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About this Web Site

Trees & Shrubs

Don't take plants from the wild!
Nursery-propagated plants are available for every species listed on this page. There is no reason to despoil wild areas by removing plants. Statement on collecting plants.

Shrubs

Most of these shrubs are covered also in University of Connecticut's excellent Plant Database, which has detailed descriptions and lots of photos. Click on the "UConn Plant Database" link to go to the page for that plant.

Red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia, Photinia pyrifolia)
full sun part shade full shade dry to moist soil zones 5-9
This is a quietly handsome shrub that thrives in a wide range of conditions. It has clusters of white flowers in the spring, followed by bright red berries that attract birds. Its brilliant red fall foliage ends the year with a bang. 5-10' tall. UConn Plant Database.
    
Sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia)
full sun part shade average to moist soil zones 3-9
With fragrant white flowers in mid-summer, sweet pepperbush is a valuable addition to the landscape. The flowers are a magnet for butterflies and bees. 6-9' tall. Prefers acidic soil; tolerates ocean spray and road salt. UConn Plant Database.
 
Winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata)
full sun part shade moist to wet soil zones 4-9
The glory of this shrub is its berries. They turn red in early fall and continue to provide cheer through most of the winter. An ideal shrub for pond-side plantings; winterberry loves wet soil, and it looks beautiful reflected on the water. Both male and female bushes are needed to get berries; one male is enough for half-a-dozen females. Unlike most hollies, winterberry is deciduous. Typically 6-10'. UConn Plant Database.
Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia)
full sun full shade average to moist soil zones 5-9
Mountain laurel is Connecticut's state flower. In spring, its pale pink flowers attract hummingbirds. The leaves stay green all winter; the shrub looks good even in very cold weather (unlike evergreen rhododendrons, which curl up their leaves and look like they're shivering). Mountain laurel will grow in full sun if it has consistently moist soil. In full shade, its form is tall and loose; the bare, contorted branches are picturesque. 5-12' tall. UConn Plant Database.
 
Bayberry (Morella pensylvanica, syn. Myrica pensylvanica)
full sun part shade dry to moist soil zones 3-7
Bayberry is a tough shrub. It grows in nearly any soil, from heavy clay to infertile sand. It tolerates salt, making it good for seaside and heavily-salted roadside. Its leaves and berries are aromatic. The gray, waxy berries (used in bayberry candles) are attractive in winter, and they provide food for birds. Bayberry has fine-textured foliage and an interesting branch structure. 6-10'. UConn Plant Database.
 
Rosebay, Great Laurel (Rhododendron maximum)
part shade full shade moist soil zones 4-9
With large clusters of pink or lavender flowers, rosebay is one of our showiest native shrubs. The large, oval leaves are evergreen. The twisty branches provide another ornamental feature. Rosebay dislikes hot, dry locations; it does best in morning sun and afternoon shade. 6-15'. UConn Plant Database.
 
Pinxterbloom azalea (Rhododendron periclymenoides, syn. Rhododendron nudiflorum)
full sun part shade dry to moist soil zones 4-9
In spring, the pinxterbloom azalea puts out fragrant flowers in pink, lavender, or white. The trumpet-shaped flowers have long stamens, giving them a festive look. Pinxterbloom is a tolerant shrub -- unlike most members of the Rhododendron genus, it will grow in sandy, rocky, or dry soil. Typically 4-6'. UConn Plant Database.
 
Swamp azalea (Rhododendron viscosum)
full sun part shade moist to wet soil zones 4-9
In summer, the swamp azalea has white flowers with a delightful, spicy fragrance. The flowers attract hummingbirds. True to its name, swamp azalea enjoys a soggy spot -- probably the only azalea that does. 3-7' tall.
Fragrant Sumac (Rhus aromatica)
full sun part shade dry to average zones 4-9
Fragrant sumac thrives in poor soil and hot, dry locations. It spreads by suckers and by stolons, so it can form a large colony. These traits make it an excellent choice for preventing erosion on steep banks. The leaves are aromatic; they turn a good red in fall. 3-6' tall. UConn Plant Database.
 
Highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum)
full sun part shade average to moist zones 3-8
Highbush blueberry is used in commercial blueberry farming. It's a good addition to the yard, and not just for its delicious fruit. In early summer, it has urn-shaped flowers in pale pink or white. In fall, its foliage presents a range of colors, from yellow to red to burgundy. During the growing season, its dense, rounded shape and fine-textured foliage are attractive; in winter its rusty red or yellow-green bark becomes prominent. 6-10' tall. UConn Plant Database.
 
