Native Plants are a vital part of the ecosystem; they provide food, shelter, and the perfect habitat for pollinators. And that’s only one of the many reasons to use native plants in your landscaping.
Native plants are adapted to our climate, and so they still look beautiful during the hottest parts of the summer, when more delicate flowers are struggling to bloom. This also means they don’t require extra care and can survive on our normal rainfall levels, so they’ll help you save water. These plants are a perfect choice if you want an easy way to support a natural ecosystem.
The perennials listed below are an excellent choice for beginners or advanced gardeners who want to add some low-maintenance beauty to the garden!
Grey Headed Coneflower While Coneflower is in the name, this is actually a different plant entirely! These have smaller, yellow star-like flowers. They bloom in abundance in mid-summer and grow to about 4-5′ tall and 3′ wide. They need a minimum of 6 hours of sun, the more the better. Bees love these and, and they’re a host plant for Checkerspot butterflies!
Showy Goldenrod Beautiful cones of tiny yellow flowers bloom on tall stalks in the later months of summer. These are extremely drought-tolerant, and an important food source for butterflies heading south in late summer. Some Goldenrod spread, but not these, they are clump-forming and well behaved. The plant grows to about 4′ tall and 2′ wide. Plant in full sun for best performance.
New England Aster These asters have wonderful purple-pink flowers in early to mid-fall. These are a beautiful shock of color in the garden when other flowers are starting to fade. They are also an important food source for migrating monarchs and other butterflies. The flowers resemble small daisies. The Purple Dome variety grows to about 3′ by 3′, but wild varieties grow to around 4′ tall and wide. Asters need a minimum half-day of sun, but a full day is what they enjoy the most.
Virginia Bluebells These little blue flowers grow in clusters and look like bells. These shade lovers will do best in a full shade location, and they’re a favorite with bees. They grow to around 1′ tall and 6″ wide, though sometimes bigger. These bloom in the spring and early summer, then go dormant during the heat of the later summer months.
Baptisia Resembling lupines with their tall flower spikes, these plants get quite large. They can get up to 4′ tall and 5′ wide. Baptisia is exceptionally hardy. These bee-favorites are available in several colors, including blue, yellow, white, and purple. They do best in full or part sun.
Penstemon Penstemons are like a smaller version of foxgloves, though they’re not available in as many colors. The flowers are white, and plants are available with green or purple leaves, and they’re popular with bees and hummingbirds. They grow to about 4′ tall, and 2′ wide, and are a great tall statement for the middle of the garden. Penstemon does best in full sun.
Ironweed Ironweed flowers are a rich purple on top of strong, dark green stems. It’s a showstopper when it blooms from mid-summer to late-fall. This stately plant, up to 4′ tall, is a favorite for bees and butterflies. Ironweed does self-seed, so you may want to deadhead spent blooms to keep it contained.
Bee Balm Bee Balm is a pollinator favorite that comes in a wide range of colors from lavender to red to rich dark purple. This perennial can spread, but there are new varieties available that are more compact and stay in a well-behaved clump. They range in height from 2′ to 4′ tall. Bee Balm like full sun, but will tolerate some shade. The lavender blooms seem to be the most popular with bees, while red is best for hummingbirds. Native bees often overwinter in the hollow stems of Bee Balm.
Purple Prairie Clover Clusters of bright, purple flowers adorn this mounding plant in mid-summer, and the bees love it. They get to around 3′ tall by 2′ wide. The foliage is a unique addition to the garden because it is soft and fern-like, adding some finer texture to balance out coarser plants. Full sun is best for Prairie Clover.
Mountain Mint The refreshing scent of mint floats in the air when you brush by this plant, but it isn’t aggressive like other mints. This mint is tough and can survive in wet or dry locations. It will grow to about 3′ tall and 2′ wide, and is happy in full to part sun. The tiny flowers are popular with some of our largest native pollinators in Iowa. These big insects can be a little scary, but they’re really just gentle giants, with no desire to hurt us.
Little Bluestem Grasses don’t offer showy flowers, but they’re still very important to pollinators. Grasses provide shelter during high winds and even homes for some, like Skipper butterflies. Little Bluestem is a short native grass that grows to about 3′ tall 2′ wide. In the fall, the foliage turns orangey-yellow, and the fluffy seedheads appear all up and down the stems. Little Bluestem performs best in full sun locations.
