Types of trees in Tennessee will be the perfect choice for your native garden. By choosing native varieties to one of the most biodiverse inland states, you’ll be benefiting the wildlife and growing trees that thrive in Tennessee’s climate.

Types of Beautiful Trees in Tennessee

Our gardening team came up with a list of 11 trees – including such favorites as white oak and sugar maple – that you can identify during your walks and consider for your garden. 

List of Trees That Thrive in Tennessee Gardens

1. Red Maple

Majestic Red Maple Tree

  • People usually grow this tree for its stunning red foliage.
  • It adds vibrant colors to your garden throughout the year, but they become more prominent in the fall. 
Distinguishing characteristics 
  • Reaches a height of 70 feet and as wide as 50 feet, so you should give it enough clearance to spread.
  • Although it’s not toxic to humans and most pets, it’s toxic to ponies and horses. 
  • It lives up to 100 years with proper care. 
  • Thrives in sunny, damp areas where other plants might struggle.
  • Prefers slightly acidic, sandy, or loamy soil. Alkaline soil can make the foliage too pale. 
  • Susceptible to verticillium wilt, which causes leaf loss. 
  • Lack of pruning leads to the bark cracking and branches overcrowding. 

The Acer rubrum tree is also known as swamp maple and soft maple. It’s one of the fastest-growing east Tennessee trees, adding 18 inches to its yearly height. 

2. Eastern White Pine

Towering Eastern White Pine

  • People use branches and boughs in DIY projects and decorations. 
  • It’s a good choice for your landscape, as long as the pollution levels aren’t too high. 
  • People grow this tree to provide shade and as a windbreaker. 
Distinguishing characteristics 
  • Characterized by its blue-green needles.
  • Despite reaching 80 feet tall, similar to the height of the Norway Spruce, it can be clipped to create a hedge. 
  • You need to give it a lot of space as it spreads quickly, and you’ll have to prune it regularly. 
  • Grows fast in USDA 3 to 8, so it will grow beautifully in Tennessee’s moderate climate.
  • Thrives in well-draining, acidic soil and needs more water when young. 
  • Should receive four hours of sunlight and will appreciate shade in hotter climates. 
  • Unfortunately, this tree is attacked by many pests and diseases. Pine weevils usually attack young trees and can stunt their growth. 
  • If pine blister rust is widely spread in your area, you should avoid growing this tree because it usually kills it. 
  • Despite its size, this tree can be easily destroyed during strong snow storms. 

This is one of the biggest conifers in the US, and it can grow to an immense size on your land. It’s the only pine in the East with five needles, giving its leaves a brush-like appearance.

Yet, it’s not always every homeowner’s choice because the cones are slow to decompose and challenging to rake. 

3. Sugar Maple

Iconic Sugar Maple Tree

  • Sap is high in sugar, so only a small amount is needed to make maple syrup.
  • People usually grow this tree for its stunning fall color, as the leaves turn red and orange. 
  • Provides food and shelter to different wildlife forms, including red squirrels, white-tailed deer, and snowshoe hares. 
Distinguishing characteristics 
  • An excellent specimen if the conditions on your land aren’t favorable, as it’s highly adaptable.
  • Grows at a moderately-slow rate, reaching its mature size within 30 to 40 years. 
  • Eventually, this tree will probably be one of the biggest trees on your landscape, so you need to give it enough space. 
  • Survives in several soil conditions but prefers organically-rich, deep, and well-draining soil.
  • Consistent watering is essential, at least until it gets established, and it should grow in full sun. 
  • Sugar maple is pretty hardy. Although it can be affected by diseases and pests, they usually affect how the leaves look. 
  • Diseases of the bark and cankers affect the trees after long drought periods. They can kill the tree if left untreated. 

This is one of the most popular maple trees in the US. It’s also called rock maple or hard maple, and the canopy maintains its vibrant green color throughout the year. 

4. White Oak

Stately White Oak Tree

  • There are about 500 species in the genus Quercus, considered the most valuable native trees in their range. 
  • This tree attracts various pollinators to your garden. It represents the home to hundreds of caterpillars. 
Distinguishing characteristics 
  • As one of the trees native to middle Tennessee, this one needs plenty of room as it grows to 100 feet tall.
  • Highly resistant to diseases, and with enough space, it grows to an epic size. 
  • Doesn’t tolerate alkaline soils and thrives in slightly acidic to neutral soil types. 
  • Soil should be moist, as it prefers irregular deep soaking. It needs mulching until it gets established and can tolerate some shade when it’s still young. 
  • As the tree gets older, it needs more sun as it helps the tree achieve its beautiful fall colors. 
  • You should consider the tree’s current size and any future plans you might have for the space. It might obstruct the view or affect nearby structures. 
  • It’s prone to root rot. This is why you need to grow it in well-draining soil. 

Different types of oak trees grow in Tennessee, but Quercus alba trees are excellent for large spaces.

Despite its size, this tree is relatively easy to grow, and fertilizing the soil isn’t necessary, making it a good companion for light feeders like the Arizona cypress. However, soil amending might help your tree if you notice stunted growth. 

