Types of trees in South Carolina are best adapted for the soil and climate, so they’ll grow beautifully in your native garden – think black topelo and flowering dogwood.

Types of Trees in South Carolina

Moreover, they represent the perfect shade and food source for different pollinators and wildlife forms.

Our gardening team will help you learn about seven South Carolina trees in this handy guide. 

Trees That Thrive in South Carolina

1. Red Maple

Radiant Red Maple Tree

  • The Acer rubrum tree is usually grown as a specimen plant, giving your garden a pop of color thanks to its orange-red fall leaves. 
  • Easy-to-grow tree that works for less experienced gardeners. 
Distinguishing characteristics 
  • Medium-sized fast-growing deciduous tree sheds all its leaves by the end of the season and goes through a dormant period without any leaves. 
  • Looks pyramid-like when young but becomes more oval and round as it matures.
  • In the summer, it grows beautiful red flowers that add beauty to your garden. 
  • Thrives in full sun or some shade. 
  • Prefers moist, well-draining soil, which should be slightly acidic. 
  • Growing a new tree from fresh cuttings is possible. However, it’s best to take the cuttings in the late spring or early summer to guarantee better results. You can also grow it from seeds. 
  • Although this tree isn’t toxic to humans and pets, it harms ponies and horses. 
  • Maple shoot borers usually attack these trees. 

This tree is noted for its fall color, making it an excellent addition to your native garden. It’s one of the fastest growing trees in Eastern USA, adding 18 inches yearly to its height.

The main difference between this one and sugar maple is that sugar maple has hardwood, while this one has softwood. 

2. Loblolly Pine

Towering Loblolly Pine Tree

  • People usually grow Pinus taeda or rosemary pine for its distinguished needle arrangement.
  • Considered a primary lumber source in different American states. 
  • People use the needles to make medicinal tea but shouldn’t consume them in large quantities. 
Distinguishing characteristics 
  • Since it’s a fast-growing tree, it will help quickly fill ample space in your garden.
  • A good choice for novice owners because it doesn’t require frequent fertilizing or pruning. However, pruning the lowest branches will eliminate pests and diseases before they spread to the rest of the tree and keep it healthy. 
  • You can pair it with its relatives like white pine and eastern hemlock
  • Although this tree can tolerate partial shade, it grows best in full sun.
  • Tolerant of different soil conditions but prefers well-draining, loamy, acidic soil. It can also grow in clay and sandy soils, which explains why it’s prevalent in South Carolina
  • Adjust the watering schedule according to rainfall, and ensure the tree doesn’t sit in standing water to protect the roots from rot. 
  • Pine tip moths and pine webworms usually attack young trees. 
  • Some trees experience a decline characterized by crown thinning and stunted growth, eventually dying. 

This South Carolina native is probably the most common in landscape designs and the second most widespread tree in the US.

It’s highly adaptable and considered easy to grow. Applying a phosphorus-rich evergreen fertilizer during the tree’s first two years will help establish its root system. 

3. American Sycamore

Majestic American Sycamore Tree

  • Tolerates urban pollution and provides shade, so it’s a good choice for your landscape if you want to grow a large tree. 
  • You can pair it with understory trees like the American hornbeam or Carpinus caroliniana
Distinguishing characteristics 
  • Has dark brown bark that peels easily to reveal another layer of light-colored bark. 
  • The large toothed leaves are about 10 inches wide, and the tree grows hairy pods about 1.5 inches in diameter. 
  • Thrives in moist soil, so regular watering is needed.
  • Tolerates different types of soils and pH levels. 
  • Growing it in full sun will keep it healthy. 
  • Prone to anthracnose, which causes leaf loss. 
  • Heartwood rot usually affects this tree. 

The Platanus occidentalis, also known as the buttonball and buttonwood tree, grows to reach about 100 feet, becoming one of the tallest deciduous trees in South Carolina.

It grows best in organically-rich soil, and when not given enough space, the roots can damage nearby structures and sidewalks. 

4. Black Tupelo

Striking Black Tupelo Tree

  • Also known as the black gum tree, the tree’s dark green foliage turns into colorful shades in the fall.
  • In the spring, the non-showy flowers bloom and then turn into sour fruits that attract birds and other wildlife forms to your garden.
  • A good companion tree for American sweet gum or Liquidambar styraciflua to create a colorful fall garden. 
Distinguishing characteristics 
  • Takes years to reach its mature size. 
  • The bark is furrowed and simple, contrasting beautifully with the glossy green leaves. 
  • Prefers loamy, slightly acidic soil and can handle standing water. 
  • Tolerates clay soil that other trees won’t tolerate and withstands moisture and drought, especially when it matures. 
  • Thrives in full to partial sunlight. 
  • The Nyssa sylvatica has a long taproot, and it’s difficult to move, so you’ll have to pick a permanent location in your garden. 
  • Prone to leaf spot, rust, and scale. 