Big Bluestem It’s got a similar name, but Big Bluestem is actually quite different. It’s a bit bigger, growing to 5′ tall and 3′ wide. It does have a similar bluish color and turns orangey-yellow in the fall. The seedheads form at the top of the stalks of Big Bluestem. It does best in full sun.
Pennsylvania Sedge This is a gorgeous, slowly spreading groundcover with a grass-like appearance. It’s semi-evergreen, and the foliage stays lush, even through a drought. It grows to about 8″ tall and prefers full shade locations, but it can also tolerate some sun.
Bio-diversity is an essential feature of a healthy and thriving eco-system. Not only is diversity better for wildlife, but it’s best for plants and trees as well. In recent history, urban forests have been sadly lacking in variety.
Urban forests, in the broadest sense, are the entire tree and shrub community within an urban area, including the trees in parks, on public boulevards, or that beautiful Oak tree on your neighbor’s front yard.
Every tree within city limits makes up a part of the urban forest.
Unfortunately, for the last 50-100 years, developers have tended to plant hundreds of just one tree species in our urban environments. While these uniform landscapes may look nice for a few years, this can cause huge environmental issues in the long run.
Having a tree monoculture means the entire urban forest is much more susceptible to an outbreak of disease or infestation of exotic pests. We’ve seen entire blocks of Elm trees destroyed by Dutch Elm Disease. Many of those neighborhoods were then replanted with Ash trees, which are now being attacked by Emerald Ash Borer.
When an entire community of trees is decimated so quickly, it has far-reaching ripple effects on many other parts of the environment. It’s an environmental disaster.
Losing all the mature trees in an area has a significant negative impact on the native bird, mammal, and bug populations. Less tree diversity or loss of trees in an area will also affect the bio-diversity of smaller native plants that need the protection of trees to live. Furthermore, it affects air quality, ambient temperature, water retention, and erosion in a neighborhood.
Besides all these environmental impacts, it affects your pocketbook, too. Property values drop in neighborhoods without trees, or where trees are sparse or immature. Communities without a canopy of shade trees experience higher utility bills for heating and cooling. And, homes without trees are more susceptible to damage from high winds because there is no windbreak.
Tree Diversity for Healthier Communities
Studies show that when a variety of tree types are planted in an area, it slows and reduces pest infestations and disease. If there are only 2-3 of any given species of tree in a neighborhood, the impact of an invasive pest of disease on the community tree canopy is far less devastating. As a result, there will be less of an impact on the community overall.
Many cities across the US have been working hard to change the ways they plant trees to develop more of a healthy mix on public land. Unfortunately, the importance of tree diversity has not yet been realized by developers, HOA’s, and private landowners. Many neighborhoods, residential and commercial, are still being planted with large populations of one type of tree. Recent calculations show that 80% of new trees being planted today are Oak or Maple varieties.
You Can Help Improve Biodiversity In Your Yard
One way to help is to take a look around your neighborhood when you’re getting ready to plant trees. Make a list of all the different types of trees you see, bring it with you to the garden center, and do your best to plant something that isn’t on the list.
If you’re not sure how to identify types of trees, take some clear photos and bring them with you to the nursery. A picture of the whole tree and a close-up photo of a leaf will give our staff a chance to help you identify which trees live in your neighborhood.
There are so many unique trees to plant, and many of them feature beautiful fall colors in shades you may not have even realized were available!
5 Unique Trees To Plant In Your Yard
Here are five types of trees that look beautiful, grow well in Iowa, and aren’t common in urban developments.
Fort McNair Horse Chestnut
A fantastic specimen tree that’s well suited for Iowa climates. Growing to heights of 35’ tall and up to 25’ wide, this tree has a nicely-rounded growth habit with beautiful pink, showy flowers that emerge in spring. Grows best in full sun or partial shade, and has great disease resistance to boot!
American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)
Sycamore is a large tree, growing up to 75-100′ tall with 50′ canopy. It features rounded and balanced upright growth. It’s a relatively fast-growing and stately tree with beautiful two-tone bark. Its fall color features a range of brilliant yellows and golds.
Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera)
Tulip tree also gets to be pretty big; up to 65′ tall with a 30′ canopy. It has an upright growing habit and features yellow tulip-shaped flowers in May and June. Its leaves are a unique shape with four lobes. In the fall, the leaves turn a vibrant yellow.
Cucumber Tree (Magnolia acuminata)
This is one of the hardiest magnolia varieties available. It does get relatively large; up 40-60′ tall and spreading out to 35′. This upright tree has large, fragrant, cream-colored flowers in late spring. The leaves turn gold in the fall.
