15 Trees to Plant This Arbor Day

Make this Arbor Day a memorable one by planting a tree in your backyard. Gardening expert Madison Moulton lists 15 trees you should consider planting this Arbor Day, no matter the size or style of your garden.

A dogwood tree boasting delicate pink blossoms, their hues catching the eye. In the background, a soft blur hints at another dogwood adorned with white flowers, creating a picturesque contrast. All trees are illuminated by the warm embrace of sunlight.


Every year, people around the world celebrate Arbor Day, which is dedicated to planting and appreciating trees. This holiday has been around for over a century, encouraging people to help the environment and protect our futures. Although Arbor Day originated in the United States, it is now a global phenomenon, expanding its reach and impact beyond its Nebraskan origins.

For gardeners, the best way to participate is by planting a tree of your own (or many, if you have the space). But if you’re unsure what type of tree to plant, we have expert advice to guide your selection.

Arbor Day is in spring, but it’s still important to check the climate requirements of each tree for accurate planting times, depending on the weather in your region. Many of these trees will also establish better when planted in fall, but won’t mind spring planting once all chances of frost have passed.


A healthy apple tree in an orchard, its branches laden with ripe fruits and lush green leaves. In the background, rows of apple trees extend, forming a picturesque scene of abundant harvest and nature's bounty.
Starting a home orchard with apples requires multiple trees for cross-pollination.

When you think about fruit trees, a classic apple tree is probably the first to come to mind. These trees are obviously appreciated for their fruits, but they also have ornamental value in the garden – especially when in flower.

If you’ve always wanted to start your own home orchard, planting an apple tree this Arbor Day is an ideal way to start. Technically, you need to plant more than one to ensure adequate cross-pollination and a mountain of fruits.

Choose your apple tree variety carefully based on your climate and eating preferences. ‘Granny Smith,’ ‘Gala,’ or ‘Fuji’ are a few popular options. You can also purchase pollination packs with two or more compatible trees to take the stress out of cross-pollination.


Tall birch trees rise gracefully, their slender forms reaching towards the sky. Their smooth white bark, adorned with delicate flecks of black, creates a striking contrast against the surrounding forest landscape.
Choose a compact birch with shrubby growth for smaller gardens.

Adding texture and structure to your garden is easy with a birch tree. These reliable trees are bound to become statement features in your landscape, and there are many species to choose from to suit your space perfectly.

Many native birch species, like the famous paper birch or river birch, have interesting peeling ornamental bark. The latter also has great heat tolerance, while most species are more suitable for cooler regions. The white or silver options add great contrast in gardens—a focal point different from the other trees you may have.

For smaller gardens, opt for a compact birch with shrubby growth rather than one of the towering species. Place them in an area where they will be visible from inside your home, allowing you to enjoy their beauty as the seasons change.


A cedar tree stretches towards the sky, its branches reaching out like welcoming arms. Behind it, the backdrop is painted with the serene hues of a clear blue sky, a perfect canvas for nature's grandeur.
These trees offer a Mediterranean ambiance with their cone-like shape.

If you have a lot of space to fill this Arbor Day, cedar is a great way to do it. These large conifers can grow up to 100 feet or even taller and are known for their impressive lifespans.

They have an upright cone-like shape that brings a Mediterranean feel, especially when several are planted alongside each other. Like birch trees, there are many different species to choose from, so you’re bound to find one you fall in love with.

On large properties, cedars are ideal for lining paths, driveways, windbreaks, or tall hedges. Once planted and established, they don’t require much attention beyond occasional trimming and supplemental watering in very dry weather.


A close-up of a bunch of red 'Bing cherries nestled among verdant leaves, suspended delicately from a branch. In the backdrop, a soft blur highlights the abundance of lush green foliage, enhancing the natural beauty of the scene.
Iconic cherry trees thrive in well-drained soil with sunlight.

Cherry trees are one of the greatest highlights of spring and a fitting option for Arbor Day. Their flowers are largely the reason, but you can also choose varieties with delicious fruits, like the sweet ‘Bing’ or ‘Black Tartarian.’

For those interested in attracting wildlife, cherry trees are also great for pollinators and provide a food source for birds once the fruit appears (if you’re willing to leave some on the tree). To ensure a strong harvest, consider planting two different varieties for cross-pollination.

It’s essential to choose a variety that matches your climate zone, as cherries require specific chill hours to bear fruit. Once you’ve got that covered, these trees prefer well-drained soil and a sunny location to thrive.


An orchard basks in the warm, radiant sunlight, casting gentle shadows on the earth below. Amidst the greenery, a single citrus tree steals the spotlight, adorned with ripe, juicy fruits, ready for harvest.
Compact citrus varieties can be moved indoors for winter protection.

In warmer climates, edible fruits like cherries or apples may not be suitable due to their preference for cooler conditions. But that doesn’t mean you can’t grow fruit trees at all. Citrus are heat-loving trees that pack in the aesthetic value, from scented blooms to Instagram-worthy fruits. You can grow anything from classic oranges and lemons to more unique options like kumquats and grapefruits.

