Choose the Right Trees for Your Soil

Choosing the right trees for your landscape can be difficult process. There’s a lot that goes into it: what grows well in the Midwest, if they should be tall or short, how they’ll balance out your yard, and how much shade you’d like. But another factor should be taken into account, too: the soil type in your yard.

Minneapolis and St. Paul are at the confluence of three ecological regions: big woods, the Anoka sand plain, and the Twin Cities highlands. This means that depending on where you live in the metro area, your soil may be drastically different than that of the soil in the next town over. It also means that the Twin Cities has just about every soil type: clayey, sandy, and loamy, as well as wet and dry and everything in between.

Continue reading for a look at some of the best trees for your soil and drainage conditions. Remember to always do your own research to be sure you’re choosing trees that will last, but this will help you get started.

Clay Soil

Clay soil is made up of very fine particles, without a lot of organic matter in it. It doesn’t drain well, and so is not great for most gardens. However, plenty of trees and shrubs thrive in clay soil.

Wet clay: arborvitae, cottonwood, crabapple, northern catalpa, willow

Moist clay: arborvitae, crabapple, green ash, northern catalpa, paper birch, ponderosa pine, red oak, silver maple, white spruce

Moderately dry clay: cottonwood, crabapple, green ash, northern catalpa, silver maple

Dry clay: Eastern red cedar, green ash

Green ash trees are fairly versatile, surviving in moist, moderately dry, and dry clay, as well as moderately dry and dry loam.

Loamy Soil

Loamy soil is made up mostly of sand and silt, with a little bit of clay. This is considered the best for gardens as it retains water but also drains easily.

Wet loam: arborvitae, balsam fir, black ash, cottonwood, crabapple, northern catalpa, white cedar, willow

Moist loam: arborvitae, balsam fir, black walnut, crabapple, northern catalpa, paper birch, red oak, serviceberry, silver maple, white cedar, white oak, white spruce, yellow birch

Moderately dry loam: crabapple, green ash, northern catalpa, red oak, serviceberry, white spruce

Dry loam: Eastern red cedar, green ash

Cottonwoods prefer wet soil of all types.

Sandy Soil

Sandy soil contains the largest particles of the three soil types, making it quite grainy. Some vegetables grow very well in sandy soil, as it drains very well.

Wet sandy: arborvitae, cottonwood, crabapple, northern catalpa, tamarack, willow

Moist sandy: arborvitae, black spruce, crabapple, northern catalpa, Norway (red) pine, paper birch, ponderosa pine, red oak, white pine, white spruce,  yellow birch

Moderately dry sandy: bur oak, crabapple, jack pine, northern catalpa, Norway (red) pine, red oak, yellow birch

Dry sandy: bur oak, jack pine, juniper

Jack pines do well in sandy, moderately dry or dry soil.

For more information on the best trees for different soil types, check out the University of Minnesota’s Extension Service and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Not sure what type of soil you have? There are a few tests you can do at home. Finally, for more information on particular types of trees, visit the Minnesota DNR or the Arbor Day Foundation.

When it’s time to revamp your landscaping (and add trees!), give us a call at 763-568-7251 or use our quick quote system to get in touch.