The best flowering trees will create a canopy of flowers in the sky. Even when the petals fall, they make a pool of stippled color at ground level. The spectacle returns year after year, bigger and better than ever.
Just like the best trees for small gardens, there are many flowering trees to choose from, each with its own special merits. But, when buying and planting any tree, it's always important to consider how tall and wide it will grow over the years. If space is tight, an upright or compact tree would be the best choice. These can include certain flowering dogwoods, amelanchier and some crab apple trees. For larger areas, spreading trees are a better option.
Flowering trees can work at the back of your borders or flowerbed ideas, or as a centerpiece placed in the middle of a lawn where the flower show will be appreciated to its best advantage. Sarah Squire, Chairman of Squire’s Garden Centres says, 'trees give structure and architecture to a garden. Trees can be multifunctional too – screening an unattractive view or helping to filter noise and air pollution if you live near a busy road. They also benefit nature significantly: providing pollen for insects and shelter for birds, and converting air-borne carbon dioxide into oxygen.'
Some trees flower in early spring – magnolias are definitely one of the best flowering trees for March. Others bring blossom to the garden a little later in the season. Once the show is over, they will go on to display attractive fruits, colorful berries, and later on, stunning autumn foliage, making them great seasonal all-rounders. Every garden should have at least one!
Our pick of the best flowering trees
1. Snowdrop tree
Just as magical as its name suggests, the branches of this medium-sized deciduous tree (Halesia carolina) are smothered in elegant pendants of bell-shaped white flowers in April and May, before the leaves unfurl.
A North American native species, this tree can grow from 5m-16m tall, and will cope with full sun or partially shaded conditions. It prefers neutral to acid well-drained soil. Avoid planting in exposed areas.
It may take a few years to start flowering, but this tree is well worth the wait. Pair alongside our cottage garden ideas for a romantic scene.
2. Magnolia grandiflora
If you're looking for the best flowering trees that make a statement, then this is a real stop-them-in-their-tracks feature.
The bull bay, as it is also known, is a medium to large tree, growing to around 12m tall. It is native to south eastern USA, but it will thrive in the UK in sheltered conditions, in full sun or part shade. It produces fabulously fragrant, large, creamy-white cup-shaped flowers (25cm in diameter) in late summer.
Magnolia grandiflora will tolerate chalk, clay, loam and sandy soil, if it is moist yet well-drained. Try incorporating it into your modern garden ideas for an eye-catching feature.
3. Eucryphia nymansensis
This is a stunning tree, also known as the 'brush bush'. It's an evergreen, so will provide year-round interest with its foliage. However, the large, scented, cup-shaped flowers in their pretty white hue are the main event, which bloom in late summer to autumn.
Grow in partial shade (it would work well alongside our shade garden ideas) or full sun in a sheltered spot. A woodland garden is an ideal situation.
Although it looks exotic, this tree is easy to maintain, only requiring a light prune in late winter. Its ultimate height is 12-15m.
An understandably popular tree, often recommended by garden designers and widely available to buy, it has clusters of incredibly pretty white star-shaped flowers on soft copper colored foliage in the spring.
It is compact and slim, so is one of the best flowering trees for smaller gardens. Amelanchier lamarkii 'Ballerina', for example, will not grow taller or spread wider than 4-5m. These are hardy trees, which can cope with damp conditions and most soil types, although they do prefer clay or sandy soil.
Looking for more small garden ideas? Head over to our feature.
5. Cercis chinensis (Chinese redbud)
We adore this small tree. It packs a real punch with its pops of rosy pink blossom in late spring, emerging before the large heart-shaped leaves grow.
Try Cercis chinensis 'Avondale' for a compact tree, which would make a pretty focal point in a small garden, as it won't grow taller than 4m.
If space is at a premium, it can be kept even smaller than that with regular pruning. For the best show of flowers, plant in an open, sunny position with high light levels.