American highbush cranberry (Viburnum trilobum, syn. Viburnum opulus var. americanum)
full sun part shade full shade average to wet zones 2-7
American highbush cranberry is a very easy-to-grow shrub that is decorative for most of the year. In late spring, it has flat clusters of white flowers. In late summer, the red berries appear; they can persist through the winter. The berries are edible to birds and humans -- they make good preserves. The fall foliage is yellow, red, or red-purple. American highbush cranberry ought to be more widely planted; it is both prettier and more adaptable than the commoner European highbush cranberry (Viburnum opulus var. opulus). 8-12' tall. All of Connecticut's native Viburnums are good landscape shrubs: mapleleaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium), hobblebush (V. alnifolium), nannyberry (V. lentago), possum haw (V. nudum), black haw (V. prunifolium), arrowwood (V. dentatum), and downy arrowwood (V. rafinesquianum). UConn Plant Database.

 

Trees

Most of these trees are covered also in University of Connecticut's excellent Plant Database, which has detailed descriptions and lots of photos. Click on the "UConn Plant Database" link to go to the relevant page.

Red maple (Acer rubrum)
full sun part shade dry to wet zones 4-9
Red maple makes a beautiful shade tree or street tree. This maple has red flowers in early spring, and brilliant, clear red foliage in fall. The silvery bark is handsome year-round. Red maple is a fairly fast-growing tree. 40-70' tall. UConn Plant Database.
 
Downy servicebery, downy juneberry (Amelanchier arborea)
full sun part shade dry to moist zones 4-9
Downy serviceberry is a graceful small tree or large shrub. It has clusters white flowers in spring. Its edible fruits taste a bit like blueberries; they are loved by birds. Beautiful fall foliage in shades of yellow, orange, and red. The slender, curving trunks with light-gray bark are attractive in winter. 20-25' tall. UConn Plant Database.
 
River birch, black birch (Betula nigra)
full sun part shade average to wet zones 4-9
River birch is an excellent large landscape tree. The bark ranges from tan to cinnamon brown in color; its habit of peeling in sheets is attractive. Like many other birches, river birch often has several trunks, forming a handsome clump. Unlike the more commonly-planted white birch, river birch is seldom troubled by insect pests, and it tolerates summer heat well. 40-70'. UConn Plant Database.
 
American hornbeam, ironwood (Carpinus caroliniana)
full sun part shade full shade average to wet zones 3-9
American hornbeam is a pleasing small tree, with attractive blue-green foliage and good fall color. The trunk has subtle ripples, as if there were muscles bulging beneath the bark; the tree is sometimes called musclewood. In the wild, it usually grows along rivers or streams, and it will tolerate occasional flooding. Birds enjoy the fruit. 20-40' tall. UConn Plant Database.
 
Hackberry, sugarberry (Celtis occidentalis)
full sun very dry to moist zones 4-9
Hackberry is a fast-growing shade tree that is exceptionally tolerant of adverse conditions. It withstands soggy soil or extreme drought, clay or sandy soil, urban pollution, and strong wind. Its roots grow deep; the absence of shallow roots mean it can be planted next to walkways and not cause heaving. The edible berries are said to taste like dates; they are relished by birds. 40-60'. UConn Plant Database.
 
Redbud (Cercis canadensis)
full sun part shade average to moist zones 4-9
Redbud is valued for its showy, deep-pink flowers, which appear in spring before the tree leafs out. It blooms heavily from a young age. The broad, heart-shaped leaves are also pleasing. Redbud makes an effective companion for flowering dogwood, as it blooms at the same time and enjoys the same growing conditions. (Redbud is, however, somewhat more adaptable than dogwood to less-than-perfect conditions.) 25-30'. UConn Plant Database.
 
Pagoda dogwood, green osier (Cornus alternifolia)
part shade moist zones 5-9
The pagoda dogwood gets its name from its horizontal branching habit, which gives the tree a tiered look. This distinctive form makes the pagoda dogwood a good specimen tree; it can also add variety to mixed plantings or woods. Its flowers aren't as showy as those of the flowering dogwood, but the fruit is ornamental. As it ripens, the fruit turns first red then blue-black; the stalks are coral-colored. The fruit is popular with birds (which unfortunately means that it doesn't stay on the tree very long). Pagoda dogwood has fairly nice fall foliage in red to purple-red. The tree does not like hot dry spots, though it tolerates full sun if the soil is reliably moist. Mulching will help keep the soil cool and moist. 15-25'. UConn Plant Database.
 
Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida)
full sun part shade moist zones 5-8
Flowering dogwood is an exceptionally ornamental tree year-round. In spring, it has large white flowers with four distinctively notched, petal-like bracts. The leaves are a nice dark green in summer, and a beautiful red to purple in fall; flowering dogwood holds its fall color for a long period. The shiny red fruit is also attractive, and it provides important winter food for wildlife. In winter, the tree shows off its lovely structure -- low, gracefully curved branches with light-colored bark. While flowering dogwood is susceptible to anthracnose and borers, proper growing conditions minimize the risk. Wet leaves are more vulnerable to anthracnose infection, so a sunny location with good air circulation is best. Consistently moist soil is important, especially for trees growing in full sun. (Mulching the soil is an easy way to maintain soil moisture.) Slightly acidic soil high in organic matter is preferred. Read more about anthracnose and other plant diseases in Cornell University factsheets. 20-30'. UConn Plant Database.
 
Sour gum, black gum (Nyssa sylvatica)
full sun part shade average to wet zones 5-9
Sour gum is one of the very best trees for fall color. The show starts as early as mid-summer, with a few leaves turning orange or red. By fall the whole tree is a blazing mix of warm colors, and the color lasts a long time. In summer the foliage is glossy dark green. Sour gum grows fastest if it has fertile, slightly acidic, moist soil, but it will grow in anything except alkaline or extremely dry soil. Salt tolerant. 40-60'. UConn Plant Database.
 
American hop hornbeam, ironwood (Ostrya virginiana)
full sun part shade dry to moist zones 4-9
American hop hornbeam is a graceful medium-small tree. Mature trees have a pleasing rounded shape, with drooping lower branches. The name comes from the decorative, papery fruits, which resemble hops. Hophornbeam is an excellent choice for a dry woodland; once established, it is highly drought-tolerant. 30-40'. UConn Plant Database.
 
Fire cherry, pin cherry (Prunus pensylvanica)
full sun dry to moist zones 4-8
Fire cherry is one of the first trees to appear after a forest fire, as its seeds resist burning and the tree tolerates the harsh, exposed conditions of burned land. In the landscape, it does well in sunny locations, where it will tolerate poor soil, dry soil, and strong winds. It's a fast-growing small tree with delicate white flowers in spring, followed by bright red fruit. The smooth, red-brown bark is appealing. Fall color is yellow to red. 25-35'.
 
White oak (Quercus alba)
full sun part shade dry to average zones 4-9
Connecticut's state tree, white oak is a beautiful and majestic tree. White oaks planted in the open develop a broad crown, with many branches nearly horizontal. The foliage is dark red to reddish-purple for a long period in fall. White oaks can live for centuries; planting one is an easy way to earn the gratitude of future generations. Oaks in general are excellent trees for wildlife -- they attract not just squirrels, but also foxes, deer, porcupines, rabbits, and many species of birds. 50-80'. UConn Plant Database.
 
Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina)
full sun dry to average zones 4-8
Staghorn sumac is a resilient small tree with many ornamental attributes. Its large compound leaves bring a tropical effect to the landscape. Fall color is a brilliant red, almost pink. Female plants have attractive clusters of fuzzy, dark red berries through fall and winter. Spreading by root suckers allows staghorn sumac to form a pleasing clump; cut off wayward shoots to maintain the desired clump size. Staghorn sumac is widely planted as an ornamental in Europe; it should be better appreciated in its homeland. It tolerates heat, drought, pollution, and very infertile soil -- virtually anything except soggy soil. 15-25'. UConn Plant Database.

 


Notes on Garden Conditions

Light:
full sun Full sun -- more than five hours of direct sun per day.
part shade Part shade -- two to five hours of direct sun, or all-day dappled sun, as from sunlight shining through open trees.
full shade Full shade -- less than two hours of direct sun per day.

Soil moisture: "Average" soil moisture describes typical conditions for Connecticut. "Dry," here, means soil that dries fairly quickly after a rain, or soil dried out by shallow tree roots -- not desert conditions.

Hardiness zones: These describe the plant's tolerance of winter cold. Here is one site where you can look up your hardiness zone. All plants listed here are hardy throughout Connecticut, which is in zones 5 and 6.

Height: Heights are given in feet ( ' ). To convert to meters, multiply feet by 0.3.


Sources of information on this page.

©2002 by Connecticut Botanical Society and Janet Novak. Other images ©2000-2002 Janet Novak, Eleanor Saulys, Arieh Tal, Emma Craib. All rights reserved.
Last updated December 21, 2011.