges.
Black Ash [Fraxinus nigra]
Black Ash trees are slow-growing, tall, slender trees often found in wetlands and wooded swamps. They have beautiful feather-like leaves and smooth bark when young that turns corky as the tree matures. Their branches grow upward, forming a round-ish crown. They also produce small fruit favored by small mammals and birds.
Black Cherry [Prunus serotina]
Next on our list of the best trees to grow in Minnesota is the Black Cherry tree. This beautiful, large tree is native to the midwest and the eastern U.S. It has pretty white flours in the spring and produces dark pea-sized cherries in late summer. Its bark is scaly and dark when mature and flips upward on the edges.
Eastern Wahoo [Euonymus atropurpureus]
The Eastern Wahoo is a small tree often found along stream banks in rich woods as an understory plant. This colony-forming plant produces beautiful small, hanging, purple flowers in the spring. In the fall, the leaves also have attractive colors when the tree also produces capsulated fruit.
Crabapples often serve as small, versatile, ornamental trees popular in urban landscapes. They bloom bright pink, fragrant flowers of different sizes in the spring and produce fruit between midsummer and midfall. These trees can grow in many soil types and tolerate hot summers and cold winters very well.
Black Hills Spruce [Picea glauca var. densata]
The Black Hills Spruce tree is a small to medium plant with dense growth that forms a cone shape. They are ideal outdoor Christmas trees and are very popular among homeowners. They also make very effective windbreaks and are favored among many popular songbirds.
Northwest and Central Minnesota
Prairie Dream Birch [Betula papyrifera]
The Prairie Dream Birch has beautiful snow-white bark with lovely dark green foliage that turns a golden-yellow during the fall. This tree has superior adaptation qualities with a semi-pyramidal, upright, oval-shaped growth habit that widens as it matures. The white bark also peels to reveal an inner orange bark.
Bitternut Hickory [Cara cordinformis]
The Bitternut Hickory is a large tree native to North America and best used for larger landscapes. Its large compound leaves produce a four-part nut, and their leaves turn yellow in the fall. These trees are popular in Chicago city parks and grow upright into an oval-round crown.
American Sentry Linden [Tilia americana]
The American Sentry Linden has dense shade, heart-shaped leaves, and produces fragrant flowers. This tree is uniquely symmetrical and is native to the Chicago region. They are highly resistant to Japanese beetles and are popular choices for many urban parks with high resistance to pollution.
European Larch [Larix decidua]
The European Larch is an excellent choice for large properties and are often found in many public parks. Unlike most conifers, the European larch drops needles in winter. They have bright green foliage during the spring that changes to a golden-yellow in the fall.
American Arborvitae (white cedar) [Thuja occidentalis]
The American Arborvitae is a very popular evergreen used in hedges and makes fantastic privacy trees. Native Americans named the tree arborvitae, which translates as ” tree of life,” because they used it for medical purposes. Their cones open up and appear as small flowers, something very appealing to birds. They can also grow as high as 50 feet tall.
The Northern Tall Grass Prairie Region
Biloba Ginkgo [Ginkgo biloba]
The Ginko tree is a very attractive, hardy, pest-resistant variety with large fan-like leaves that change from green to a vivid yellow during the fall. However, one should only purchase male trees, as the female trees produce seeds with a soft and fruitlike outer layer that can make a mess and have a strong odor.
Ironwood Hophornbeam [Ostrya virginiana]
The Ironwood has lovely birch-like leaves but is also a tough understory tree, with brown-grayish flaky bark, pretty hop-like fruits, and fine-textured branches that droop. It’s considered among the toughest native hardwoods in Illinois, resistant to many insects and diseases. It’s a very attractive and solid ornamental tree.
Sugar Maple [Acer saccharum]
Sugar Maple is native to the midwest and is beloved for its striking fall colors raging from vivid yellow to burnt-orange. It has lustrous foilage providing excellent shade during the summer, making it a favorite for golf courses, parks, and homes.
Siberian Larch [Larix sibirica]
The Siberian Larch is a loose, tall, coniferous tree sporting fine, deciduous needles that go from bright green during the spring and turn into dazzling gold in the fall. It likes locations with lots of moisture and light soil and loses its needles in the fall. However, in the other three seasons, it looks magnificent! It also has rough gray bark and gold branches that add a unique dimension to any landscape.
Japanese Tree Lilac [Syringa reticulata subsp. reticulata]
Last, but not least on our list of great trees to grow in Minnesota is the Japanese Tree Lilac. The Japanese Tree Lilac is a very popular tree found in many residential areas and public parks. They are larger than the shrub lilacs, and their small fragrant creamy-white flowers grow in large clusters. They typically bloom a bit later and mature to grow between 20-30 feet tall with a 15-25 foot width. These trees make a lovely addition to any property with fragrant flowers that make breathing the fresh outdoor Minnesota air even more of a pleasure.
The Best Trees to Grow in Minnesota Yards
Growing the best trees for your home in Minnesota will largely depend on where you live and the type of soil you have. But selecting the right tree for your area, you’ll ensure its successful growth for years to come. In that way, our trees become a part of a family, something that connects people to past and future generations.
If you are a Minnesota gardener and you have a type of tree in your yard that we didn’t mention, please let us know about your tree in the comments section. We’d love to hear from you!
Looking to upgrade your outdoor spaces at home? Then find inspiration for your Minnesota backyard with our landscaping ideas, outdoor furniture suggestions, gardening recommendations, and more!
- About the Author
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Born in Madelia, MN, to a now 5-generation Minnesota family, Ryan’s MN roots go deep.
A painter by day, Ryan founded Life in Minnesota in 2013 with his wife Kelly to chronicle their musings on everything Minnesota. Ryan and Kelly are raising their 7 kiddos in Maple Grove, MN.
When he’s not shuttling his kids around to hockey practice, you might find him in the shop working on his leatherwork. Undoubtedly, there will be a family trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area every summer, and of course weekends at Grandpa’s cabin up north in the summer.