This medium-sized tree grows slowly, adding only one foot or two to its yearly height. It has an alligator-like bark and grows round with a straight trunk.

There are several varieties to grow in South Carolina, including Autumn Cascades and Wildfires. 

5. White Oak

Stately White Oak Tree

  • Quercus alba attracts different pollinators to your pollinator garden. 
  • Attracts birds and other fragrant trees like sassafras, known as sassafras albidum
  • The bark is a medicine for fever, cough, diarrhea, and arthritis.
Distinguishing characteristics 
  • Grows to reach 100 feet tall in the wild, like the tulip tree or Liriodendron tulipifera. On your property, you can expect it to be about 60 feet tall. 
  • The gray bark adds beauty to your landscape, where the tree symbolizes endurance. 
  • Pair it with understory trees like the blackjack oak and American holly
  • Easy to grow but needs plenty of space to allow its root system to spread. 
  • Although this tree can survive in partial shade, it needs full sun exposure to achieve colorful fall foliage. 
  • Thrives in slightly acidic to neutral deep moist soil and should be watered regularly until it gets established. 
  • Oak leaf blister and powdering mildew usually infect this tree. 
  • Regular pruning to remove the sick branches and leaves will keep the tree healthy. 

There are almost 15 kinds of oak trees in South Carolina, but this one is the most common in landscape designs and private properties, right after cabbage palmetto.

Not only do these trees provide ornamental value, but they also preserve the native wildlife forms. 

6. Bald Cypress

Hardy Bald Cypress Tree

  • The needles turn to golden copper in the fall but quickly fall off the tree, creating a rich-colored mulch in your garden, benefiting your native plants
  • A good specimen tree in rain gardens, where other trees won’t survive. 
  • Represents a food source for birds, rabbits, deer, and bugs. 
Distinguishing characteristics 
  • Has beautiful feathery jade needles.
  • Most people grow it for the appealing woody projections that protrude from the base of the trunk. They stabilize the tree when it grows in swamps and wet soil next to other moisture-loving trees like the river birch
  • Before planting your Taxodium distichum tree, pick a permanent location. 
  • Grow this tree in good-draining soil that retains moisture. High acidity levels are essential, so you must add peat moss if the soil is neutral. 
  • Thrives in full sun and wet conditions but can withstand some drought. However, dry conditions will lead to mite infestation. 
  • It grows slowly, so you should consider future planning of your landscape, thinking of how big it will get after a few years. 
  • Requires work and maintenance, so you should amend the soil if the conditions aren’t favorable.
  • Removing the protrusions is too much work, so it’s better to include them in your landscape design with other types of trees in Charleston, SC, for a native garden. 

Growing trees in South Carolina with moss adds an aesthetic appeal to your landscape. This conifer is usually covered in Spanish moss. It provides dappled shade to urban landscapes. Juniper is a similar tree but you should not confuse it with the Cypress tree.

7. Flowering Dogwood

Ornamental Flowering Dogwood Tree

  • This understory tree can be a great companion plant for taller trees like the eastern redbud, Cercis canadensis, and the flowering southern magnolia
  • Provides an all-year interest to your garden, with red berries resembling the Prunus serotina or black cherry fruits.
  • The berries attract birds and other animals. Because it spreads wide, it also creates shade in your garden. 
Distinguishing characteristics 
  • As one of the prettiest flowering trees in South Carolina, this one can reach a height between 15 and 30 feet tall, growing a foot per year. 
  • The beautiful green leaves turn purple, adding a pop of color to your garden when paired with other colorful trees like the American beech or Fagus grandifolia
  • Thrives in rich, well-draining, slightly acidic soil, which should be kept moderately moist.
  • In hot climates, this tree requires more watering. 
  • Handles full sun to partial shade, depending on the weather. 
  • Won’t survive if the soil is too poor, and careful pruning is recommended to protect the tree from damage. 
  • Powdery mildew and spot anthracnose issues usually affect these trees. 

The Cornus florida f. Rubra, or pink dogwood, is mainly grown for its pastel flowers and fall foliage.

Different varieties grow differently colored blooms, like the Cherokee Chief, which grows red flowers, and the Cornelian cherry, which grows yellow flowers. 


Common trees in South Carolina will be an excellent addition to your native garden, and there are several tree species to choose from to provide shade and support wildlife forms. 

  • Trees like red maple and black gum will add beauty to your fall garden.
  • Evergreen trees like the loblolly pine thrive in full sun but can tolerate some shade.
  • Several flowering trees like pink dogwood and white oak will attract different pollinators to your garden.
  • Some trees, like black gum, are more tolerant of unfavorable clay soil conditions.

With all these amazing choices, your South Carolina garden will be rich with native trees and plants. So, which one are you growing? Check out the most popular types of trees in Tennessee as well to have a more natural garden!




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