Dwarf varieties are perfect for smaller spaces or even container gardening, allowing those with limited space to enjoy fresh citrus from a patio or balcony. ‘Meyer’ lemons are well-known for this purpose, or you can even plant your citrus indoors by choosing compact species like calamondin oranges.

Growing in pots allows you to move the tree to a protected area over winter in regions with colder winters. But if you live in USDA Zone 8 or above, you can plant outdoors in the ground without worry.


Several towering cypress trees stretch upwards, their slender forms reaching for the heavens. In the background, a canvas of cloudy blue sky stretches across the horizon, adding depth to the tranquil scene.
Tall trees like Italian cypress and Arizona cypress are ideal for elegant garden borders.

Cypress trees are structural trees that fit seamlessly into Mediterranean or formal gardens thanks to their upright shape. They are beloved for their adaptability, requiring little maintenance once established.

Italian cypress is a personal favorite, and not just because I’m obsessed with on-trend Mediterranean gardens right now. Its towering but slender shape is perfect for lining paths or the back of beds, adding instant elegance with little effort. But there are many other options out there, like Arizona cypress.

These are great trees for waterwise gardens, becoming drought-tolerant once established. Give them a little extra boost after planting but never leave the soil waterlogged. These reliable trees will grow well in most soil types, suitable for tougher areas of the garden.


A dogwood tree, adorned with delicate white blossoms, stands gracefully amidst a lush green landscape. Behind it, a diverse array of towering trees creates a picturesque backdrop, evoking a tranquil atmosphere of natural beauty.
This tree attracts wildlife with its berries and provides shelter.

There is no better way to appreciate the change in seasons than by planting a dogwood tree this Arbor Day. Spring is the showy season when the tree is covered in colorful blooms. But their ornamental value doesn’t end there. You can also enjoy the lush green foliage in summer, followed by vibrant fall hues.

Dogwoods are great for attracting wildlife to your garden, especially birds. When dogwood berries ripen, birds love snacking on them, bringing a buzz of activity to your backyard. Wildlife also use the trees for shelter, particularly if you provide a water source nearby.

Dogwoods thrive in moist, well-drained soil. They prefer a spot with partial shade, especially in hotter climates, to protect their delicate blossoms and foliage.


A compact fig tree stands illuminated by sunlight, its dense leaves catching golden rays. Behind, a textured brown stone wall provides a rustic backdrop, adding warmth and depth to the scene with its earthy tones.
Reliable fig varieties like ‘Brown Turkey’ or ‘Mission’ are ideal for sunny spots.

Whether you’re looking for delicious fruits or ornamental foliage, planting a fig tree will not disappoint. Common figs are probably the first tree to come to mind, but there is a long list of other species suitable for a range of climates. Many of them, like the famous fiddle leaf fig, also grow well in containers indoors.

For fruit production, look for reliable varieties like ‘Brown Turkey’ or ‘Mission’, perfect for planting in sunny, well-draining spots. For a more ornamental option apart from the classic fiddle leaf, Ficus benjamina or Ficus elastica are also incredibly popular indoor plants and can be grown outdoors in partially shaded areas too.  

When planting figs, consider their growth requirements and mature size to ensure they have enough space to grow. Many of these trees reach well over 30 feet in their native habitats, with exact size depending on your chosen species. If you want to manage their size, plant them in containers rather than in the ground.


A cluster of towering fir trees, their branches reaching for the sky, creating a natural canopy. Behind them, a serene backdrop of a white sky, evoking a sense of simplicity in the scene.
These coniferous trees thrive in cool climates with good drainage, and they have minimal maintenance requirements.

Fir trees are impressive structures that bring a sense of calm to any garden. Maybe it’s their stately appearance or familiar scent that encourages you to take deeper breaths, but there is no denying the beauty of these trees.  

This perfect winter tree has soft green needles that make wonderful holiday décor. Several species are also used as Christmas trees thanks to their lush green color, cone shape, and needle retention.

Fir trees prefer cooler climates and higher altitudes but can adapt to various soils as long as they drain well. They thrive in full sun to partial shade and, once established, are relatively low maintenance, requiring minimal pruning and watering only during prolonged dry spells.


A vibrant magnolia tree in full bloom, its delicate petals displaying shades of purple against a clear sky. In the background, a diverse array of trees creates a lush green backdrop, adding depth to the scene.
Opt for adaptable magnolia trees close to your home for visual appeal and year-round interest.

I may be biased with two magnolia trees in my garden, but I don’t think you’ll find a more eye-catching tree when these beauties are in flower. The large blossoms come in a range of hues, from bright white to classic pinks and purples, with a stunning scent that fills small backyards.

Magnolias are my go-to focal tree. They look their best planted close to your home where they are most visible. However, don’t plant them so close that the roots cause structural damage to your house. Choose from various species like the popular Southern magnolia or the more compact star magnolia, depending on the space you have available.

