Springtime in the Great Basin
Flowering trees are iconic to springtime in Utah. After each long winter, we watch with joy as the snow melts and the land bursts into bloom. From the yoshino cherry blossoms at our capitol steps to the many peach, pear, and apricot orchards throughout the state, flowering trees remind Utahns why, despite the cold months and the dry heat, we choose to live nestled in this valley.
If you’d like a little of that spring beauty, you don’t have to drive to the capitol grounds or take a day trip to an orchard. You can plant a flowering tree in your own front yard! We’ve put together some information on selecting a tree as well as some tips about attracting pollinators to encourage those blooms to produce fruit.
Blossoms & Bees
Pollinators are insects and birds that move pollen from plant to plant. They’re essential to the growth of fruits and the health of the earth. Tree flowers are an abundant source of forage for pollinators, providing nutrient-rich pollen and nectar.
The most common pollinators are bees and planting a flowering tree can attract these busy little creatures to your property.
If you want to attract bumble bees to your yard, they’ll need a few things. Bees like shelter from the sun between flyings and feedings. Give them water in a fountain or in shallow bowls. Place pebbles in the water so bees can sit while they sip. Plant flowers beneath your tree. Bees love blue, purple, and yellow flowers with simple shapes.
Hummingbirds & Butterflies
Hummingbirds love tubular flowers in red, orange, and magenta. Bright ribbons in these colors make a great lure. Native plants produce more nectar than exotics. In Utah, plant wild bergamot, hummingbird trumpet, cardinalflower, and coral bells . Hummingbirds will scout many flowers, only staying if there’s an abundance of nectar available. Place a birdbath near your tree to encourage them to perch on the branches while they rest, preen, and hunt for insects.
Butterflies need wet earth or shallow puddles to drink from, rather than deep bowls. They like large patches of various red, yellow, orange, and purple blossoms in full sun. Plan a variety of plants to will bloom continuously through the growing season. If your property is windy, they’ll need shelter, like a hedge or wall.
Cherry & Redbud
Cherry trees make a stunning focal point with their pink and white blooms. Choose from a wide variety of shapes to find one that suits your growing area. Cherry trees range from narrow upright columnar trees to broad, spreading trees, to weeping forms. We recommend the Prunus sargentii ‘Columnaris’ or Columnar Sargent Cherry which has tall, upward reaching branches.
Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ – Forest Pansy Redbud grows well in the shade. With wide, deciduous heart-shaped leaves that range from purple to green and distinctive violet pea-like flower buds, this spring bloomer is a lovely accent tree. In natural environments, it grows as an understory tree, so it thrives in partial shade, but can adapt to full sun.
Lilac & Magnolia
Few trees are more stately or spectacular than a magnolia in full bloom. The large blossoms have a captivating fragrance. Magnolias prefer rich, acidic, soil and full sun. For the Utah climate, we recommend the Magnolia ‘Ann’ – Ann Magnolia. Because the Ann Magnolia flowers later than other varieties, it tends to fare better when we experience a late frost.
For an early summer showstopper, look at the 25 foot the Syringa reticulata ‘Ivory Silk’ – Ivory Silk Japanese Tree Lilac. It’s clusters of creamy-white blooms put off a fragrance that is irresistible to butterflies and hummingbirds. This tree likes full sun and tolerates urban conditions.
Crabapple & Pear
Crabapples are primarily grown for ornamental beauty and their flowers bloom for 3-4 weeks every spring. The Malus ‘Prairifire’ – Prairifire Crabapple is a gorgeous example with leaves that change from red to green to bronze throughout the year. Crabapple trees are hardy and thrive in zones 3-8 due to their drought tolerance, low maintenance, and versatility.
Pyrus calleryana, also known as the Bradford Flowering Pear has nice upright growth forms, glossy, dark green leaves and bright white flowers in the springtime. In the fall, they turn yellow, orange, purple, or red before falling, which makes them a nice feature throughout the seasons.
Planting Your Flowering Tree
Fruit and nut trees prefer a fellow species for cross-pollination, and planting two near each other will increase production. Here are a few recommendations for the Utah climate.
As with any new tree planting, be sure to select a growing location that will continue to support the tree throughout its entire lifespan. Look for somewhere that has room for a mature tree of its variety. Plant in areas with rich soil and proper sunlight and avoid any areas that are too close to structures, power lines, and other city infrastructure.
Most images in this blog post were provided by Salt Lake City, Utah photographer, Sam Scholes.