If you are passionate about creating a beautiful landscape in your yard, there are several factors that you need to take into account before planting trees and shrubs. A surprising number of trees routinely planted as terrain additions have unpleasant qualities that you would want to avoid down the road. While the principal reasons for avoiding certain trees can be varied, some of the most common reasons cited by homeowners are:
- The tree is difficult to clean up. Everyone expects to rake up fallen leaves from a deciduous tree — or a giant, flowering plant — from time to time. However, some may be surprised by the number of berries, fruits, or seedpods that make an enormous mess of their yards each year during fall.
- The tree is prone to damage. Some plants are brittle by nature, while others are extremely vulnerable to strong winds, heavy snow, and ice buildup.
- The tree seeks water. Roots with water-seeking tendencies can pose a threat to water mains or septic tanks. Some trees are even worse and seek out water from underground and sewer lines.
- The tree causes allergies. For sensitive individuals, the pollen production from certain tree species can make their lives challenging during the flowering period of spring.
- The tree is too dense. A tree that produces a dense shade may make it difficult to grow grass or other plants in your backyard. While it is beneficial for trees to cast shade, their level of density should be controlled and benefit other wildlife.
- The tree is susceptible to diseases. It is no surprise that some trees are likely to succumb to epidemics of pests or diseases on various occasions. No one wants to deal with this problem especially when their tree is about to flourish and their landscape design is beginning to look good.
- The tree affects the soil. There are tree species that affect the soil in a manner that distress other plants. For example, pine needles make the surrounding soil acidic, and black walnut deposits toxin to the ground that kills other vegetation.
1. Eastern White Pine
All deciduous trees are known for the mess they create once autumn arrives. The term deciduous means “tending to fall off” — in reference to trees and shrubs that seasonally shed leaves, petals, bark, fruits that rot on the ground, and more. However, the sticky, gummy sap secreted by eastern white pine nuts puts it in the running as one of the grimiest of all trees. The substance can stain car surfaces, clothing, and outdoor furniture and is quite strenuous to remove.
A good technique to remove the sticky pitch from your skin is to rub it with mayonnaise. The vinegar in this product acts as an excellent solvent. If you really want to grow a pine in your small landscape, you may be better off with dwarf Japanese white pine instead.
2. Red Oak
A hardy tree valued for its deep root system, the red oak, sometimes called the northern red oak, is useful for planting near sidewalks and urban streets. This tree is also famed for the large-sized leaves and acorns they drop in the autumn season. When these acorns fall from a great enough height, they can leave minor scratches, dents, and fractures on vehicles. But the messiness of red oaks is not simply a unique autumn phenomenon — the beautiful muddle of red-orange foliage can also occur in the spring season. Tall, strapping specimens can shed a massive amount of catkins, which are slim, cylindrical clusters of staminate flowers.
If you adore the shape and shade-producing habit of red oaks but hate the cleanup requirements, a good alternative to look for is the linden tree or one of the numerous maples.
3. Sweetgum Tree
A popular ornamental tree in temperate climates, the American sweetgum tree is popular for its star-shaped leaves that are often medium green in color and seed pods it drops. Since these pods are hard, spiky, and spherical in shape, they are quite high-maintenance to clear out. The great news is that horticulturalists have developed seedless versions of this plant. For example, the ‘Rotundiloba’ cultivar does not produce “gumballs”, making it a neat and tidy substitute for your outdoor living space.
4. Honey Locust Tree
The honey locust, also known as the thorny locust, is another sought-after deciduous tree. Its small, oblong-shaped leaflets have the potential to be relatively clean, but the long, flatted seed pods are a fuss to rake up. Moreover, most species of honey locusts are armed with thorns.
Fortunately, the sunburst honey locust, in particular, has no thorns and does not produce bean pods, minimizing the mess from the tree. For centuries, this tree has been admired for its lacey leaves, ability to withstand ferocious winds, and survive the blistering sun with scarce water. You will often see this tree planted in parks and along roadsides.
5. Catalpa Tree
Unlike locust trees and other deciduous plants, the messiness of northern catalpa is not attributed to the bean-like seed pods it churns out. It is their distinctly large leaves — around 12 inches in length four to eight inches wide — that mostly add to the litter. By the time catalpa leaves fall, they have likely developed irregular brown to black spots due to extended periods of damp weather, transforming its attractive foliage into something unsightly. But if you must have the beautiful orchid-like flowers of catalpa trees in your outdoor living space, turn to a cultivar of the southern catalpa called Catalpa bignonioides ‘Nana’.
6. Aspen Tree
Aspen trees are famed for their ability to regenerate by shoots and suckers along with its lateral roots. Quaking aspens are great in the wild, holding up to a wide range of climatic conditions. This variety of shrubs and trees, however, is also infamous for possessing robust root systems with water-seeking properties. This makes them a treat to residential pipes and water lines. Dogwood trees, Japanese maple, and cherry trees are some of the best alternatives to aspen trees because they grow over septic systems.
7. Male White Ash
While white ash is adaptable, fairly easy to grow, and supplies a decent shade, it makes the list of landscape trees to avoid planting in your backyard if you or any member of your family suffers from allergies. You need to steer clear of the males in particular because they are the variety of the species that produces pollen. Cottonwood and mulberry are common examples of other well-known trees with separate male and female plants, and whose males cause allergic reactions in people. If you are looking for hypoallergenic trees, opt for cedar, swamp tupelo, or yew.
Let Backyard Reflections Help Create Your Dream Landscape
Backyard Reflections is a full-service landscape contractor in the Annandale and Nisswa, Minnesota areas. Our certified team offers custom landscape design, landscape maintenance services, and landscape enhancements that can take your outdoor living space to the next level. We provide industry-leading products and outstanding customer service to ensure your comfort and satisfaction. To schedule a no-obligation consultation, call us at (320) 640-2626 in Annandale, (218) 220-2785 in Nisswa, or fill out our contact form.