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Iowa Guide to Growing Trees

It is a well-known fact that trees are an important part of our planet. They provide shade, produce oxygen, and offer beauty. But what you may not know is how to grow your tree! This guide will teach you everything you need to know about tree care in Iowa so that your family can enjoy the benefits for generations.

Trees in Iowa

The Best Flowering Trees to Grow in Iowa

Korean Lilac Tree

Lilacs are a popular choice for gardens and landscaping because they provide an early sign of spring. If you want to experience something extra special, check out the Korean Lilac Tree. The leaves burst into a deep purple-ish red during summer and fall; in winter, its branches line the ground with snow-white plumes atop glossy green leaves. The Korean Lilac Tree is becoming a new favorite among lovers of lilacs and skilled gardeners and landscape designers.

Meet the perfect lilac for Iowa. This dense variety is both colorful and fragrant, making it perfect in every season. Planted around your patio, or placed in tight areas near your home, this variety will make an unforgettable statement anywhere you put it.

Planting & Care

Find an area that has full sunlight and well-drained soil. The hole should be about twice the size of the root ball. Place your tree in this hole, tamp down any extra soil around the roots, water it thoroughly to settle the roots, and top with mulch if desired. Once established, Korean Lilac Trees have a low drought tolerance. We recommend watering about once weekly when first planting your Korean Lilac Tree and also checking the soil 2-3 inches in depth to see if you need to water your tree depending on how dry the soil is after watering.

After it starts blooming, fertilize your Korean Lilac with a well-balanced fertilizer once or twice a year. Prune the tree after it blooms to shape and size and pick off faded flowers for root development. Biannually, you may remove the faded blooms and leaves to encourage a stronger root system.

Sargent Crabapple Tree

The Sargent Crabapple with its snowy white blooms in the spring and vivid yellow foliage in the fall is a perfect choice for those who want to enjoy a beautiful landscape for nearly all of the year. Offering colorful seasonal blooms, the Sargent Crabapple is a great addition to any home landscape. In springtime, red and pink buds turn into fragrant white blossoms; pure green foliage changes to yellow in the fall when they’re surrounded by bright crimson fruit that survives through winter. The Sargent Crabapple is a biennial, meaning heavy flowering will typically happen every two years.

The Sargent variety of apple trees thrives in Iowa and can even tolerate dry ground once it is established. This tree is easy to transplant as well as groom, making for an ideal sucker Iowans. The small size of the Sargent Crabapple makes it a great option for any sized garden. The fragrant flowers and bright red fruit of the Sargent Crabapple attract birds and butterflies. These qualities make it a great companion for apple trees.

Planting & Care

To plant a Sargent Crabapple, find a location that has moist soil and full sun. Dig the hole deep enough to accommodate the root ball, place your tree inside it, then backfill the soil and water nearby areas.

Although the Sargent Crabapple can tolerate drier soil, its shallow roots mean it has a hard time with dry conditions. It is best to water your tree twice a week or more in areas that don’t receive much regular rainfall and fertilize it as well. To ensure healthy growth, prune it in the winter by removing any damaged branches and lightly trimming off any overgrowth from the previous season’s growth.

The Best Shade Trees in Iowa

Purple Fountain Weeping Beech Tree

The Purple Fountain Weeping Beech is a striking focal point that sets your landscape apart with rich purple foliage and a cascading silhouette. A strong, durable upright form and slow growth habit make this tree easy to maintain. The weeping branches deliver unmatched color in a natural form that will delight both your eyes and the kids planting it. A great addition to any garden, trees have many benefits including attracting wildlife while at the same time standing up to cold temperatures.

Planting & Care

To start, plant your Redbud in full sun (6 to 8 hours of sunlight daily) and well-drained soil. Dig a hole three times the size of the root ball to plant your tree. Backfill or tamp down the soil around the roots, water thoroughly and you have successfully planted your tree!

When first planting your Purple Fountain Weeping Beech, water regularly until it is established. You do not need to prune in the growing season, but you can cut away any unwanted branches or growth when they are dormant.

DannaSpire Columnar Elm Tree

A new addition to the Elm family, the DannaSpire Columnar Elm Tree lives up to its name with sleek upright branching and smaller leaves that make it easier for you. Commonly found in urban environments, this tree can also be used for hedging along a property line. And because it’s tolerant of air pollution, you won’t have to worry about stunted growth or yellowing leaves.

Even with its leaves gone, you are still met with an attractive bark of colors ranging from orange to white to gray. And you can plant it with peace of mind since the DannaSpire variety is resistant to a broad range of threats, including wind, snow, rain, and drought. Unlike other varieties, the DannaSpire tree will not succumb to Dutch elm disease or Elm yellows, meaning you can plant your new tree and sit back for showtime!

Planting & Care

Choosing a planting area large enough for your tree and selecting a site with plenty of sunlight and moist soil conditions are the first, important steps in replanting.