5. Flowering Dogwood

Ornamental Flowering Dogwood Tree

  • Grows green foliage that turns purple in the fall. 
  • The pastel pink flowers bloom twice a year, making them an excellent landscape tree.
Distinguishing characteristics 
  • Grows about one foot per year in optimal conditions, reaching a maximum height of 30 feet. Still, it can spread wider, making it one of the popular small trees native to Tennessee
  • With good care, this tree can live up to 80 years. 
  • This tree is understory, so it thrives in some shade, but in northern climates, it’s best to grow it in full sun. 
  • Rich, slightly acidic, and well-draining soil is essential for dogwood trees. The tree has moderate watering requirements but needs more water in hot weather. 
  • The Cornus florida f. Rubra tree is susceptible to powdery mildew, where white patches appear on the leaves and stems. 
  • Spot anthracnose disease is another common problem for dogwood trees, although this particular cultivar is more tolerant. 

Also known as pink dogwood, this tree belongs to a popular family of trees native to the US.

It’s commonly used as a landscape tree to add color and vibrance, and it’s not a heavy feeder. This means you won’t struggle to grow it on your land if other trees can’t survive. You can also check more Dogwood tree types in our detailed post.

6. Common Hackberry

Hardy Common Hackberry Tree

  • The Celtis occidentalis provides an all-year-round attraction in your garden.
  • Red berry-like fruits appear in the summer, turning purple in the mid-fall. The fruits persist till winter and represent a nutritional food source for various wildlife forms. 
Distinguishing characteristics 
  • The bark has a cork-like texture, mainly used to make crates and boxes. 
  • In spring and summer, the tree has pale or glossy green foliage, but it turns yellow in the fall before it falls off. 
  • It’s a hardy, low-maintenance tree that can survive in acidic, alkaline, loamy, and wet soil. 
  • Grows at a moderate to fast rate, but you need to plant it at least 20 feet away from any other structure because the root system is invasive. 
  • Prefers slightly moist organic-rich soil. 
  • Needs full sun exposure but can withstand some shade. 
  • Forest tent caterpillars usually attack this beautiful tree, causing cosmetic damage. But they’re unlikely to kill it. 
  • Aphids also attack this tree, leaving honeydew. This sugary sap attracts ants and causes sooty mold in your garden. But you can control this problem by introducing ladybugs or spraying your tree with neem oil. 

These trees survive for more than 100 years on your land. They’re considered pretty hardy, so they’re quite popular in landscape designs, usually grown as shade trees.

It can survive in various locations and tolerate different temperatures and soil types. So, this should be on top of your list if you’re looking for an easy-to-maintain long-living tree to grow in Tennessee. 

7. Honey Locust

Thorny Honey Locust Tree

  • The airy branches make it an excellent addition to your landscape. 
  • Lets filtered sunlight pass through, allowing plants to grow. 
  • In the summer, attractive green and yellow flowers bloom to attract pollinators. 
Distinguishing characteristics 
  • New cultivars grow to a maximum height of 40 feet instead of the massive 80 feet height of the native trees. 
  • It has compound bright green leaves that carry many leaflets. They can be easily differentiated from the black locust leaves, which are blue-green. 
  • As long as this tree receives at least six hours of full sun, it will stay in great shape. 
  • Adding some mulch will boost its growth, but it shouldn’t come in contact with the bark to protect it from diseases. 
  • Thrives in loamy soil but withstands different types, so you can pair it with ash trees in Tennessee
  • Although Gleditsia triacanthos’ fallen thorns represent cleanup issues for homeowners, new cultivars are thornless and more appealing for urban landscape designs. 
  • Root collar rot is a major issue for this beautiful tree, as it chokes the stems, eventually killing the tree. Cankers also cause dark spots on the bark, decreasing the tree’s aesthetic value in your landscape. 

This tree has fern-like leaves that add much beauty to your landscape, turning yellowish-green when they mature and then back to yellow in the fall.

The tree sheds all its leaves in winter, and they start appearing late in spring. The wood of this tree is very shock-resistant, so it’s usually used in the lumber industry. 

8. Virginia Pine

Evergreen Virginia Pine Tree

  • Known as the scrub pine, this tree can establish itself in severely damaged landscapes. 
  • You can grow many of these in a large sunny area of land that you want to fill quickly if the conditions aren’t favorable for other species. 
Distinguishing characteristics 
  • The tree’s smooth red bark becomes gray-brown and scaly as it ages. 
  • A young tree is pyramid-like, but it gets rounder as it grows older by losing its foliage from the top, thus becoming flatter. 
  • Has short needles, and the seeded cones stay on the tree for five years before they fall off. 
  • Staking the trees will protect them from wind damage, but stakes should be removed once the trees are established.
  • Adapts to every soil type except wet soil and needs regular watering until it gets established. 
  • This tree’s wood easily breaks, so it’s rarely used as a windbreaker or shade tree on a vast property. Yet, you can grow it as long as there are other trees and structures to protect it from wind damage. 
  • Pine wood nematodes are microscopic creatures that attack this tree, causing a disease known as pine wilt. 

