Growing Together: These trees will have you made in the shade

FARGO -- We have a problem. Most home yards have space for one, two or maybe three trees. But many of us would like one each of the beauties we're about to preview.

The tree breeding program at NDSU has developed hardy varieties like the Prairie Torch Buckeye seen at Sheyenne Gardens in Harwood.David Samson / The Forum
Beacause trees are a long term investment, it's important to choose varieties adapted to our region such as this Korean Maple at Sheyenne Gardens in Harwood, N.D. David Samson / Forum News Service

FARGO -- We have a problem. Most home yards have space for one, two or maybe three trees. But many of us would like one each of the beauties we're about to preview.

Included within the following tree types are named varieties, which in the nursery trade are called "cultivars," a word shortened from cultivated varieties. All trees listed are adapted to our region's conditions.

Tall-growing shade trees

These surpass 45 feet, which is a height arching over city streets and growing higher than rooftops.

-- Elm. Its vase-shaped form was once the leading boulevard tree. New disease-resistant cultivars include Prairie Expedition, Discovery and New Horizon.


-- Ash. Overplanted during the past 30 years to replace elms, they're no longer widely recommended because of possible devastation by the Emerald Ash Borer.

-- Hackberry. A good alternative to ash. The species' shape is round spreading. The cultivar Prairie Sentinel has a columnar, narrowed shape.

-- Cottonwood. North Dakota's largest tree is a member of the poplar genus.

-- Hybrid Poplar. Also called "cottonless cottonwoods" they're rapid growers with a lifespan of about 25 to 30 years. Cultivars include Sundancer, Assiniboine and Northwest.

-- American Linden. Also called basswood, it's a beautiful shade tree for yard or boulevard. True North and American Dreams are rounded cultivars. Redmond and hybrid Dropmore maintain a pyramidal shape.

-- Mongolian Linden. An extremely hardy cultivar is Harvest Gold, with an upright form, golden fall color and decorative exfoliating bark.

-- Silver Maple. Its form is large and spreading, but its susceptibility to iron chlorosis causes yellowing foliage and decreased vigor.

-- Sugar Maple. Better adapted to naturally forested regions than prairies, new cultivars show increased adaptability for our area including Northern Flare, Unity, Inferno and Lord Selkirk.


-- Hybrid Maples. Autumn Blaze has been widely planted, but it thrives in some yards while struggling in others.

-- Larch. Its leaves look like evergreen needles, except its foliage drops in fall with a vibrant golden yellow color.

-- Bur Oak. Majestic, rounded and long-lived shade tree. Top Gun and Urban Pinnacle are new, interesting upright, columnar, less-broad cultivars.

-- Hybrid Oaks. Winter-hardy, recommended types include Admiration, Prairie Stature and Heritage.

-- Black Walnut. Valuable lumber and edible nuts on a sturdy, rounded oval tree.

-- Weeping Willow. Classic pendulous twigs on a tree that requires space. Cultivars include Prairie Cascade and Lace Weeping Willow.

-- Laurel Willow. This rounded, non-weeping tree has beautiful glossy foliage, with a fast growth rate. The cultivar Prairie Reflection is an North Dakota State University introduction.

-- Honeylocust. The finely divided leaves provide filtered shade. Northern Acclaim is a recommended winter-hardy cultivar developed at NDSU.


-- Ponderosa Pine. The form of this long-needled evergreen is pyramidal when young, becoming oval with age.

-- Scotch Pine. The beautiful copper-orange bark is an easy identifier. Pyramidal when young and stately-spreading with age.

-- Black Hills Spruce. Large, dense pyramidal evergreen with dark green, soft needles ½ inch in length or less. Better disease resistance than Colorado spruce.

-- Colorado Spruce. Large pyramidal shaped evergreen with blue or green sharp needles slightly over an inch long. Its susceptibility to needle diseases makes planting questionable.

Medium-height trees

The following types grow 25 to 45 feet high and are beautiful where a decorative specimen tree can be featured or for smaller-scale shade.

-- Paper Birch. The classic decorative, white-barked birch can be grown in multiple-trunked clumps or singly. Best-performing cultivars for our region include Prairie Dream and Renaissance Reflection.

-- Asian White Birch. Outstanding golden fall color and year-round white bark on narrow pyramidal to columnar forms. Choose Dakota Pinnacle or Parkland Pillar.

-- River Birch. Beautiful exfoliating, shaggy tan bark graces this well-adapted showy specimen. Cultivars include Northern Tribute and Heritage.

-- Amur Chokecherry. Shiny, copper-colored bark.

-- Canada Red Cherry. Also known as Schubert Chokecherry, this common, purple-leaved tree is often troubled by a disease called black knot.

-- Quaking Aspen. The rustling of the leaves in the breeze is characteristic of this tidy tree. Prairie Gold cultivar has striking autumn color, and Mountain Sentinel is a narrow columnar form.

-- Ironwood. Dark green summer leaves are followed by attractive yellow autumn color.

-- Ornamental Flowering Crabapples. Best May-flowering tree available in cultivars of rose-red, pink and white too numerous to mention.

-- Mountain Ash. Clusters of red berries add interest to the dark green leaves. Russian and Showy mountain ash are common types.

-- Russian Olive. This silver-leaved tree, used more often in past plantings, adds a colorful contrast.

-- Ohio Buckeye. Well-adapted regional varieties with superb autumn color include Prairie Torch and Autumn Splendor.

-- Prairie Horizon Alder. Rapid growing, medium tree with lush, dark green leaves.

Small trees

Less than 25 feet tall, they create beautiful features in small spaces.

-- Pekin Lilac. Unique and showy coppery-orange peeling bark with large creamy-white flower clusters. Best cultivar is NDSU's own Copper Curls.

-- Japanese Tree Lilac. Accent tree with clusters of creamy white flowers in early summer. Choice cultivars include Ivory Silk and Ivory Pillar.

-- Amur and Tatarian Maples. Scarlet color on both seed samaras and fall foliage make cultivars such as Flame, Ruby Slippers, Hotwings and Fireworks attractive.

-- Korean Maple. Beautifully shaped foliage with vibrant autumn color.

-- Prairie Gem Flowering Pear. White flowers in spring on a neatly tailored globe-shape tree.

Don Kinzler, a lifelong gardener, worked as an NDSU Extension horticulturist and owned Kinzler's Greenhouse in Fargo. Tune in to his weekly radio segment at noon Wednesdays on WDAY Radio 970. Readers can reach him at forumgrowingtogether//

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