The Best Trees For North Carolina (Shade, Flowering & Privacy)

Everybody loves trees.

They offer cool shade in the summer, vibrant fall color, and bursts of spectacular fluffy blooms in the spring, just when we need a mood boost.

But when it's time to plant one, decision panic often sets in. So many options! What to choose?

Don't worry — you have Brian.

Brian Holden, Greenscape, Inc. client relations manager, shares nine of his favorite North Carolina trees, and what he loves about them.

Can't wait to get one of these beauties in the ground?

We'll even plant it for you.

Best Shade Trees For North Carolina

When it's time for a picnic, an afternoon of lazy summer reading or a break from weeding the sun-drenched garden, you need a shade tree.

Here are three of Holden's favorites:

1. White oak

"This is a great shade tree for areas with room to grow," Holden says. Be sure about your location for this one — it isn't going anywhere.  The oldest white oak is in the Washington D.C. area, he says, and it's around 300 years old.

These oaks will grow and grow, reaching mature heights in the 80 to 100 feet range.

As they age, they display pretty red leaves in the fall, but be patient. For the first few years, the leaves will turn a less spectacular brown in autumn.

2. Shagbark hickory 


Aptly named, this beauty boasts gray shredded bark with wonderful texture as it matures, Holden says, and offers great golden color in the fall. They'll top out at 60 to 80 feet.

Nut connoisseurs claim these hickory nuts are the king of nuts, tastier than walnuts or pecans. But you have to toast them to bring out their flavor and crunchy texture. And you’ll have to battle the squirrels for the tasty morsels.

3. Sourwood

A native variety, this tree has a spreading canopy great for blocking sunlight. You’ll look forward to fall, when it dazzles with crimson red splendor. Sourwood also offers an impressive summer bloom of delicate, white, very fragrant flowers. Honey bees love it, so you're doing our buzzing friends a favor if you plant this one. A nice, showy tree, it will grow to between 30 and 60 feet tall.


Best Flowering Trees For North Carolina

A great flowering tree can actually take your breath away. Their beauty is fleeting, which makes them even more special.

Here are three of Holden's top picks:

1. Flowering dogwood

dogwood.jpg"This has always been a native favorite of mine," Holden says, "not to mention it's our state flower."

The oldest dogwood in existence — or close to it — lives in North Carolina, he says.

Good for woodland gardens and shaded spots, this dogwood is a favorite of birds, too.

If your spot is on the sunny side, look for one of the newer hybrid varieties that offer more sun tolerance, Holden suggests.

2. Redbud

Another native favorite, this lovely tree dots the woodlands with its spectacular pink spring blooms. "It's an excellent choice for spring color," Holden says.

Look for a stunner developed here in North Carolina, he says, called "Carolina Sweetheart," with wonderful variegated foliage of pink, green and white.

3. 'Lipan' crape myrtle

This mid -height crape tops out at 15 to 25 feet tall, boasts a slightly more lavender bloom and gets a deeper green leaf than some of the other crapes, Holden says.

It has a nice orangey red fall color and the bark turns a pretty gray as it matures.

Best Privacy Trees For North Carolina

Sometimes you just need to get away from it all — loud neighborhood kids, traffic, the stress of the day. But your travel budget limits you to the back yard.

These trees will give you a bit of a private oasis, right there on your desk or patio. Holden says these three will do the job nicely.

1. Green Giant Arborvitae

Arborvitae.jpg"These trees are great for larger evergreen screens," Holden says. Choose this variety over the Leyland Cypress, he suggests, which has weak roots.

2. Chindo Viburnum  

"While this is not an evergreen tree, technically, it has a great ability to offer a screen," Holden says. This viburnum has a more broad evergreen leaf, which provides a different feel than the needled evergreens more typically chosen for privacy screens, he says.

It grows to about 15 to 18 feet tall.  It's fairly cold tolerant, but you might see a bit of leaf damage after a very cold winter. This is a good choice for part shade.

3. Nellie Stevens Holly

"These hollies offer a glossy green evergreen leaf and respond well to shearing for a more formal hedge or screen," Holden says. A vigorous grower with dense branches, it creates an excellent tall screen. Bonus: it produces large bright orange-red berries, even without a male pollenizer. 


A Quick Boast About Trees

While Holden’s tree tips might lead you to a tree for its shade, flowers or privacy, keep in mind just about any tree is a bonus for your property.

Trees can substantially reduce your winter heating and summer cooling bills.

They absorb carbon dioxide and emit oxygen, actually cleaning and producing air. Trees offer a protected and cozy habitat for wildlife. They clean water as it seeps into the water table and reduce storm water runoff.

Because everybody loves trees, they increase your property value.

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The Best Trees For North Carolina? Just Ask Greenscape

At Greenscape, Inc., we're tree experts. We can narrow down your thousands of choices to just the right tree, or trees, for your property.

Then, our skilled maintenance team can plant it and care for it so you can enjoy its beauty, shade, flowers or privacy for a lifetime.

We’ve been meeting the full-service landscaping needs of commercial and residential customers in the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and Cary areas for more than 35 years.

We offer landscape management and lawn care, design and build services, irrigation, landscape lighting and more.

Call us at 919-552-7742 or fill out our online form to request a free consultation and learn how we can transform your landscape.

We can't wait to hear from you.

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