Complete Guide to Tree Selection for Landscaping

Landscaping our outdoor living space is no small task! Whether starting fresh or simply adding upon the landscape you already have established, there are many considerations to make. It’s very helpful to lay out a detailed plan that encompasses your ideal theme and desired function. Your plan should include hardscaping features, water features, storage options, flexible seating, flower beds, shrubs & hedges, and trees. One of the most important aspects of your garden planning is your tree selection. Trees are an investment and if cared for properly will last for years and years to come. Your tree selection should be based on the space you have available, your local climate, the time available for tree care, your budget, and your overall landscaping theme. 

Best Trees for Different Landscaping Themes

When designing your yard and garden, there are a wide variety of themes to work with. A themed garden and yard is one where all the plants and design elements form a cohesive idea. Your tree and shrubbery selections are part of the overall theme of your outdoor living space. Different trees will work better for different yard themes, based on their aesthetics and environmental needs. Here are a few themes and the trees that would work well with them:

Low Maintenance Landscape 

If you’re looking for an outdoor living space that is easy to maintain and care for, you may opt for a low-maintenance landscape. This theme focuses on selecting trees, shrubs and flowers that require very little care throughout the year. 

Tree Options:

  • White Oak 
  • Northern Oak
  • English Oak
  • Japanese Lilac
  • Crabapple 
  • White Fir
  • Fraser Fir 

Edible Landscape

A garden so beautiful you could eat it! If you dream of a yard that is both full of color & textures as well as purposeful, an edible landscape is a great choice. This landscape theme focuses on incorporating fruits, vegetables, and herbs all throughout your garden. There are a wide variety of fruit trees that do well in North Carolina.

Tree Options:

  • Citrus
  • Peach
  • Plum
  • Persimmon
  • Apple
  • Paw-Paw
  • Apricot 
  • Nectarine

Dog-Friendly Landscape

Dog-friendly landscape places a focus on avoiding plants and shrubbery that can be toxic or upsetting to dogs. 

Tree Options:

  • Amur Maple
  • Bamboo Palm
  • Big Shellbark Hickory
  • Crepe Myrtle
  • Dogwood Trees
  • English Hawthorn
  • Star Magnolia

Kid Friendly Landscape

Great for families and kid-focused care centers, a kid-friendly garden approach incorporates plants and trees that create a playful environment. Many shrubs and flowers are selected for their sensory appeal including smells, colors, and textures. Consider trees that will grow strong and sturdy enough over time to hold a treehouse, tire swing, or a ninja obstacle course. 

Tree Options:

  • Maples
  • Oaks
  • Beech
  • Firs 
  • Hemlock

Wildlife Garden Landscape 

This landscape encourages all kinds of wildlife to come to your yard. 

Tree Options:

  • Carolina Cherry Laurel
  • Eastern Hemlock
  • Sassafras
  • Black Locust
  • Black Cherry
  • Southern Magnolia
  • Southern Wax Myrtle
  • American Holly

Native Garden Landscape

Native gardens are another design option for your landscaping. Native gardens use native plants and trees that easily adapt to local climate and soil conditions where they grow naturally.

Tree Options:

  • Eastern Red Cedar
  • American HollyFlowering Dogwood
  • Cockspur Hawthorn
  • Downy Serviceberry
  • Longleaf Pine
  • White Ash 
  • Red Maple 

Trees That Thrive in the NC Triangle

When planting trees in North Carolina, you have a lot of options. There are a lot of trees that do very well in Raleigh and the surrounding Triangle area. All of the trees that do well locally provide different functions including privacy borders, focal points, or small groupings. 

Trees for Privacy:

  • Eastern arborvitae 
  • White spruce 
  • Bristlecone pine 
  • Swiss stone pine 

Trees for Small Groupings:

  • Sourwood 
  • Atlantic white cedar 
  • Silky dogwood 
  • Washington hawthorn 
  • Eastern redbud
  • Crape Myrtle 

Trees as a Focal Point:

  • Mockernut hickory 
  • Red maple tree 
  • Yellow birch tree 
  • Allegheny serviceberry 
  • Sweet bay magnolia

What To Consider When Choosing Trees 

No matter what theme you pick for your outdoor space, all trees need a few basic accommodations to grow and thrive. Every yard is different! Soil quality, elevation, climate, sun & shade exposure, surrounding shrubs & pants, hardscaping, and space limitations all vary for everyone. 

Tree Maintenance

Consider how well you will be able to care for your trees. Do you have enough time, the right tools, and the applicable knowledge to provide maintenance for your trees? You can always hire a certified tree specialist to maintain the health and care of your trees to ensure it is done properly. This also saves you a lot of time and worry. 

Space Available

How much space do you have available in your yard? Trees need plenty of room to grow. Some species of trees require more room than others. Tree roots spread out far beyond the trunk, just like their branches. Select a space that allows the roots to grow free from obstruction ( underground pipes and cables etc). Your trees should be spaced out several feet from each other and other hardscapes such as fences and water features. 

Be mindful when you are planting your new trees, follow these tree planting tips to ensure successful growth and maturity for your young tree. 

Surrounding Shrubs & Flowers

Be mindful of surrounding hedges, shrubs, and flowers. You do not want your plants competing for resources and ending up without the nutrients they need. If you plan on adding annuals or perennials around your tree bed, consider what type of sun exposure they can tolerate. If your flowers need more sun, select a tree that allows more light to filter through its branches. 

Local Climate 

Select trees that will grow well in your local climate. Some trees do well in cooler zones and are hearty enough to withstand freezing temperatures while others require warmer temps and humid air to succeed. 


This may be one of the biggest factors in selecting trees for your garden. Trees are an investment and generally cost more than flowers and shrubs. The size of your budget should be based on the amount of disposable income you wish to invest in your yard project as well as the desired amount of space you are wanting to fill. If you have a small to medium budget consider lower-priced trees that are easy to care for or select a fewer number of trees. 


Don’t Forget Ongoing Tree Care

When planning your project for trees this spring, consider including tree maintenance along with your budget. Tree services are surprisingly affordable and help save you time. BlackHawk takes great pride in providing quality preventative tree care as well as tree & stump removals. To learn more about how BlackHawk Tree Services can help you with your spring tree plans, call us at (919) 469-1340.