NC State Extension Publications


Large trees are dominant features in the landscape. Many plans rely on trees for several design functions: to provide background, enclosure, define spaces, help reduce noise and unsightly views. Trees also provide needed shade, channel breezes, and break forceful winds. They also help the environment by filtering pollutants and exchanging oxygen for carbon dioxide.

When choosing trees, consider the growth rate and habit along with the overall form and texture of leaves and bark.

Properly selected and located trees can enhance the landscape setting and generally improve property values. Once growing, care should be exercised when working or playing around trees. Often, shade tree damage in the form of soil compaction, root damage, improper pruning, chemical and mechanical injury can cause irreversible harm to a tree. Remember, the tree's roots are found in the upper 12-15 inches of soil and can grow 40-50 percent beyond the drip line of a tree.

Botanical Name Common Name Hardiness Zone Group Growth Rate Exposure Texture Form Height Spread Landscape Remarks
Acer floridanum Florida Maple 6, 7, 8 D med-fast sun medium oval 40-50' 20-25' excellent shade tree and beautiful fall color
Acer platanoides Norway Maple 6, 7, 8 D moderate sun coarse dense-broad spreading branches 60-80' 50-70' Crimson King red-purple foliage
Acer rubrum Red Maple 6, 7, 8 D rapid sun/shade medium symmetrical spreading branches 40-50' 25-35' beautiful habit and color "October Glory" - scarlet foliage in fall
Acer saccharinum Silver Maple 6, 7, 8 D rapid sun medium upright open branches 60-80' 50-75' fast growing shade tree but noted for weak branches and shallow roots
Acer saccharum Sugar Maple 6, 7 D slow sun or part shade medium-coarse round top 50-75' 30-40' excellent landscape tree casts very dense shade
Carya illinoensis Pecan 6, 7, 8 D moderate sun or part shade medium irregular open branches 60-100' 30-50' good shade tree for "edible" landscape
Carya spp. Hickories 6, 7, 8 D slow to moderate sun medium spreading crown 60-100' 30-50' infrequently propagated in nurseries but grows natively
Catalpa bignonoides Southern Catalpa 6, 7, 8 D rapid sun coarse thick trunk, crooked branches 30-50' 20-25' long-lived untidy tree; interesting winter habit; good habitat for fish bait
Cedrus deodora Deodar Cedar 6, 7, 8 E rapid sun or part shade fine pyramidal pendelous branches 30-50` 20-30' excellent screen tree for Piedmont; good substitute for white pines
Cryptomeria japonica Japanese Cryptomeria 6, 7, 8 E medium sun fine narrow columnar 40-50' 10-20' rich green foliage interesting bark
Cunninghamia lanceolata Chinafir 6, 7, 8 E moderate to slow sun to shade medium pyramidal 50-60' 20-25' good green color during growing season; tends to "brown out" inside as it matures
x Cupressocyparis leylandi Leyland Cypress 6, 7, 8 E rapid sun medium pyramidal 50-70' 10-15' fast growing can be size controlled, several varieties - excellent screening plant
Diospyrus virginiana Persimmon 6, 7, 8 D slow sun coarse slender irregular 40-50' 20-30' very interesting bark-"edible landscape" plant
Fagus grandiflora Beech 6, 7, 8 D slow sun medium dense-low spreading 60-80' 40-60' large tree with very dense shade; foliage often remainson tree in winter
Fraxinus americana White Ash 6, 7 D rapid sun medium broad rounded top 60-80' 50-70' tolerates adverse conditions"Autumn Purple" - good fall color
Ginkgo biloba Aidenhair Tree 6, 7, 8 D slow sun medium pyramidal but later rounded 40-70' 20-40' plant male species of tree - very interesting shape of foliage; leaves fall rapidly in fall
Gelditsia triacanthos Honeylocust 6, 7, 8 D moderate sun fine- medium upright, open with maturity 50-75' 25-40' many thornless varieties available at nurseries; excellent street tree
Juniperus virginiana Eastern Red Cedar 6, 7, 8 E moderate to rapid sun fine upright with spreading branches 30-40' 10-20' native evergreen-good for evergreen screening interesting bark
Liquidambar styraciflua Sweetgum 6, 7, 8 D slow sun or part shade medium semi-conical 60-100' 50-75 excellent landscape tree but in a natural area; fruit is a litter problem in lawn areas
