Allan’s List of Best Trees

The best trees for Oklahoma, as selected by Allan Storjohann.

It wasn’t really a fair question to ask a nurseryman. After all, what would a car mechanic say if you were to ask him to name his favorite car? Or, an optometrist to identify his favorite kind of glasses? “What’s your favorite tree?” I asked. “What tree do you advise people to use the most?” The response was very nearly the same. Their eyes would squint, their head tilt back, the arms fold, and then after a substantial time had passed, they would almost all admit that they really couldn’t pick just one. “I don’t have a favorite tree, but I’ll give you my top four or five trees!” “Ok”, I smiled, knowing I couldn’t do it either. “So which ones would you put in your top five?” And it has been a big surprise to me how similar each top five list is! Almost everyone had Shumard Oak, Chinese Pistache, and Lacebark Elm. Some picked Autumn Blaze Maple and Bald Cypress. A few named the Caddo Sugar Maple. The following is a compilation of tree favorites from leading landscapers in Oklahoma and a few I have selected myself after watching them for over 35 years.

Tree selection is always best in spring, but fall is truly a fantastic time to plant trees! They establish a root system quicker and are so much more able to withstand the heat and stress of the first hot dry summer than a spring-planted tree. That being said, substantially more trees will be planted in late winter and early spring simply because that is when you will find the greatest variety available. In spring, balled and burlap trees will need to be planted as early as possible, preferably before they leaf out. If the tree you want is in a container then you will have plenty of time to get it into the ground, whether it has developed leaves or not.

Once you get the tree home, go stand on the spot where you want it to go. Look up. If there is a power line closer than 15′ from you, change your location. Have someone stand there and then go inside the house. Look out the main windows to see if your tree enhances the view or blocks the view. Finally, check to be sure there are no water or gas supply lines in the same spot and also that there is a slope away from the tree at least on one side, thus preventing your new tree from drowning when you experience heavy rain. The placement of your new tree can benefit you greatly or cost you greatly, so it pays to be sure it goes into the perfect spot initially.

The hole needs to be dug twice as wide as the root ball and only the same depth. After setting the tree, backfill with the existing soil. In spite of what some may say, I feel amendments like compost or peat moss are ok when mixed in sparingly. The tree must be staked for one growing season only. Once planted I recommend a good layer of mulch go over the planting area. Fertilizing the tree the day you plant it can help it grow out strong during its first season. Slow-release products are very good for young trees and can be incorporated in the backfill soil or simply spread on the surface before placing the mulch layer.

So what about trees for Oklahoma? All my nursery friends know that while one tree might be perfect for one set of situations and circumstances, that same type of tree under different conditions may not perform as well. So, in order to help you pick the right plant for the right place I have categorized trees by their size, function and use. Check out these lists and then stop by your local landscape dealer to see the trees in person.

Large Deciduous Trees (over 20′) - For Better and Wetter Soils

  • Sycamore
  • Red Oak
  • London Planetree
  • Fruitless Sweetgum
  • Bald Cypress
  • Water Oak
  • English Oak
  • Pin Oak
  • Tulip Tree
  • Heritage River Birch
  • Little Leaf Linden
  • Sugar Maple
  • Red Maple
  • Red Sunset’ Maple
  • October Glory’ Maple
  • Autumn Blaze Maple
  • ‘Norwegian Sunset’ Maple
  • Pecan
  • Dawn Redwood
  • Weeping Willow
  • Fruitless Mulberry
  • Hybrid American Elms
  • Silver Maple

Large Deciduous Trees (over 20′) - Tolerant of Dry Sites

  • Shumard Oak
  • Bur Oak
  • Sawtooth Oak
  • Chinkapin Oak
  • Texas Red Oak
  • Chinese Pistache
  • ‘Prairie Pride’ Hackberry
  • ‘Accolade’ Lacebark Elm
  • ‘Allee’ Lacebark Elm
  • ‘Prairie Shade’ Lacebark Elm
  • ‘Dynasty’ Lacebark Elm
  • ‘Athena’ Lacebark Elm
  • Cedar Elm
  • ‘Legacy’ Sugar Maple
  • ‘Caddo’ Sugar Maple
  • ‘White Shield’ Osage Orange
  • Thornless Honeylocust
  • ‘Urbanite’ Green Ash
  • ‘Autumn Purple’ White Ash
  • Kentucky Coffeetree
  • ‘Autumn Gold’ Ginkgo

Small Ornamental - Deciduous Trees (under 20′)

  • ‘Burgundy Lace’ Japanese Maple
  • ‘Bloodgood’ Japanese Maple
  • ‘Crimson Queen’ Japanese Maple
  • Hedge Maple
  • ‘Flame’ Amur Maple - T
  • Paperbark Maple
  • Shantung Maple - T
  • Washington Hawthorn
  • ‘Warren’s Red’ Deciduous Holly
  • American Hornbeam
  • ‘Fastigiata’ European Hornbeam
  • ‘Camperdownii’ Weeping Elm
  • ‘Chaparral’ Weeping Mulberry
  • ‘Royal Purple’ Smoke Tree - T
  • ‘Frans Fontaine’ Columnar Hornbeam - T

