Choosing ornamental plantings for your property should start with understanding its cultural conditions. This will help you avoid trees you may love, but that will not thrive. Instead, optimize your landscaping outcomes by choosing what will grow where it’s planted.
There are different types of tree species, varieties, and cultivars, the latter being improved versions of the species. For example, Honeylocust cultivars will have improved shapes, but more importantly, they will not produce undesirable seed pods or thorns, thereby making them better for residential properties.
Be realistic about your goals and the performance of the plantings you have in mind. We believe nearly every shade, ornamental, and evergreen tree has merit. Some will last for decades or more, becoming majestic pieces of living architecture that grace the property.
If utility is your primary goal, consider inexpensive trees that will provide desirable privacy in just a few years. There will be tradeoffs, such as a shorter lifespan, something that is common with faster growing trees.
The following are some factors to consider that will enhance your chances for success.
Horticultural Conditions That Support Growth and Longevity
#1. Soil Quality – Soil quality is determined by hundreds of factors. The most important are organic matter and a suitable soil structure that permits the free exchange of air, water, and nutrients from the environment. Soil that has been compacted by construction or other traffic has been compromised. This may require replacing at least the top portion with fresh soil rich in organic matter.
#2. Natural Drainage – Most drainage is surface drainage that carries water to low points where it escapes the property naturally or with drainage systems. Subsurface drainage systems are often required in suburban areas to support the community’s master plan. Sometimes supplemental measures are necessary due to manipulation of the natural grade, such as with the installation of patios, walls, and other structures. Poor drainage prevents trees from getting the oxygen they need.
#3. Nearby Plantings – When trees are planted in beds with other ornamental plantings, there is often a beneficial symbiotic relationship. Their root systems work together to share essential elements and create the right environment for beneficial mycorrhizal fungi. In contrast, there are some plants, namely common turfgrass, with aggressive root systems that compete with trees for these essential elements.
#4. Prevailing Wind, Sun, and Rain – When homes and other buildings are involved, the effects can be favorable or detrimental. Structures can minimize harsh sun and winds, but they can also restrict natural rainfall. It’s necessary to remember that most trees thrive better in groupings where they can collectively adapt to the environment. Whereas, a single tree located in the center of a sunny turfgrass lawn is likely to face those tough conditions on its own.
#5. Micro-Conditions – Fences and mature trees create favorable microclimates by protecting smaller plants, including smaller ornamental trees, from environmental forces. Take the time to investigate these and the effects of nearby buildings. South-facing walls and windows can reflect a great deal of heat that challenges trees. In these situations, it’s better to choose trees that have more durable, waxier leaves, such as oaks and conifers.
#6. Care and Maintenance – You may care for your landscaping or hire professionals, but in either case, there is no substitute for being aware of changes throughout the seasons. For example, you may have an automated irrigation system that provides supplemental water, but it must be regulated based on how much rain is received. When you communicate your observations to the professionals that care for your landscaping, you help them achieve better outcomes.
The best conditions for trees to thrive are found in their native environment. When in doubt, try to emulate these conditions, and you will more likely meet with success.
Reliable Oklahoma Trees by Category
#1. Evergreen Trees
When Bermudagrass turns its winter straw color, Oklahomans appreciate their evergreen trees.
- Arborvitae – This moisture-tolerant, low-maintenance conifer has soft needles and a shape that lends itself to groupings. It is often used for privacy and backdrops for landscape elements such as fire pits and water features.
- Holly – There are many holly varieties to suit nearly every landscaping purpose, some dwarf and others growing to ten feet tall or more. These broadleaf evergreens are great for low hedges and can be trimmed for formal and informal designs.
- Southern Magnolia – This is another broadleaf evergreen. The Southern Magnolia is a magnificent specimen tree with shiny, leaves and creamy white flowers that bloom from May to June. It does require well-drained, moist soils, and is well-suited to our Oklahoma climate.
#2. Deciduous Shade Trees
Shade trees cool our outdoor environments, but they offer much more. Stately oaks and maples develop into majestic specimens that are living architectural elements in a landscape. Their canopies define the vertical space to make more intimate outdoor rooms.
- Red Maple – The Red Maple is a workhouse shade tree. It thrives in sun and shade and prefers rich, moist soils. In fact, it can tolerate periods of excessive moisture better than most trees.
- Chinquapin Oak – There are many oaks to choose from, but if you can find a Chinquapin Oak you have a unique shade tree. Unlike other oaks, it allows the filtered sun to reach lower plantings beneath its canopy.
- Sweetgum – This is a large shade tree with palmate, typical 5-lobed, star-shaped leaves that turn fiery shades of red, orange, yellow, and purple in the fall. The native tree produces a spiny fruit that can be objectionable in residential settings, but there are cultivated Sweetgum varieties that are fruitless.
#3. Ornamental Trees
Ornamental trees are sought after for their unique qualities. These may be showy spring flowers, persistent fruit that provides winter interest and attracts birds, and unique versions of plants we have come to love, such as tree-form lilac and hydrangea.
- Crape Myrtle – This is an attractive small, typically multi-stemmed ornamental tree or shrub that has been called the Lilac of the South. Showy white, lavender, red, and pink flowers are its hallmark, lasting most of the summer. The foliage is dark green changing in fall to yellows, oranges, and reds, and the bark is a notable feature that shows well year-round.
- Prairifire Crabapple – Most crabapple trees are susceptible to apple scab and other diseases that take the joy out of their springtime show. Prairifire is a variety with stunning dark pink to magenta flowers that is highly resistant to those diseases.
- Tree form Lilac and Hydrangea – If you adore the fragrance and flower of lilacs and hydrangeas but want a more formal specimen, these are an excellent choice that will get noticed and talked about. See the photo above for a perfect example.
Proactive Landscaping: Helping Oklahoma Homeowners Enjoy Outdoor Living
Our top priority is creating living spaces that are right for you. We pride ourselves on working with you from concept to construction to create the right landscape for your needs. Contact us today for a free consultation to explore your next landscaping project.