Choosing trees

Asked September 22, 2013, 11:34 PM EDT

We are currently building a house on 3 acres near Steele. I am trying to decide which trees to plant in my front yard. I would love a few trees that have fabulous fall color and grow quickly, and also a few that will be nice, big sturdy trees. I was thinking about Red Maple and Quaking Aspen for the fall colors and Bur Oak for my sturdy ones but can't quite make up my mind. It seems like all varieties of trees have some sort of problem, whether that's extensive suckering or being prone to diseases. How do I make a decision? What works best here in ND for what I want out of a tree? Any help would be appreciated!

Kidder County North Dakota trees and shrubs landscape design horticulture

3 Responses

Everyone wants a tree that is sturdy, grows quickly and has great fall color. There aren't any. You are going to have to make compromises on at least one of these traits..
The best tree for our state historically was green ash, which makes up over one-third of all trees in ND. However, the likely introduction of the emerald ash borer, a killer pest, to ND makes a green ash a risky choice.
If you have a new yard, I recommend you get a soil test. Soil test bags are available at your local Extension office. This will give you the information on your soil to help a suitable tree for your environment. Soil pH (acidity) and salt levels will be important factors.
Among the trees you mentioned:
Bur oaks are native to ND. They are sturdy, moderate in growth rate, and their fall color is fair.
Red maples struggle in ND since they prefer moist, acid soils. It is not wet here in ND and your pH may or may not be acidic. Probably isn't.
Quaking aspen grow fast and have great fall golden fall color. Everyone loves the noise of the leaves when they blow in the wind. But they are weak-wooded and short-lived.

So what to do?

I recommend you consider hybrid elms, including 'Cathedral', the Morton lines ('Accolade', 'Triumph') and 'Prairie Expedition'. They grow fast, are sturdy and have good, but not spectacular fall color.
Lindens are fast growing. They are fairly sturdy and some have good fall color.
Bur oaks are great.
Among maples, you need to know the pH of your land. If your soil is acidic or neutral, there are lots of good red maples from U of Minnesota. Among sugar maples, 'Fall Fiesta' deserves consideration. Norway maples are worth considering.
Freeman maples are popular, but we are seeing lots of winter dieback.
Cottonwoods are okay, but they can get quite tall for a home landscape. In the long run, everytime a story blows through you will be worried if a cottonwood is near your home.
If your front yard has a north or east-facing exposure, you could consider a heat-tolerant birch or perhaps mountain ash.
I recommend you download the handout:
These are just a few ideas. Your local nursery will have good ideas, too.
Let me know if you have any questions.

I will get the soil tested ASAP and go from there. Thanks so much for your suggestions and advice! I am so glad to have the help of the Extension Service!