American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana)
American Hornbeam is a medium to small tree, only getting to about 20-35′ tall and wide. It’s an adaptable tree and can survive well in shade or full sun. It is a bit of a slower grower, but it rewards owners with its stunning display of yellow, orange, red, and purple leaves.
If you’d like to contribute to stronger biodiversity in your neighborhood with any of these trees, visit our garden center! We can help you choose the perfect tree to complement our shared urban forest.
You love those colorfully blooming trees that you see everywhere in spring, but your yard is fully shaded and surrounded by large trees. So can you add a smaller colorful tree? You definitely can. Several kinds of trees will perform well in shady places with lots of other trees around.
First, you need to determine the amount of shade your yard gets throughout the day. It varies from yard to yard and season to season, based on the sun’s angle and the placement of trees and buildings.
Most yards have areas that get shade for part of the day, and sun at other parts of the day. If the site where you want a tree receives a half-day of sun or more, then full-sun trees will perform best. If the spot only gets sun for a small portion of the day, or doesn’t get any sun at all, it’s considered a full-shade site.
Here are a few small trees that will work best in locations that are in the shade for most of the day and are hardy enough to survive our Iowa winters.
These trees are great for shaded sites, and many have lovely colored leaves that can bring new life to a shady spot, they range in sizes but most stay under 25-30′ tall and 15-20′ wide. There are even a few varieties such as Threadleaf Japanese Maples that stay 5′ tall 10′ wide. Pixie Japanese Maple is also a miniature version, only getting about 6′ tall and 6′ wide. Many of these trees have the added bonus of absolutely stunning fall color.
These are great trees if you’re looking for pretty white blooms in shaded sites. This tree is native to woodland areas and is happy in part sun to part shade conditions, but will also grow in full sun. The berries this tree produce are edible and taste great. They make excellent jams and syrups! Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry is a beautiful variety that grows to about 20′ tall to 20′ wide, and have the added bonus of beautiful orange leaves in fall.
This tree is native to Iowa and is usually found growing in the edges of woodland. They feel very at home in part sun and part shade. These trees have stunning deep pink flowers that fill the branches in spring before the leaves emerge. Redbuds can grow to about 25′ tall by 20′ wide. The large, heart-shaped leaves of this tree are attractive through the season, and they turn yellow in the fall. There are weeping varieties of this tree, like Lavender Twist Redbud, that stay within 10′ tall or less and have a unique weeping growth habit.
These magnolias are not common around here, but they’re hardy enough to thrive as far north as Minnesota! One of the more impressive trees on this list, Umbrella Magnolia is one of the only Magnolias that can grow in full shade! One of the best features of this tree is its huge tropical-looking leaves; they can grow to be 3′ long and resemble an umbrella. The flowers beautifully showy, measuring up to 10″ across in a gorgeous shade of creamy white. The tree matures to 25-30′ tall and 15′ wide.
Kousa Flowering Dogwoods
These are Chinese hybrids of the native Flowering Dogwood. These bloom much later than other Dogwoods, and the flowers are a bit smaller. Kousa is a hardier variety as well, which makes them suitable for Iowa. The flowers are usually white or pink, and the leaves turn a beautiful dark red in the fall. These trees reach about 18′ tall and 13′ wide.
Ready to add a beautiful tree for small spaces to your yard? Give us a call to find out what we have in stock, or stop by the garden center to browse our tree lot. Our landscape designers can help you find trees to suit the level of shade in your yard.
While an imported orange from Florida or California might hit the spot, imagine the satisfaction of biting into an orange from your own personal grove! Some citrus trees do very well as houseplants, so you can grow them yourself right here in Iowa! All you need to grow citrus is a little patience and care. You’re not limited to just oranges either—lemons, limes, and even kumquats are all on the list of citrus fruits you can grow in containers!
How to Choose A Citrus Tree
The most important thing to know is that you’ll have to keep your tree indoors for the winter, so choose a dwarf variety. The added bonus of dwarf citrus trees is that many of them also produce fruit at a younger age.
Meyer Lemons are among the best options. They grow up to about 4′ in height, and they will even produce fruit on young plants that are barely 2′ tall!
Dwarf Key Lime is another fantastic choice. It grows 4-6′ tall and will bear delicious fruit in 1-3 years. Be patient, don’t give up on it, and it will eventually come through with a bounty of limes for your pies, mojitos, tacos, and more!
