Planting the right tree in the right place will help your tree to live a long life and avoid potential problems. Use our guide to 30 Recommended Trees for Louisville to help you find the perfect tree for your yard or easement.

Small to Medium Trees

Best for locations with overhead wire, near homes, or street plantings with easements less than 4 ft. wide:

Trident maple

Acer buergeranum, Trident Maple

Full sun (non-native)

height:  20-25′

spread:  20-25′

Tolerates shade, moderate drought and salt tolerance, suitable for median  and easement plantings.

Paperbark Maple

Acer griseum, Paperbark Maple

full sun (non-native)

height:  20-25′

spread:  15-20′

Tough and stunning, this Japanese native thrives in full sun.  It puts on a bright display of flowers after our native flowering dogwoods are finished.  Tolerates shade, moderate drought and salt tolerance, suitable for median and easement plantings.

Serviceberry

Amelanchier laevis, Serviceberry

full sun (native)

height:  20-30′

spread:  15-25′

Attractive, white spring flowers.  Orange fall foliage.  In appalachia, their flowers let everyone know that the roads were passable, which meant that the circuit-riding preachers would be coming soon.  Tolerates shade, moderate drought and salt tolerance, suitable for median and easement plantings, sensitive to or more pests and diseases.

Asamina triloba, Pawpaw

shade-full sun (native)

height:  15-20′

spread:  15-20′

The Pawpaw is a native plant that produces the largest edible fruit in North America.  Only suitable for yard plantings due to the prohibition in the Land Development Code against fruiting trees in easements and medians. Pawpaw grows quickly if mulched and watered during droughts; it is drought-sensitive when grown in sun. Seedlings should be planted in shade for the first year as they are sensitive to ultraviolet light.

Carpinus caroliniana, American Hornbeam

shade-full sun (native)

height:  30′

spread:  25′

The wood is smooth and appears muscular.  It is one of the hardest woods in our area.  Other common names for this tree are ironwood and blue beech.  This tree is an excellent easement or median tree and tolerates the shade of other trees.

yellowwood

Cladrastis kentukea, Yellowwood

full sun (native)

height:  30-50′

spread:  40-55′

The smooth bark and lime green foliage are both subtle and striking.  The name ‘kentuckea’ is the only tree species name that references our state directly.  And yes, the species name is spelled like that.  Moderate drought tolerance, susceptible to verticillium wilt, usually pest free.

eastern redbud

Cercis canadenisis, Eastern Redbud

shade-full sun (native)

height:  20-30′

spread:  25-35′

Folk healers used the bark of eastern redbud to treat diarrhea and leukemia. The light magenta flowers are edible and look and taste great on fresh salads.  Redbud has been called the Judas tree because Judas Iscariot, after betraying Christ, was said to have hanged himself on Cercis siliquastrum, a close relative of eastern redbud that grows in Europe and western Asia. The blooms of the tree, originally white, were said to have turned pink with shame or blood.  HIgh drought tolerance, few pests, low salt tolerance.

Chionanthus virginicus, White Fringetree

full sun (native)

height:  12-20′

spread:  12-20′

When flowering, white fringetree is one of the most beautiful native trees. Flowers are borne in panicles that are 6 to 8 inches long, with three flowers on each stalk of the panicle. Fringetree’s fruit, a dark blue drupe, ripens in August and September. Foliage partially hides the fruit, which birds love to eat.  Tolerant of air pollution but not drought.

american smoketree

Continus obavatus, American Smoketree

full sun (native)

height:  20-30′

spread:  15-20′

Great screens, these native trees have a shrub like growth pattern.  Poor salt tolerance, no pests and diseases are of major concern, ideal for yard plantings.

Cornus florida, White Dogwood

partial shade (native)

height:  20-30′

spread:  15-20′

The inner bark of the flowering dogwood root contains the alkaloid cornin. Native Americans used it as a treatment for malaria. They also used the onset of flowering to time the planting of their crops.  Tough and stunning, the Dogwood is an excellent landscape choice in all four seasons. Flowers are showy in spring. Leaves turn red-purple in fall. Glossy red fruits attract winter songbirds. Likes partial shade; moist, acid, well-drained soil.

hawthorn tree

Crataegus species, Hawthorn

shade-full sun (native)

height: 20-30′

width:  20-30′

Green hawthorn is an adaptable, urban-tolerant tree that offers winter interest with its abundant and attractive orange-red fruit. It has pretty red to gold foliage in fall and handsome silver-gray peeling bark that shows orange underneath.  Thrushes and waxwings love the winter fruit, or ‘haws,’ of the Hawthorn trees.  Be careful of the thorns!  Great tree for wildlife and fall and winter interest.  Salt tolerance medium to high for Cockspur and Ohio Pioneer Dotted hawthorn.

