Overlooked Trees for Landscape Planting

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Published on: Jan. 2, 2001

Last revision: Nov. 10, 2010

We often curse the fickle Missouri climate and complain about our difficult soils, but we are blessed with an ecosystem that provides for a terrific variety of plants and animals. Hundreds of tree species can thrive in Missouri.

That makes it all the harder to understand why so many landscaping projects take a cookie-cutter approach to tree selection. The predictability of the plantings may stem from the limited selection of trees available at local nurseries, or perhaps folks just don't know all the possibilities that are available.

Actually, there are far too many potential landscaping tree species to introduce in one article, but we've compiled a selection of good ones to consider. Other possibilities can be found throughout Missouri. Look for attractive trees in your neighborhood, shopping mall, park, botanical garden or forest.

You can see how tall they grow, how they perform in marginal sites, the beauty of their flowers and their appearance in all seasons. Choose wisely, and a tree planting will give you a lifetime of pleasure and joy to generations that follow.


Conifers aren't necessarily evergreen. Baldcypress (Taxodium distichum), for example, is a conifer that sheds its needles in autumn.

Though usually identified with the so-called "cypress swamps" of the Deep South, the baldcypress is also native to Missouri's Bootheel. However, baldcypress tolerates a wide range of soil conditions, so it doesn't have to be planted in a wet site.

It can grow quickly in its youth, but it has a moderate growth rate overall. A recent study showed an average growth rate of about 2.5 feet per year over a nine-year period. It will eventually grow into a large shade tree at least 50 feet high and 20 feet wide, so give it plenty of room.

Baldcypress is a great substitute for pines where the soils are heavy clay. Most conifers require good drainage, but that can be difficult to find, especially in urban areas. It can be used for screening, if the lower limbs are not pruned because the branches form a fairly dense canopy, even in winter. The fall color can be soft brown, but its small fruit, which resembles tiny pine cones, can be a nuisance.

Because of its stately appearance, baldcypress can stand alone or in a group. It can be planted throughout most of Missouri but may be a little tender for the northern third of the state. If you

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