Nagami Kumquats do well here, too. They can get up to 8′ tall. If you’ve never tried a kumquat, it’s like a small tangerine that has a lovely sweet flavor. Even better, the flowers are amazingly fragrant!
Citrus Tree Growing Conditions
Citrus trees like acidic soil (no surprises there!), so your citrus tree will do best in a specific citrus soil mix. It’s also important to fertilize with citrus fertilizer once a month from April to September.
Citrus trees need 8-12 hours of bright sunshine every day. They’ll do best near a large sunny south-facing window. In the winter, you’ll need to supplement with strong grow lights. They like consistent temperatures of about 65ºF, and they don’t appreciate drafts.
One way to give your citrus tree a boost is to let it enjoy a summer vacation outdoors! It’s critical to transition your citrus tree outdoors slowly, once overnight temperatures are consistently above 55ºF. The process is similar to hardening off your plants, but it should be a 2-3 week process. Start transitioning back inside when overnight temperatures are dropping below 65ºF; it should take another 2-3 weeks. Keep your eyes peeled for pests when you bring them inside in the fall. If you spot any, make sure to keep your tree isolated from other plants in the home until the pest problem is resolved.
Citrus Leaf Drop
Don’t be too alarmed if you see leaves falling off your citrus tree in the winter. They can go into a semi-dormant state and may defoliate. Any unripe fruit will continue to ripen slowly, even if the plant loses many leaves. Cut back on watering if you notice leaves falling.
Watering Citrus Trees
All citrus trees like high humidity and evenly moist soil. Water your tree when the top of the soil feels dry to the touch and cut back on watering a bit during the winter months. Humidity is critical, and your citrus tree will need a humidifier to sustain it through the winter.
Citrus Tree Pollination
Pollination might be the most important, and most frequently overlooked, part of owning a citrus tree. Indoor trees are self-pollinated, so you don’t need two trees. But, you do need to do the pollination yourself. Run a Q-tip or small paintbrush all over the inside of a flower, especially around the greenish center. Then, repeat the process on each of the other flowers to spread the pollen that will allow them to produce fruit. This is the job that bees do in the wild, so go ahead and treat yourself to some honey once you’ve finished!
If your citrus tree is going to spend the summer outside, the real bees will take care of this process for you. Luckily, they’re always grateful for the work!
Magnolia trees are not something that many people associate with Iowa. Most commonly, magnolia is associated with the Deep South, where they grow abundantly and perfume the air with their large, fragrant, tulip-like flowers.
While it’s true that we can’t grow all the varieties that thrive in the warmer climates of the South, there are actually many hardy varieties that will grow and thrive right here in the heartland. There are easily 40-50 different cultivars that are suited to our local climate here in central Iowa. The range of flower colors available is actually quite broad, too, from white to yellow to a whole spectrum of pinks.
Magnolias are an absolute show-stopper when they’re in full bloom in the spring. Often, the trees will be covered entirely in blossoms without a single leaf in sight, filling the air with their unique citrusy scent.
There are so many varieties of magnolia available that there’s one for almost every setting, climate, and desired bloom time. There are very tall and very short varieties and some that bloom as early as March or as late as June, in so many different colors. While most of them enjoy lots of sunlight, there are even a few magnolias that will do well in a shady spot.
One of the common historical problems with magnolia in the midwest has been that they’d often get hit with a late spring frost during critical blooming periods, and their blossoms would not be hardy enough to withstand the freezing temperatures. Luckily, there’s been lots of research and development put into magnolia breeding. Over time, many later-blooming varieties have been bred to avoid those late spring frosts we often get.
Here are our top fivehardy magnolia trees for your Iowa yard or garden.
Royal Star Magnolia is a fairly compact magnolia that can be pruned as a shrub or tree. It can grow up to a height of 20′ tall and up to 15′ wide. It features large-yet-dainty 6″ bright white double blooms that open to release their sweet fragrance in March. Royal Star performs best in a full to part sun location. This cultivar is a brilliant addition to moonlight or white-themed gardens.
Ann Magnolia is another compact variety, maxing out at 15′ tall and 12′ wide. It features gorgeous blossoms, with petals that are dark reddish-pink on the outside and pale pink to white on the inside. They open in April and get to be 4-6″ across. Ann magnolia likes full to part sun.
Butterflies Magnolia is considered one of the finest yellow magnolias. It is a medium-sized tree reaching up to 30′ tall to 15′ wide. The blooms of Butterflies magnolia are a beautiful canary yellow with a rich lemony fragrance. They open in April and are about 4-6″ across. Butterflies magnolia likes sunlight, but it can also tolerate a fair bit of shade compared to other varieties.