Liriodendron tulipifera Tulip Tree 6, 7, 8 D moderate to rapid sun coarse cylindrical head 60-150' 30-40' fast growing shade tree, branches are brittle
Magnolia grandiflora Southern Magnolia 7, 8 E moderate to rapid sun or part shade coarse symmetrical 40-60' 25-30' should be planted where lower branches can grow to ground
Nyssa sylvatica Black Tupelo-Black Gum 6, 7, 8 D moderate sun or shade medium open irregular width 40-60' 20-30' spectacular red autumn color good native tree for NC
Paulownia tomentosa Empress Tree 6, 7, 8 D rapid sun coarse open crown, spreading branches 30-50' 20-30' best used as accent tree
Pinus palustris Longleaf Pine 7, 8 E rapid sun fine open rounded top, ascending branches 80-100' 25-40' susceptible to ice and storm damage
Pinus strobus White Pine 6, 7 E moderate sun fine pyramidal 80-100' 30-40' good native tree for mountains, in lower piedmont is marginal
Pinus sylvestris Scotch Pine 6, 7, 8 E rapid sun medium but later becomes more open pyramidal 40-70' 15-30' good landscape form and color
Pinus taeda Loblolly Pine 6, 7, 8 E rapid sun to part shade fine horizontal with ascending branches 70-90' 30-40' good windbreak - tolerant of poor soils
Pistacia chinensis Chinese Pistache 6, 7, 8 D rapid sun fine rounded 40-60' 15-30' brilliant fall color
Platanus occidentalis Sycamore 6, 7, 8 D rapid sun to part shade coarse broad branches open head 70-100' 60-80' good shade tree - leaves have a tendency to drop all summer long
Populus nigra Lombardy Poplar 6, 7, 8 D fast sun medium upright-narrow 40-70' 10-12' fast growing-has many landscape problems - short-lived
Quercus alba White Oak 6, 7, 8 D slow sun to part shade coarse medium broad head, thick trunk 80-100' 50-80' slow growing but excellent for any landscape
Quercus coccinea Scarlet Oak 6, 7, 8 D rapid sun coarse medium symmetrical round head 60-80' 40-50' good fall color-fast growing oak
Quercus nigra Water Oak 6, 7, 8 D rapid sun to part shade medium broad-oval round top 50-75' 30-40' matures into large shade tree-yellowish fall foliage
Quercus palustris Pin Oak 6, 7, 8 D rapid sun to part shade medium pyramidal low branches 60-80' 40-50' holds leaves throughout winter
Quercus phellos Willow Oak 6, 7, 8 D moderate sun fine conical in youth, develops rounded crown 60-80' 40-50' often referred to as "Pin Oak" because of narrow leaves -this is incorrect
Quercus virginiana Live Oak 7, 8 E slow sun to part shade medium wide spreading branches 30-50' 50-80' excellent for coastal areas if protected from salt spray
Salix babylonica Weeping Willow 6, 7, 8 D rapid sun to part shade fine slender-pendulous branches 30-50' 20-40' much landscape interest, avoid planting near sewers, water lines, etc.
Taxodium distichum Bald Cypress 6, 7, 8 D slow sun to part shade fine pyramidal 50-100' 20-30' good tree but not used very much-excellent when planted near water
Tilia americana American Linden 6, 7, 8 D rapid sun to part shade medium broad rounded crown 60-75' 45-60' useful as shade tree in urban areas
Tila cordata Littleleaf Linden 6, 7, 8 D rapid sun medium pyramidal spreading branches 30-50' 25-40' excellent street tree - transplants easily
Tsuga canadensis Canadian Hemlock 6, 7 E rapid shade to part shade fine pyramidal 30-80' 15-30' excellent screen and prunes well
Tsuga caroliniana Carolina Hemlock 6, 7 E rapid part shade Fine pyramidal 30-70' 20-25' creates good screen for shady areas
Ulmus americana American Elm 6, 7, 8 D slow sun medium broad umbrella-like crown 75-125' 60-120' beautiful growth habit but Dutch Elm disease limits use
Zelkova serrata Japanese Zelkova 6, 7, 8 D moderate to rapid sun to part shade medium to fine rounded head 50-60' 40-50' good shade tree and tolerant to urban conditions


Spec (Commercial Landscaping)
Horticultural Science

Publication date: Sept. 30, 1994

North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, sex, age, veteran status or disability. In addition, the two Universities welcome all persons without regard to sexual orientation.