Hamamelis virginiana, Common Witchhazel

shade-full sun (native)

Height:  20-30′

Spread:  15-20′

The common name witchhazel comes from an old English word that means “to bend.” European species of Hamamelis were once used as divining rods to search for water. Witchhazel bark has been mixed with water and alcohol to make an astringent for sores and bruises. Common witchhazel has no serious disease or insect problems, although it may develop galls on the bottom of its leaves if planted near birch trees.

Ostrya virginiana, American Hophornbeam

Partial shade-full sun (native)

height:  25-40′

spread:  15-25′

The wood of this birch species is extremely dense.  Like all other trees with the common name suffix of -beam, it once was used as a “beam” to yoke oxen.  Although not sensitive to drought it can’t survive flooding. It is also very sensitive to de-icing salt. No serious pest problems, although it can be susceptible to chestnut borer if under stress.

Syringa reticulata, Japanese Tree Lilac

full sun (non-native)

height:  20-30′

spread:  15-20′

A true lilac, the flowers of this small tree are striking and fragrant. No serious insect or disease problems. This lilac is considered to be a low maintenance plant with excellent resistance to powdery mildew and other common lilac diseases. Young leaves are susceptible to frost injury in spring. Moderate drought tolerance, full sun.

Shade Trees

If you’ve got plenty of room to grow, these trees are a great choice:

Betula nigra, River Birch

partial shade-full sun

height:  40-70′

spread:  40-60′

River birch, the only semi-aquatic tree among Betulaceae, is the most widely distributed birch in the United States and the best one for hot climates.River birch seed ripens in May and June. The ripening of seed coincides with high water levels of rivers, its native setting, allowing the seed to be carried long distances by the water. River birch seed germinates quickly in mud, allowing it to grow in areas where it helps prevent erosion. Thanks to its shallow root system, river birch is easy to transplant. This tree has fewer insect and disease problems than any other birch. It can have problems with leaf spot, birch leaf miner and aphids, but it is the only birch that is immune to the bronze birch borer.

Catalpa speciosa, Northern Catalpa

shade-full sun (native)

height:  40-60′

spread:  20-40′

Northern catalpa has the showiest flowers of all the large trees native to Kentucky. However, it is more recognized for the long hanging pods that cling to the branches after the leaves fall. These pods give the tree its other common name, the cigar tree.  Known for its beauty and utility, Catalpa’s durable wood is often used for posts and railway ties.Catalpa tolerates drought and can withstand a variety of soils and moisture levels, including poor, dry, wet or compacted soils. It will also tolerate alkaline sites.

Hackberry

Celtis occidentalis, Hackberry

shade-full sun (native)

height:  40-60′

spread:  40+’

A much under-appreciated urban tree, the hackberry is a hardy and attractive native species.  Longterm health usually not affected by pests, fungi and witches broom may be potential problems, successfully grown in urban areas.

ginko

Ginkgo biloba (male), Ginkgo

full sun (non-native)

height:  50-80′

spread:  30-40′

The Ginkgo is literally a living fossil that was preserved from extinction by Buddhist monks for over 1000 years.  A truly special tree with fan shaped leaves that turn golden in the fall.  Poor salt tolerance, high drought tolerance, pest-free and resistant to gypsy moth.

coffee tree

Gymnocladus dioicus (male), Kentucky Coffee Tree

full sun (native)

height:  50-70′

spread:  40-50′

With its bold form, contorted branching, unique bark and decorative clusters of large pods rattling in the wind, Kentucky coffeetree is an exceptional winter ornamental.  Early European settlers used these seeds to make a “Pioneer coffee.”  This tree is our State Heritage Tree.  No pests or disease of major concern, ideal shade tree for urban plantings, poor salt tolerance, high drought tolerance.