Umbrella Magnolia is a medium-sized tree growing up to 20′ tall and 15′ wide. It features very large, creamy-white flowers with huge tropical-looking leaves. It is not as fragrant as other varieties, but its blossoms are exceptionally showy. Its 6-10″ blooms burst to life in May or June. Umbrella magnolia will do well in the shade; it’s native to North America and grows commonly in the understory of the Appalachian Mountains.
Black Tulip Magnolia is a smaller tree reaching 15′ tall and 12′ wide. It features the darkest magnolia flowers of the bunch, with deep burgundy-red blooms that open in April. Black Tulip magnolia will do best in a full sun location.
There’s nothing like the drama of a magnolia tree in bloom to celebrate the season of spring. If you’d like to consider adding a beautiful magnolia to your yard, stop by our garden center today. We can help you select the perfect variety for your yard.
Setting up a feeding station and water source for birds in our gardens goes a long way toward helping them flourish. However, there’s even more you can do that requires even less long-term effort. Planting a variety of plants that produce seeds and berries for Iowa birds is a great way to support the local ecosystem. There’s a wide variety of plants that produce berries and seeds that birds love to eat. These types of plants support avian populations all throughout the year.
So what are the best bird-friendly garden plants in Iowa? Generally speaking, the best plants to support bird populations are native plants. Different birds like different types of plants, so its important to grow a mix of native trees, shrubs, and grasses. Birds also prefer sheltered food sources, so plants for birds should be planted where they’ll be a bit protected from the wind by other plants or structures in your yard.
Landscaping for Backyard Birds
Wide-open patches of trimmed grass have no value for birds, so consider giving up some of your lawn to grow more shrubs and garden beds. The best thing about landscaping for birds is that the best plants for them are plants that are native to Iowa. Native plants are, by definition, adapted to our climate and require very little maintenance, and next to no watering once established. Growing a dense shelterbelt, or a few large evergreens, that protect your yard from prevailing winds gives birds a place to rest and take shelter in storms and bad weather. Planting should include a wide variety of heights and shelter for different types of birds.
Here are some of the best bird-friendly plants for our backyards in Iowa.
Pagoda Dogwood produces a navy-blue berry. This tree is popular with woodpeckers, nuthatches, orioles, mockingbirds, sparrows, warblers, vireos, and thrushes.
American Basswood tree, or Linden, is popular with a wide variety of birds. It’s popular with insects, which are a primary food source for many birds. It also produces a small nut-like fruit that birds like. Woodpeckers and Baltimore orioles like to nest in these trees.
Black Raspberry is popular not only as a food source for birds but also as a source of nesting material for native bees.
Blue Grama is a perennial grass that grows in bunches. It is popular with birds that eat seeds, like nuthatches, finches, sparrows, chickadees, and cardinals.
Goldenrod is popular with a variety of insects and is also a favorite of insectivorous birds like warblers, woodpeckers, swallows, and wrens.
Chokecherry is another shrub that grows food for not just birds, but other small critters as well.
Buttonbush is a pretty shrub that produces a small button-like berry. The blossoms and berries attract a variety of birds and pollinators.
Common sunflowers are an excellent easy-to-grow source of food for birds. In the fall, you can leave sunflowers standing as they are for the birds, or you can cut them down and prop up the seed heads near the shrubs and trees where birds like to hang out.
Little Bluestem is a beautiful ornamental grass that produces white seed-heads that birds love.
Prairie Dropseed grass is another attractive ornamental grass that grows seed heads that attract birds.
Juniper berries are also popular with many different types of birds. The pale-blue berries contrast beautifully with the brilliant green foliage.
Planting your yard with trees, shrubs, and plants that are popular with birds is an excellent way to increase the biodiversity in your backyard. A garden full of native plants and shrubs supports the wildlife in our region and offers essential support for declining bird populations across the continent. Ready to make your yard and garden into a bird haven? Stop by our garden center today to discover more trees, shrubs, grasses, and flowers that your backyard birds will love!
Sometimes it seems like winter in our gardens is very monotone: grey leafless trees and white snow, with a few evergreens here and there. But there are actually quite a variety of hardy trees and shrubs that can add pops of color, shape, and texture to give our gardens a beautiful aesthetic, all year long.