Meeting the needs of a tree that will grow in your yard requires more than just planting and waiting. Sometimes, it’s as easy as watering to make sure a plant is getting enough water. Using fertilizer can often be an important first step for growing any kind of plant. Generally, these complementary steps should help ensure that you have healthy trees with beautiful blooms in your yard year-round.

During the growing season, water your tree regularly (approximately one thorough watering every week is sufficient). If you’re not sure when to water your tree, just check its surrounding soil for dryness.

The Best Fruit Trees in Iowa

Heritage Everbearing Raspberry Plant

Heritage Everbearing Raspberry plants will deliver huge, delicious berries and a longer season of fruit in just one year. Plus they have improved disease resistance and drought tolerance so you don’t need harsh chemicals or tons of water to grow them.

Perfect for the beginning gardener, arid climates, and inexperienced growers alike, Heritage Everbearing Raspberries (heirloom hybrid) are the most popular red raspberry plants on the market. These vigorous hardy plants thrive in most garden soils and even tolerate some cold climates making them perfect for new or experienced gardeners. Easiest of all, Heritage must be planted in the ground or a container. They are cold hardy down to -20 degrees but also well-suited for Southern states because they grow as a drought-tolerant plant. The ability to produce fresh berries during any season makes it an excellent berry crop!

Planting & Care

Heritage Trees need 6 to 8 hours of access to sun and well-drained soil. Dig a hole that is twice the size of your Heritage’s container, place it in that hole and backfill with organic soil. To plant in a pot, choose one 2x bigger than the Heritage’s original shipping container and fill it with organics. Place the tree inside and water deeply so that the roots settle.

Check the top 2 inches of soil for dryness weekly. Water when the soil is dry at this depth. Apply compost with a small amount of balanced organic fertilizer in early winter. Prune Raspberries in fall, leaving 6 canes that are thick and strong and cut off any sideways-growing canes.

Everbearing Mulberry Tree

What is a mulberry bush? Do you remember singing “Here we go ’round the Mulberry Bush”? Like blackberries, they have succulent berries that grow in abundance! The berries will ripen over time, unlike many other fruits that can all ripen simultaneously. This relatively easy-to-grow tree provides you and your family with enough fruit to keep you happy for the entire summer and maybe even all year!

Expect instant gratification. Plant trees in full sun to enjoy a display of flowers around May, then quickly sets fruit and produce berries. You’ll pick more than you expect and while they taste delicious fresh from the vine, you can preserve them for up to year-round enjoyment with jams, jelly, or pies! Mulberries are best preserved as jam or jelly but make a great addition that tastes amazing in your pie too!

While the Black Beauty Mulberry is a fruit-bearing tree that matures into an ornamental stately tree, it can also be grown as a landscape feature. Trees are known for providing shade in the summer and letting in sunlight during the winter.

The Black Beauty Mulberry trees are lush and beautiful, but don’t let their beauty fool you- they’re also tough. They can withstand the harshest of conditions, including winds, heatwaves, poor soil quality, and air pollution.

Planting & Care

When planting your Mulberry tree, you will need to dig a hole that is three or more times as wide as the root ball. You want the top of the root ball to be even with the ground so that it can stand upright. When backfilling soil over your tree, keep in mind that existing soil should go into its hole and any extra dirt on top should only be tamped down lightly. Watering the area right after planting will help to settle all of this loose dirt around your tree’s roots and prevent weeds from growing near it.

To keep trees healthy, water them weekly when they are young. Once established, you can maintain healthy trees by simply watering them and in the spring applying a slow-release fertilizer or organic fertilizer. Occasionally prune dead or broken branches back by cutting with a sharp blade just above a leaf node somewhat higher than where it was cut off.

When is The Best Time to Plant Trees in Iowa

The best time to plant trees in Iowa is in the fall. The soil is moist, and the weather is cooler so it’s easier for the roots to take hold of the ground. In addition, planting trees when there are no leaves on them will help prevent competition with other plants for water and nutrients.

Can You Plant All Season Long?

It’s possible but there are some things you need to know first. For starters, it will depend on the type of plants that you want and how much space they need. If you’re going to do container gardening or raised bed planting, then this is an easy transition for any time of the year. But if you’re going to have a garden with more than one row, then that means your rows should be staggered so they can grow at different times without competing with each other for sunlight and water resources.

What are The Best Trees to Plant Each Season in Iowa

Springtime

Fruit trees are important to plant in the spring. Apples and pears can be added to your backyard or garden later on for a beautiful variance of produce. 

Summertime

In order to keep your summertime outdoor space cool and shaded, consider planting a weeping willow. It is beautiful and provides excellent protection from harsh sunlight. 

Fall time

In the fall, there are beautiful deciduous trees that can add beauty and depth all season!

Wintertime

If you’re looking for a tree that is hardy and will provide color during the winter, then you should go with an evergreen trees like holly or juniper.

What Trees Have The Least Invasive Roots in Iowa 

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ guide includes a list of trees that have shallow root systems, meaning they are less likely to invade your property. These species include Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana), Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera), and White Pine (Pinus strobus).