Magnolias are surprisingly adaptable, with some species thriving in the cooler climates and others appreciating warmth more. The leaves add texture and rich color to the garden, while their branching patterns provide winter interest, too.


A majestic oak tree, its branches adorned with green leaves, stands proudly as the sunlight filters through. In the backdrop, the clear blue sky provides a serene canvas, complementing the tree's majestic presence.
Native oak trees make impressive, wildlife-supporting centerpieces in larger landscapes.

Oaks are one of the most well-known and popular hardwood trees. The genus (Quercus) contains hundreds of species, with around 90 native to the United States.

These trees are not ideal for impatient gardeners, as they grow quite slowly. But if you’re willing to wait, their impressive size and lush greenery will ensure they become the centerpiece of your landscape. Native varieties such as black oak and bur oak are adaptable and great for supporting local wildlife.

Oak trees thrive in well-drained soil and full sun, establishing deep root systems that make them drought-resistant once mature. They are ideal for larger landscapes where they have room to spread their broad canopies. Consider the mature size of the tree and its growth rate to ensure it will fit in your space.


Sunlight filters through the leaves of a pear tree, illuminating clusters of green pears dangling from its branches. In the distance, rows of smaller pear trees extend, laden with their own bounty of ripe fruits.
Plant compatible pear varieties for cross-pollination to ensure a bountiful harvest.

If apples aren’t your favorite, pear trees are the next best thing, offering reliable fruit production and great ornamental value. The fruits are just as useful in the kitchen, delicious eaten fresh, baked, or my personal favorite, canned.

Popular pear choices include ‘Bartlett’ for flavor or ‘Anjou’ for texture. Like apples, pear varieties require cross-pollination to produce fruit, so planting at least two compatible types is essential for a successful harvest.

Pear trees are generally hardy and resistant to many pests and diseases, but like any fruit tree, they require some care and attention to prevent issues. Pruning in the winter, feeding annually, and monitoring for signs of growth problems are key to a mountain of fruits at the end of the season. Pear trees are usually planted in late winter and early spring, but Arbor Day planting is suitable for bare-root pears.


A close-up of pine tree branches adorned with green needles, showcasing nature's intricate design. Small, delicate pine cones emerge amidst the needles, adding texture and depth to the natural composition of the tree.
Evergreen pine trees offer wildlife habitat and aesthetic appeal.

Pine trees are incredibly resilient, offering a variety of textures and sizes to fit any landscape design. If you’re looking for a tough tree, you can pretty much plant this one and forget about.

Pines can thrive in a wide range of climates and soil types. They’re suitable for growth across the U.S. They are not just about looks either— pines provide shelter and food for wildlife, bringing activity and life into your garden.

Pine trees generally prefer full sun and well-drained soil but are remarkably tolerant of poor soil conditions once established. They require minimal care, making them suitable for newbies and those looking for low-maintenance options. Pruning is not really needed besides removing damaged or diseased branches, allowing the tree to develop its natural shape.


Maple trees line the roadside, their branches reaching towards the sky. Sunlight dances through the vivid orange leaves, casting a warm glow on the pavement below, painting the scene with a touch of autumn's embrace.
These trees provide shade while serving as habitat and food sources for wildlife.

Maple trees are garden staples most appreciated for their gorgeous fall foliage, signaling the change in seasons. Sunny yellows to fiery reds and oranges are something we all look forward to. If you plant a maple tree this Arbor Day, you can enjoy this autumn spectacle in your own backyard.

Maples have value throughout other seasons, too. These trees are great for providing shade in the summer and structural interest in the winter. Plus, the diversity within the maple genus creates a wide selection to suit various garden sizes and styles.

In addition to their ornamental value, maple trees are habitat and food sources for wildlife. Some maples, particularly the smaller cultivars, also do well in containers, making them a versatile choice for smaller gardens.


A vibrant spruce tree stands tall, illuminated by the sun's golden rays, contrasting against the soft clouds in the azure sky. Its lush green needles shimmer, interspersed with sturdy cones.
This offers a festive touch in winter while providing biodiversity support.

With their classic conifer shape and dense branches, you can’t go wrong with the forest feel of a spruce. If you live in a cooler climate, you can bring this beautiful tree into your backyard for Arbor Day and enjoy it year-round.

Spruces enjoy full sun and well-drained soil to look their best and produce lush, dense needles. Their ability to withstand wind and cold is ideal for windbreaks or privacy screens. Dense foliage also provides a home for birds, contributing to biodiversity in your garden.

Spruces bring a festive spirit to the landscape, especially in winter – a quintessential holiday season tree. With minimal care requirements beyond occasional watering and mulching, even beginners won’t have trouble with these trees.

Final Thoughts

Make a difference this Arbor Day by planting a tree (or several trees) in your garden. They may take a while to grow, but they are certainly worth the wait.

A group of vibrant pink cherry blossoms fills the frame, their delicate petals contrasting with the lush green grass below. The clear blue sky adds to the peaceful serenity of the scene.


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