There’s nothing quite like a day spent in the garden, or an afternoon lounging on the porch or patio, gazing up at the beautiful trees in your yard. Beautiful landscaping is inspiring and can transform any green space into a peaceful sanctuary.
Now that spring is on the way, you might be inspired yourself to add trees and shrubs to your yard. Before you start, it’s important to know a thing or two about Cincinnati’s growing season and what types of plants thrive in this part of the country.
What is the growing zone for Cincinnati?
The USDA divides the county into hardiness zones, and Cincinnati is in zone 6. This means that the area has a medium length growing season and a frost-free period that typically lasts from the middle of May through September.
As a general rule, you’ll want to plant shrubs and trees that flourish in zone 6. It’s also important to note that some garden stores sell plants that work better in other zones. Gardenia bushes, for example, grow best in zones 8 through 11, but you’ll often find them in stores in Cincinnati in late spring. That’s not to say you shouldn’t try to grow one in Ohio, but you’ll need to give it extra TLC if you want those sweet-smelling flowers to bloom.
For homeowners looking for shrubs and trees that add color, character and even some privacy, take a look at our list of the best shrubs and trees to plant in Cincinnati.
What are the best shrubs for Cincinnati yards?
If you’re looking for a low maintenance, flowering shrub that can bloom from summer through the fall, take a closer look at the Panicle Hydrangea. The shrub is known for its beautiful, large cluster of white flowers that tend to change into pink hues later in the season, after the weather gets cooler.
Panicle Hydrangeas work great in a variety of yards but need at least four hours of direct sunlight. They can grow in almost any type of soil and come in various sizes – from three to four feet to up to eight feet, so they’d work well if you’re looking for a shrub that adds privacy. And, if you’re a novice gardener or don’t have a green thumb, the Panicle Hydrangea is for you. It’s hardy and doesn’t require a lot of TLC.
Cutleaf Japanese Maple
It’s easy to see what the Cutleaf Japanese Maple is such a popular, sought-after shrub. Its gorgeous red and orange leaves and shape adds flair and elegance to any yard or garden. In fact, Cutleaf Japanese Maples can provide color to yards almost year-round.
They’re also easy to maintain and only need to be pruned once or twice a week. They’ll also thrive in shade or in yards with partial sun, and although they take a little time to grow, they can reach up to eight feet tall and seven feet wide, so they’re great for extra privacy or as a centerpiece in your garden.
Ready for a pop of color in your yard? Consider planting False Indigo, a shrub that erupts into blue, pea-shaped blooms. In the winter, the shrub gives way to dark seed pods that add a little color in the colder months, provide you don’t prune the plant after the it stops producing plants once the summer is over.
False Indigo is a very durable, easy to maintain shrub that can tolerate poor soil and can even tolerate draught conditions. The shrub does need about six hours of direct sunlight and it can take a couple of years for the plant to produce flowers, but once it does, it will remain hardy and a reliable bloomer for years to come.
Weigela (pronounced “why-GEE-lah”), is a fast-growing shrub that produces gorgeous blooms that range from pink to dark purple in color. It’s also low-maintenance, and while it attracts butterflies and hummingbirds, it’s deer-resistant.
Weigela works well in zone six for a variety of reasons. It thrives in full sun but can tolerate a yard with a little shade. It’s also draught resistant, requires little watering and grows twice in a year – once in the spring and again in the summer. Some varieties grow up to five feet tall, while others only grow to two feet tall, so they’re great for both privacy and as accents in the garden.
If you’ve ever traveled around the American southwest and visited desert areas, you probably saw – and smelled – plenty of juniper bushes. These beautiful shrubs are known for their evergreen foliage that give color to yards and gardens all year long. They’re also fragrant, with a scent similar to pine.
The juniper the grows in the Cincinnati area is similar to the variety you’ll find out west, and it’s just as hardy as the shrubs that grow in the desert. They’re drought resistant, thrive in sun-filled areas and require little if any pruning. Tip: If you have a wood-burning fireplace, dry some juniper branches and place a bundle in with your wood logs the next time you build a fire.
What are the best trees for Cincinnati yards?
Red Sunset Maple
The Red Sunset Maple is the kind of tree you’re going to want to plant front and center in your yard, or at least in a spot where you and your neighbors can take in its beauty. These trees are simply stunning and add gorgeous depth of color thanks to its vibrantly colored leaves that turn from orange to red in the fall.
What’s even better about the Red Sunset Maple is that it’s a relatively fast-growing tree that does well in a range of climates and tolerates both sun and shade. These trees bloom red and yellow flowers in the spring and can grow up to around 50 feet in height, with a 40-foot spread.
Japanese Lilac Tree
Another yard showstopper, the Japanese Lilac Tree (also known as the Chinese tree lilac) is great for yards with shade, although it will grow just fine in yards with full sun as well. The trees produce gorgeous, long clusters of white flowers that are fragrant and delicate. And unlike other lilac tree varieties that bloom for a short period, the Japanese Lilac Tree bloom for a longer amount of time.
Hummingbirds and butterflies are drawn to the tree, and you’ll often see them when it’s in full bloom, hovering near the canopy of white flowers. It’s also a hardy tree, making it ideal for those of us without a green thumb. The Japanese Lilac Tree usually grows 30 feet long and about 20 feet wide.
The Lacebark Elm is fantastic choice for Cincinnati yards because it’s especially hardy and drought resistant. Its hallmark is its small, dark green leaves that turn yellow to purple and red in the fall. It’s also known for its flaky bark that peels to show patches of gray, brown and even orange patches.
This is another good choice if you’re looking for a tree that doesn’t require much maintenance, as the Lacebark Elm is adaptable to nearly all types of soil conditions, is resistant to Dutch elm disease, and will flourish in the Cincinnati climate. The tree can reach 50 feet in height and about 40 feet in width.
When you think of the crab apple tree, you might envision a tree that drops messy fruit on the sidewalk in early summer. But not all crab apple trees are created equal. If you choose the “Malus” variety, you won’t have any messy fruit to content with – only beautiful white flowers and orange fruits that don’t tend to drop.
Crab apple trees are very hardy and drought resistant and feature stunning green leaves that turn a vibrant red and orange in the fall, so they’ll provide continuous color in yards throughout the year. They do best in sun-filled areas and well-drained soil. Smaller in size than oaks and elms, they grow to about 15 to 25 feet in height.
Looking to add a little elegance to your yard or garden? If so, the Pagoda dogwood is your tree. Architectural and ornamental, this dogwood features stunning branches with fragrant flowers in the spring and blue fruits and purple color in the fall.
You can plant these trees in sun or partial shade, but they prefer a rich, moist acidic soil, so they’re idea for Cincinnati yards. The pagoda dogwood has a 15 to 25 foot height and spread.
Want to learn more about beautifying your yard? The team at Classic Living Homes is here to help. We can share what we’ve learned over the years helping Cincinnati homeowners choose gorgeous trees and shrubs for their yards or connect you with an experienced landscape designer to get you started.