Master Gardener: Spring Flowering Trees Add Beauty | Lifestyles

Spring may be fickle in its arrival, but there are signs it is coming.

Spring voyeurs have begun peeking, always a sure sign. Snowdrop, crocus, winter aconite, squill, hellebore and liverwort have appeared in my garden so far.

The spring migration of geese, ducks and swans is fully underway. Typical spring songbirds have started to arrive.

The birdsong greets us in the morning now and the brassed “o-ka-leeee” call of the male red winged black bird is a sign that spring is not far off. The exuberance of spring can also be seen in our landscapes with beautiful trees in bloom in just a few weeks.

n Dogwood (Cornus mas) is one of the earliest to flower.

Native to southern and central Europe and western Asia, this small, multi-stemmed tree or shrub can grow up to 25 feet tall by 20 feet wide. The bright yellow clusters of star-shaped flowers appear in early spring before the leaves come out. The cherry red fruit comes in mid-summer.

The fruit is edible and when ripe it has a taste similar to plum. Fall foliage colors are a mix of green and yellow plus some reddish purple.

An interesting feature is the exfoliating bark which can add texture to the winter landscape. It can also lead gardeners to think that there is something wrong with the tree if they don’t know it should look like that.

Give this sturdy, adaptable tree full sun for partial shade and rich soils that are moist and well-drained. It is resistant to Zone 4.

n Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata) is another early flowering.

The fat, fuzzy buds open into gorgeous white blooms. Unfortunately, the blooms are often affected by a late spring frost that turns the flowers to mush.

In the right year, the tree can be a beautiful centerpiece of the garden.

This deciduous magnolia can be grown as a small tree or a large, multi-stemmed shrub. The green, leathery leaves turn yellow in the fall.

It can grow up to 24 feet tall and around 15 feet wide.

It has a nice rounded look.

It generally does not require pruning. If necessary, prune after flowering or remove one to two older stems per year to rejuvenate the shape of the shrub.

Star magnolia will flower best in full sun, but it can require some shade. It should be grown in well-drained, organic-rich soil.

Native to Japan, it is classified as hardy to zone 4.

n Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis) also known as Juneberry or shadblow is native to eastern North America and a member of the rose family.

It blooms in early April with dozens of bright white flowers followed by coppery leaves. It is an undergrowth tree in the woods so it can get shade but also full sun.

A great little tree for the garden or landscape as it grows 15 to 25 feet tall. You may never see edible blue berries because songbirds love them.

It can be a host plant for Viceroys and red-spotted purple butterflies whose caterpillars chew the leaves. Leaf cutter bees could use portions of the leaves to build their nests.

The leaves put on a nice autumn display of orange and red. It tolerates a wide range of soils and is hardy to zone 4.

n Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis) is another April flower.

This small native tree has a profusion of pink rose blossoms that bumblebees and other pollinators love. It is great for the garden that grows to a height and spreads around 30 feet, in a vase shape.

The heart-shaped leaves are attractive after the flowers are gone. The new leaves are reddish in color that turn dark green in summer and yellow in autumn.

Redbud does best when planted in full sun to partial shade.

Redbud can be quite demanding. It is not resistant to heat or drought and does not like wet soils.

He doesn’t like being moved, so find him a perfect place when you bring him home. It is also very sensitive to herbicides, even those applied to the lawn.

n Fringetree (Chionathus virginicus) is another small indigenous tree that is a great choice for the garden, especially as it tolerates air pollution.

Maturing to 20 feet tall and wide it is adaptable to a wide range of soil conditions from acid to neutral and wet to dry. Plant in full sun to partial shade.

The show he puts on in the spring is dramatic. The flowers are clusters of fragrant, creamy white blooms that look like a fringe hanging from the tree.

This tree is dioecious, which means that each tree has all female or all male flowers, but not both. The female flowers will produce clusters of dark blue fleshy fruit later in the summer which the birds will devour.

Hardy to zone 3. There is also a Chinese fringetree (Chionanthus retusus) that looks similar.

Planting a spring flowering tree this year will provide you with many years of spring color. Native spring flowering trees are also especially important for early bees and bumblebee queens who need nectar and pollen after a long winter.

Have a question about gardening?

The master gardener’s volunteers are normally in the office from 10:00 to 12:00 on weekdays. You can stop at the CCE office at 420 E. Main St., Batavia, call (585) 343-3040, ext. 127, or email

Attend our April 7 Garden Talk in person. “Spring into the Garden” with Master Gardener Suzanne B. will start at noon at the CCE headquarters and on Zoom.

We will have a lot of tips on what you can do to get your garden ready for spring. Some of the topics covered will include knowing when your soil is ready for cultivation, taking a soil test, preparing tools, and other tips.

Garden Talk lessons are free, but registration is required. For the Zoom option, register on the events page of our CCE website at To attend in person, register by calling Mandy at (585) 343-3040 ext. 101 as in-person seating is limited.

Join us on April 21 at noon for a first Earth Day program: “Planting with a Purpose: Using Native Plants in the Garden”. This one-hour program will be held at the CCE office and on Zoom.

Typical landscapes today have many lawn plantations and foundations which are usually non-native plants to the area. What if your garden could help bring back the homes of our songbirds, butterflies, bees, fireflies, and beneficial insects?

Simple. Add native plants.

This program is intended to be an aid to those gardeners who want to add native plants to their garden but are unsure of what to do. We’ll talk about the benefits native plants can provide and how you can incorporate them into your garden.

If you would like to participate in this program in person, register by April 18th. Contact Mandy at (585) 343-3040 x101 or email

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Leave a Comment