Liriodendron tulipfera, Tulip Poplar

full sun (native)

height:  70-90′

spread:  35-50′

The Kentucky State Tree. Tulip poplar has also been called canoe tree because Native Americans used it to make dugouts. The tulip poplar flower has a colorful base that guides bees to the flower’s source of abundant nectar. The nectar, also popular with hummingbirds, is a source of gourmet honey.  Tulip Poplar is in the magnolia family.  It grows tall and straight very quickly.  Rapid growth, pyramidal form, insect & disease resistant, poor salt tolerance and mature size make it a better candidate for off-street plantings with ample room.

Liquidambar styraciflua, Sweetgum

full sun (native)

height:  60-70′ (up to 120′ in the wild)

spread:  40-50′

Sweetgum is an excellent urban tree provided it has a large area for root development. It has an attractive, uniform habit, dense, glossy green summer foliage and unique fall color, with several rich colors developing on a single tree. Spiky seed balls develop in autumn and persist through winter, swinging from branches on their long stems.

blackgum

Nyssa sylvatica, Blackgum

shade-full sun (native)

height:  30-60′

width:  20-40′

This native tree has one of the most amazing fall color displays, turining from a deep green to salmon to deep scarlet.  An under-appreciated urban tree.  Good salt tolerance, high drought tolerance, no known pests, fungi potential problem.

planetree

Platanus x acerifolia, London Planetree

full sun (non-native)

height:  70-90′

spread:  35-50′

This sycamore relative is less susceptible to sycamore anthracnose than its native cousin.  The London Plane Tree is fast growing with interesting bark, and is an old favorite of urban foresters.  Moderate salt tolerance, high drought tolerance, very sensitive to aphids and sycamore lace bugs, some fungi cause leaf spots, fast growing.

white oak

Quercus alba, White Oak

shade-full sun (native)

height:  50-80′

spread:  30-50′

This tree has a special connection to Louisville as its wood is used to make bourbon barrels.  A mature oak can host up to 5,000 different species of invertebrate that will form the basis for a healthy food chain that benefits birds and mammals.

Chinkapin Oak

Quercus muelenbergii, Chinkapin Oak

full sun (native)

height:  40-60′

spread:  30′

An under-appreciated urban tree, the Chinkapin Oak thrives on Limestone soils.  Unlike most white oaks, chinkapin oak is tolerant of alkaline soil. Its whitish bark and branch structure create a beautiful silhouette in winter while its strong branches make it ideal near structures and homes.  High drought tolerance, poor salt tolerance, street tree, no pests or diseases of major concern.

bur oak

Quercus macropcarpa, Bur Oak

full sun (native)

height: 70-80′

spread:  80′

Tolerant of a variety of moisture and soil conditions, adapts well to urban settings. Its fringed acorns are food for wildlife. A very long-lived tree.

Quercus rubra, Northern Red Oak

full sun (native)

height:  50-80′

spread:  30-40′

This stately oak is valued for its shade and size.  The leaves turn crimson red in the fall.  High salt tolerance, high drought tolerance, long term health usually not affected by pests.

winged elm

Tilia americana, Basswood Linden

full sun (native)

height:  60-80′

spread:  30-40′

Basswood is a soft wood, used for carving.  These trees often grow large sprouts from the base, reminiscent of a hen (main tree) and chicks (sprouts).  This tree is underrepresented in our urban forest and should be planted more often!  Moderate drought tolerance low salt tolerance.  Aphids and Japanese beetle may pose threat, Anthrocnose, leaf blight, canker, leaf spots potential diseases.

basswood linden

Ulmus alata, Winged Elm

shade-full sun (native)

height:  60-90′

spread:  50-70′

Also known as Wahoo, the winged elm forms an attractive pyramidal canopy shape.  It is easily recognized by the corky “wings” along it’s branches.  Dutch elm resistant variety such as Princeton, valley forge, or liberty, successfully grown in urban areas, high drought tolerance, low salt tolerance.

Aesculus flava, Yellow Buckeye

partial shade-full sun (native)

height:  60-75′

spread:  30′

This tree does not grow well in poor, dry or clay soils. Yet yellow buckeye is more tolerant of urban stresses than other buckeyes.In the appropriate location, it makes a nice shade tree. Yellow buckeye is less susceptible to leaf scorch than other buckeyes. Mildew and lacebugs are not as problematic with this tree as they are with other buckeyes.

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