Small Flowering Trees (under 20′)

  • Eastern Redbud
  • White Redbud
  • ‘Forest Pansy’ Redbud
  • ‘Oklahoma’ Redbud
  • ‘Indian Magic’ Red Crabapple
  • ‘Snow Magic’ White Crabapple
  • ‘Callaway’ White Crabapple
  • ‘Prairiefire’ Pink Crabapple
  • ‘Evelyn’ Rose Red Crabapple
  • ‘Sargent’ White Crabapple
  • ‘Red Jade’ White Weeping Crabapple
  • ‘Cloud Nine’ Flowering Dogwood
  • ‘Cherokee Sunset’ Red Dogwood
  • ‘Cherokee Princess’ White Dogwood
  • ‘Aristocrat’ Pear - T
  • ‘Chanticleer’ Pear - T
  • ‘Capital’ Pear - T
  • ‘Autumn Blaze’ Pear - T
  • ‘Thundercloud’ Purple Leaf Plum
  • ‘Krauter Vesuvious’ P.L. Plum
  • ‘Newport’ Purple Leaf Plum
  • Flowering Almond
  • ‘Alexandrina’ Saucer Magnolia
  • ‘Royal Star’ Star Magnolia
  • ‘Kwanzan’ Japanese Flowering Cherry
  • ‘Pink Dawn’ Chitalpa - T
  • Desert Willow - T
  • Chinese Fringe Tree
  • Golden Rain Tree - T

Large Evergreen Trees (over 20′)

  • Austrian Pine - T
  • Japanese Black Pine - T
  • Loblolly Pine - T
  • Slash Pine
  • Scotch Pine
  • Eastern White Pine
  • Deodar Cedar - T
  • Cedar of Lebanon
  • Atlas Cedar - T
  • China Fir
  • Leyland Cypress
  • Southern Magnolia
  • Texas Live Oak - T

Small Evergreen Trees (under 20′)

  • ‘Fosteri #2’ Foster Holly
  • ‘Greenleaf’ American Holly
  • ‘Pride of Houston’ Yaupon Holly
  • ‘Pendula’ Yaupon Holly
  • Standard Yaupon Holly
  • ‘Little Gem’ Magnolia
  • ‘Nellie R. Stevens Holly - T
  • Southern Wax Myrtle
  • ‘Bright n Tight’ Cherry Laurel
  • Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar
  • ‘Garee’ Blue Arizona Cypress - T
  • ‘Cooks Peak’ Arizona Cypress - T
  • Sky Rocket Juniper - T
  • Hollywood Juniper - T
  • Hetzi Green Columnar Juniper - T
  • Taylor Juniper - T
  • Bosnian Red Cone Pine - T
  • ‘Hoopsii’ Blue Spruce
  • ‘Fat Albert’ Blue Spruce
  • Pinion Pine - T
  • Lacebark Pine - T
  • Japanese Red Umbrella Pine
  • ‘Canaerti’ Eastern Red Cedar
  • ‘Vanderwolf’s’ Limber Pine
  • Dwarf Eastern White Pine
  • Columnar Scotch Pine
  • Dwarf Alberta Spruce

Trees that Resist Ice Damage

(As a general rule, trees with horizontal branches or those trained to have well-spaced and short limbs will sustain less damage than those with narrow branch angles and long limbs. Here are some examples of good prospects.)

  • Bald Cypress
  • White Oak
  • Sweetgum
  • Bur Oak
  • ‘Caddo’ Sugar Maple
  • Shantung Maple
  • Crabapples
  • White Ash
  • Osage Orange
  • Honey Locust
  • Tulip Tree
  • Kentucky Coffee Tree

Vertical Trees for Smaller Spaces

  • Boulevard Linden
  • Shawnee Brave Bald Cypress
  • Sky Rocket English Oak
  • Crimson Spire English Oak
  • Chanticleer Pear
  • Capital Pear
  • Slender Silhouette Sweet Gum
  • Columnar Norway Maple
  • Frans Fontaine Columnar Hornbeam
  • Fastigiata European Hornbeam

Ultra Fast Growing Trees

Use with care, as they generally have weak wood and poor structure, making them highly prone to storm damage. Plus fast growing trees often succumb to disease and have shorter life spans.

  • Silver Maple
  • Box Elder
  • Mimosa
  • Cottonless Cottonwood
  • Lombardi Poplar
  • Bolleana Pyramidal White Poplar
  • Weeping Willow
  • Globe Willow

*T – Tough tree! Tolerates heat, drought, and poor soils!





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