The Pinus virginiana is one of the popular evergreen trees that thrive in poor soils, and it can be the right choice for your Tennessee garden if you’re struggling to grow other trees.

The Wates Golden is a popular cultivar of this tree, known for its irregular growth habit. It attracts pollinators, but it’s resistant to deer. 

9. Black Walnut

Nutritious Black Walnut Tree

  • It’s a moderate grower, and the yellow-green flowers bloom in spring. 
  • The black nuts of the tree are the primary food source of squirrels and moths, and the eastern screech owl roosts on the branches. 
Distinguishing characteristics 
  • This tree’s average height is around 80 feet tall, but some individuals can reach 120 feet tall. 
  • The bark is gray and scaly when the tree is young. As it grows, it darkens, forming fascinating diamond-like ridges that add to its beauty. 
  • It has a dense rounded crown, and the leaves can be about 24 inches long. 
  • Grows best in deep, well-draining soil that receives enough water. 
  • Should be grown in full sun because it can’t tolerate the shade.
  • Some homeowners don’t prefer to grow this tree because it’s allelopathic, producing chemicals that can affect growth and even kill other plants. So, it’s considered one of the rare trees in Tennessee
  • If you have a vegetable garden, you might want to reconsider growing this tree because many vegetables are intolerant of the juglone this tree produces. 
  • A high concentration of this substance is found in the roots that spread up to 60 feet away from the tree. Different flowers and shrubs will also struggle to grow close to this tree. 

The Juglans nigra is a hardwood tree that people grow in large landscapes, mainly for lumber.

Several trees can be confused with this tree since they all grow in the same area. This includes the invasive tree of heaven and staghorn sumac. Yet, none of them will ever grow to reach the massive size of this walnut tree. 

10. American Beech

Graceful American Beech Tree

  • The tree provides shelter and food for many native birds and insects. 
  • The beech nut is high in fats and is the food source for several animals like opossums, squirrels, and even bears. 
  • Despite not being common, some people grow this tree in landscapes because of its beautiful gray bark and bright green foliage.
Distinguishing characteristics 
  • Grows slowly, adding only a few inches to its height yearly, eventually reaching a height between 50 and 80 feet tall. 
  • The lowest pollution levels will affect this beautiful tree’s growth, but it spreads via suckers in optimal conditions. 
  • Although finding a bare root tree is challenging, you can get one and plant it in late winter to early spring, providing enough space for the roots to spread. 
  • During the first few months, staking the tree is necessary to protect the tree from the wind. 
  • It has moderate watering needs and should receive six hours of full sun. 
  • The unripe nuts contain small amounts of Fagin, which can harm dogs and children. 
  • Over the years, this tree will develop shallow roots that might disrupt your landscape design. Early deep soil preparation can help with this issue. 

The Fagus grandifolia is one of the most common trees in Tennessee, although it’s rare in urban areas. Since the limbs can grow pretty low, you might want to keep it away from high-traffic areas, as it can obstruct pedestrian movement.

Moreover, you should invest in shade-loving companion plants, as this tree creates such a dense shade that grass and most flowering shrubs won’t tolerate. 

11. Basswood

Useful Basswood Tree

  • An excellent addition to your pollinator garden, attracting bees, moths, and butterflies. 
  • The honey produced from the trees’ flowers has a distinctive flavor. 
  • Because it’s a softwood tree, people usually use the bark for hand carving and the flowers and leaves for medicinal purposes. 
Distinguishing characteristics 
  • It features dense green foliage and sweet-smelling white flowers that bloom in the spring. 
  • Leaves are heart-shaped, and the bark is usually silvery-gray, but it gets darker as the tree ages.
  • Fruits are dry and hairy, and when they fall off, the bracts carry them to spread the seeds. 
  • Thrives in well-draining, moderately moist soil, and in its native range, this tree won’t require any additional irrigation besides rainfall. 
  • Not drought-tolerant and will produce the best blossoms when grown in full sun. 
  • This tree attracts insects that produce a sugary fluid called honeydew, which can cause a mess on your property. 
  • Unfortunately, this tree is prone to leaf and shoot blight and powdery mildew infestations. 

The Tilia americana is common in urban areas, grown to provide shade in landscapes. There’s some controversy regarding the sweet-smelling flowers, as some researchers claim they’re toxic to bumblebees. Others believe that they’re not. 


In Tennessee, growing native trees will help protect the local plant and wildlife community.

Several species represent good planting options. 

  • Trees like basswood trees will grow to provide shade and protect your property from the wind.
  • Flowering trees in Tennessee usually don’t produce showy flowers except for dogwoods.
  • Trees like white oaks need to grow in large spaces to allow the roots to spread.
  • Some trees, like the black walnut tree, represent an important food source for wildlife.

So, with all these native trees, you’ll have an excellent choice for your landscape design, regardless of the soil conditions. 



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