Trees are an excellent addition to your garden for many reasons, not just because they’re beautiful. Trees increase property values, reduce noise, clean our air, and help lower our utility costs by shading our homes. These trees offer all of these benefits while giving your landscape four-season color.
Colorado Blue Spruce features bright blue needles on gracefully drooping branches that look beautiful under the snow. It can be trained for upright growth or a spreading groundcover form. The steely blue color is striking in winter.
White Pine features long silky-smooth needles. It looks a little fuzzy from a distance, which makes it look very cozy under snow in the winter. It is a beautiful shade tree in a brilliant warm green.
Trembling Aspen is a North American deciduous native. It features striking white bark, the beauty of which is revealed when it has lost its leaves. It’s brilliant white contrasts beautifully with rich blue winter skies or evergreen backdrops.
As River Birch matures, it develops richly colored peeling bark in shades of white, brown, and golden-yellow. The unique bark adds visual texture and color interest in winter.
Red Jewel Crabapple is a small ornamental crabapple. It’s spring blooms are beautiful, but it provides beautiful color all the way through the year with brilliant red fruit that hangs on all through the winter. The fruit is a spectacular pop of color, and the Cedar Waxwings arriving next spring will appreciate them as well.
Shrubs add texture, height variation, and depth to your yard, drawing the viewer’s eye through the landscape. They also provide shelter and safety for our important native Iowa birds and critters.
Japanese Garden Juniper is a spreading groundcover juniper. It features bluish-green foliage that turns a purplish-blue in winter.
Montgomery Blue Spruce is a mounded shrub that resembles a short, plump Christmas tree at maturity. Its silvery-blue foliage looks beautiful under snow in the winter.
Green Velvet Boxwood is a mounding broadleaf evergreen that can be pruned into any shape you like, from a clean and uniform hedge to a unique topiary shape. Its leaves maintain a brilliant green through winter, and a totally unique texture compared to other needle-type evergreens.
PJM Rhododendron is another broadleaf evergreen. The leaves turn a dark purple-red in the fall. The dark leaves really stand out against a backdrop of white snow.
Ivory Halo Dogwood forms a rounded mound and has four-season interest. It has showy variegated foliage during the growing season, creamy white flowers and berries in the spring, and eye-catching bright red branches in the winter.
Little Lime Hydrangea is a deciduous shrub, but the blossoms will dry on the stems and last all winter. The conical flower heads and branches fade to rich golden brown and add unique shapes to the garden.
Technically Forsythia is a spring-blooming shrub. But it’s so early in the year, sometimes the very first thing to bloom, that it can still feel like winter when its bright yellow flowers burst into bloom.
Shrubs add texture, height variation, and depth to your yard, drawing the viewer’s eye through the landscape. They also provide shelter and safety for our important native Iowa birds and critters.
Grasses add a completely different look and feel to our yards in winter. Their tall wispy fronds add structure and drama against a snowy backdrop. Their golden yellow color contrasts beautifully with evergreens and snow.
Karl Foerster Reed Grass grows in clumps and up to five feet tall and features a fine delicate texture. A row of delicate golden-tan clumps adds texture and definition in winter.
Purple Fountain Grass grows up to four feet tall and features thick bottle-brush seed heads, and rich reddish-purple color all winter long. The gracefully arching seed heads and foliage are beautiful against snow.
Northwind Switch Grass grows up to five feet tall and turns a brilliant coppery-bronze in winter. It’s rigid upright form, and brick red seed heads are strikingly beautiful.
If you’re finding your yard a little lackluster to look at this winter, come visit our garden center in the spring. Pick out some gorgeous new trees, shrubs, and grasses to fill your yard with vibrant color next year.
Please note: we are currently closed for the season. We will be open on the weekends of January 24-26, and February 7-9 and then we will officially reopen for the season on March 23, 2020. Stay informed – sign up for our newsletter. We can’t wait to see you next year!
We like to imagine that our evergreens will stay green forever, but that’s sometimes not the case. While your tree isn’t likely to go entirely bald in preparation for our chilly Des Moines winter like deciduous trees do, it isn’t unlikely to see a few needles shed to make room for new ones, especially in the fall.
Any time your evergreen starts to turn a shade of yellow or brown, we’re quick to be concerned— there are several diseases, pests, and illnesses that could be affecting your tree. If you are noticing discoloration and needle drop, pay close attention to your tree. If the needles are mostly yellowing and dropping from the older branches closer to the trunk, then it is likely to be normal seasonal needle drop, also known as fall needle drop, and it is a natural part of your tree’s life cycle.