6. Crab apple
With beautiful clouds of pretty blossom in spring, these trees are a brilliant addition to your wildlife garden ideas as the flowers produce nectar and pollen for insects. They are also pollinators for eating apples, so if you have an apple tree somewhere else in your garden, they can boost your harvest. It absolutely has to be on our list of the best flowering trees.
The height of these trees varies, so check carefully before buying. Smaller ones include Malus 'Butterball' and Malus 'Wisley Crab' which can reach a height of around 4m.
Plant in full sun, in moist but not wet soil. As part of your winter garden jobs, remove damaged branches, or ones that cross over. Bare root plants can go in between November to March, while container grown trees are suitable for planting at any time.
If you like the idea of harvesting pears, plums and more straight from your plot, then take a look at our 5 fabulous fruit trees to plant in your garden.
7. Ornamental cherry
A confetti of pink or white petals characterizes the cherry tree, and there's one for every sized garden.
For a compact tree, try Prunus yedoensis. It has weeping branches and white almond-scented blossom. It will reach around 3m tall in ten years.
Another stunning option is the Cherry 'Pink Shell' which has pastel pink flowers, turning to white in April, and contrasting beautifully with the light green leaves. This is another tree which will not top 3.5m tall, so it's good for small spaces.
Finally, Prunus incisa 'The Bride' is smothered with single white flowers with a pretty red centre from March to April. It grows to 4m in 20 years, and has an attractive rounded shape.
Ornamental cherry trees prefer full sun and moist, well-drained soil of any type. Once established, they are very low maintenance. And if easy-care options are on your agenda, take a look at our low maintenance garden ideas, too.
8. Dove Tree
This is also known as the ghost tree and the handkerchief tree, and all of its names are inspired by the masses of fluttering white flowers which appear in late spring (the latin version is Davidia involucrata).
If you are looking for a large, spreading tree, this one will make a splash, although it is a slow grower, taking 20 to 50 years to reach a height of more than 12m.
It needs a sheltered spot, in sun or part shade, and moist, well-drained soil. Young specimens may not produce the floral display but when it reaches maturity, this deciduous tree will more than make up for it.
Which flowering trees grow well in shade?
As a rule, most flowering trees like some sun, but the Portugese Laurel (Prunus lusitanica) will grow in a shady spot. It has glossy evergreen leaves and delicate small, creamy white flowers from April to May.
A slow grower, it will reach 5-6m over 20 years.
What is the longest flowering tree?
The Crape Myrtle, or Lagerstroemia, is known as '100 Days Red' in China, because it flowers for so long. It is not a native species, and you're mostly likely to have seen it on holidays in France and Italy. But, it will grow in cooler climes, and it is available from specialist nurseries, such as Paramount Plants.
Clusters of crinkly, paper-like flowers in vivid hues of purple, violet and pink appear in the summer. It will be happiest in a sheltered spot against your garden wall ideas or a fence, preferably south or west facing.
It will not require pruning, and it's a slow grower, which could reach 8m tall in 20 years. If a cold snap is forecast, protect with horticultural fleece as a precaution.
How do you plant a flowering tree in a pot?
Putting one or two or the best flowering trees in pots is a great way to brighten up your patio ideas. Squire's Garden Centres offers expert advice on how to plant one:
- Choose a container with plenty of room to house the root ball, with space to grow.
- Most trees thrive in loam-based compost, such as John Innes No 3.
- Water regularly – keep the compost moist.
- Use a slow release fertiliser every spring to keep the tree healthy.
- Some trees may need a stake for support. Staking kits are available from garden centres.
An experienced freelance journalist, editor and columnist writing for national magazines and websites, Fiona now specialises in gardens. She enjoys finding and writing about all kinds, from the tiniest town plots to impressively designed ones in grand country houses. She's a firm believer that gardening is for everyone, and it doesn’t matter if you have a single window ledge or an acre, there’s always peace and joy to be found outside. The small town garden of her Edwardian terraced house is currently a work in progress as she renovates the property, but her goal is always to fill it with flowers, climbers, colour, fragrance – and as many of her treasured vintage finds as she can possibly fit in.
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