Seasonal Needle Drop Sometimes needle drop occurs so slowly that the aesthetic of your tree and landscape is never compromised, and you won’t even notice the exchange of older needles to newer. Needle drop is most noticeable when several of your trees start to lose needles at the same time– as a seasonal process, this isn’t unheard of. As a natural part of the life cycle, there isn’t much that you can do to fight it, and you’ll have to tolerate the yellowed (or reddish-brown) appearance of your trees for a few weeks to months.
Throughout normal seasonal needle drop, you may notice color changes on the inner areas of your evergreen, and some bareness with needles carpeting the landscape under and around the tree, all before new needles emerge to take the place of the old.
When Yellowing Needles Are a Sign of Trouble Not all yellowing needles are a sign of seasonal drop, and knowing the difference can help to alleviate your concerns or direct you towards taking proper care for your evergreen.
Yellowing early in the season or the yellowing on newer growth might be a cause of concern. Look for other causes like drought, pests (such as spider mites), or other symptoms in the needles, bark, or roots that could point to an alternative cause for the needles to be dropping out of season. Normal seasonal needle drop happens across the whole tree in the fall, so if you see yellowing in isolated parts of the tree, or discoloration starting in one area and spreading, it could be a sign of distress. If in doubt, our experts are willing to help diagnose tree issues if you have concerns.
Not every cone-bearing tree or shrub is an evergreen, and different evergreens may drop their needles at different rates. Some deciduous conifers that grow in Des Moines, such as bald cypress, dawn redwood, larch, and tamarack, seasonally drop all of their needles in preparation for the fall, so yellowing and dramatic needle loss can be expected.
For evergreens, each species has its own life cycle. Pine trees can be expected to shed every two to five years, while spruce might only shed every five to seven. Others, like the Eastern white pine, tend to have a dramatic shed every two or three years, dropping an entire year or two of needles at once before winter. You might have a sparse looking tree, but it’ll recover in the spring. The Austrian pine and Scotch pines are on the other end of the spectrum, easily covering the loss of their needles so that their seasonal needle drop is barely perceptible.
It can be alarming to discover your evergreen, a stand-out star in many yards here in Des Moines, is dropping needles and looking sickly in the fall when you expect it to be green all year. Keep an eye out for the telltale signs of seasonal needle drop to explain the loss in needle coverage, or possibly for signs of illness that might be affecting your tree. With seasonal needle drop, it’s all part of a natural cycle intended to have your tree looking fresh and full again in the spring.
It’s no accident that many of us wistfully imagine a shady sanctuary, relaxing under the leafy boughs of a tree. The image of a perfect afternoon spent under the cool shadow of a tree has been romanticized by poets and painters for centuries. We can’t deny that there’s something nostalgic about letting our minds drift off underneath a beautiful shady tree – and what better location than from the convenient security of your own backyard?
When you think of creating your own backyard oasis, you aren’t limited to giant trees with decades of growth. There are some fantastic options that provide the shade and elegance that you want, some of which can fit into the corners of even the smallest suburban lots. Here are some of our favorites that you might have seen in your neighbors’ yards:
Best Large Shade Trees for Iowa (over 30 ft tall and wide)
Ted’s Pick: Swamp White Oak
Tall, mature trees are destined to become landmarks in the neighborhood. Thanks to its faster rate of growth (compared to other oaks), Swamp White Oak reaches its mature height sooner, bathing everything around it in cool shade.
Swamp White Oak is also well-suited to the landscape because of its high tolerance for urban soils. It’s tough, and yet also ruggedly handsome. The thick, straight trunk has attractive peeling, flat-ridged bark. Its leaves spend the spring and summer with dark green surfaces and white, fuzzy undersides. In the fall, the color matures into lovely shades of yellow and golden brown.
It’s hard to beat a maple when it comes to fall color. What sets Hot Wings apart is the presence of red tones before the fall begins. During the summer, the branches bear clusters of bright red samaras that look almost like fruit or flowers against the brilliant green foliage. In the fall, the leaves take on a gorgeous display of red, orange, and yellow tones.
A fast-growing specimen, Hot Wings Tartarian Maple grows “out” as much as it grows tall, which gives it an attractive rounded habit at maturity. On top of offering plenty of shade and color, this maple is also very cold-hardy and has no trouble surviving a Des Moines winter.
Best Compact Shade Trees for Patio Areas or Corners of Home (under 30 ft)
Ted’s Pick: Serviceberry
There’s so much to love about serviceberry trees. Not only are they wonderful choices for adding three-season interest, they produce delicious edible berries similar in color and flavor to blueberries. The Autumn Brilliance cultivar is especially beautiful, with its intense orange-red fall foliage.
In the early spring, the serviceberry blooms profusely with crisp white flowers. As spring fades into summer and the flowers are replaced with berries, you’ll notice your yard becoming a lot more popular with the local birds!
Serviceberries are medium growers, which allows them to look well-established after a few years while remaining compact.
These trees are great options for people looking to create shade in their backyard landscape. They provide a relaxing respite for you and your plants, soaking up the sun in any area where you’d rather not. Provided a little bit of space, some good soil, and simple regular upkeep, even a modest tree can be a practical addition to your backyard that gives back year after year.
Some gardeners are intimidated by the idea of planting a tree in their yard. While it can seem like a big project, planting trees is actually quite simple, and a great investment in a living legacy that will continue to grow in your yard and with your family for years to come. Trees are the ultimate statement-maker in outdoor decor, providing a number of benefits to your yard and home, while providing a dramatic, stately look that will endure the seasons and years.
The best time to consider adding a new tree are the temperate seasons of spring and fall. With autumn fast approaching, we’re getting close to tree-planting season, making this the ideal time to start planning for your new addition. Back-to-school season is full of new beginnings, why not start your property with a gorgeous upgrade, too?
Trees can manage in our mid-summer heat waves, but they truly thrive in the cooler temperatures of spring and fall. Planting when it’s cool gives your tree all the low-stress weather it needs to get established before the mercury drops further.
Planting isn’t complicated, but approaching it with the right steps is a sure way to succeed. If you’re nervous about taking the project on yourself, though, our landscaping teams are always happy to help make your property dreams come true. For the do-it-yourself crowd, follow these simple steps to get your yard looking perfect with the ultimate classy upgrade.
1. Getting your yard ready:
You’ll want to plant your tree as soon as you get it home, so preparing your planting area beforehand saves time and will have your tree looking its best sooner. If you can’t plant right away, you’ll want to make sure the tree is shaded and that the root ball stays moist until you do plant.
2. Pick the perfect location:
Choosing a spot for your tree is a compromise between your tree’s needs and your aesthetic vision. Match your location to the needs of your tree so it will get the moisture and light it craves – and make sure you plan for your tree to grow over the years, too.
Your house relies on an amazing foundation to stand the test of time and your tree does, too. Start your tree right with a good hole and you’ll be sure to have a healthy and vibrant addition to your home. Dig a hole twice as wide and the same depth as the root ball, making sure that you’re planting in good soil. If by chance the hole is dug out deeper than the root ball, make sure to add more dirt to the correct level and tamp or pack down the dirt. This will ensure the tree does not sink past the existing soil level. If your dirt isn’t up to the standard, add some black earth, compost, and peat moss to help it get established. If your yard doesn’t have ample soil on top of a largely useless layer of clay or rock, just dig the hole for your tree wider to give it the space it craves to perform its best.
Once you’ve planted, water generously to help the roots get established as quick as possible. Water near the edge of the root ball and be sure to pack the dirt down as you water. This will help to remove any air pockets that are near the root ball. A sufficient amount of water should saturate the dirt and begin to puddle near the surface
A layer of mulch – a simple wood mulch, like cedar – is an absolutely crucial step. Not only does it look polished and professional, but the mulch will help to regulate temperature at the roots for your tree, providing shelter in the cold months of winter, and shading from the hottest days of the summer. Take care not to let the mulch directly touch the tree’s trunk, though. Leave a space between the two to prevent any rotting.
Planting a tree is simple and doesn’t have to be a chore. Choosing a tree to be your home and family’s companion for years to come is an investment in your future that will grow with you. It’s the ultimate classy addition to your home’s aesthetic and will weather everything to come with your family – promotions, new schools, graduations, new pets, new family members – all with a lush and green flair of style.
If you would like more detailed instructions or have any questions, make sure to contact our experts at Ted Lare Garden Center and we’d be happy to help with any concerns!
Ted Lare Design Build specializes in Des Moines Landscaping Design and Installation.
We cover a wide range of Central Iowa. We have installed landscapes for many years in all areas of the Des Moines metro, including West Des Moines, Des Moines, Waukee, Clive, Urbandale, Johnston, Ankeny, Altoona, Indianola, and Norwalk.