What Kind of Tree is Awesome and Will Grow in Utah?

I live in Utah, in the suburbs of Salt Lake City. I have this spot in my yard where I have planted a couple trees and watched those trees die.

The first was a Golden Deodar Cedar. Since I live in Utah and was sold the tree in Utah, I assumed it would grow and do well. I have seen some fine specimens growing around the valley. Apparently, those are the exceptions. It gets a little too cold and the spot where I had it is a little too exposed.

The second was a Dwarf Blue Spruce. It died for reasons I know not. Some trees just die, I guess. It is probably ok that it did. Blue Spruces can be kind of ugly anyway.

This spring I plan to replace the tree. To make sure it lives and does well, I decided to do some research. In many of the suburbs of Salt Lake City the soil is very heavy clay. It is also alkaline. I want a good tree that can do well in this environment. This will be in my front yard, so I want a nice looking tree as well. Lastly, I want it to live a long time and provide enjoyment to future owners.

Utah State University has a list of “good” or “better” trees to plant in Utah. I like this list because it made me think outside the same old trees that I see all through my neighborhood. The following is a list that pretty much sums up every tree in my neighborhood.

Flowering Pear
Honeylocust
Cottonwood
Canadian Chokecherry
London Plane Tree
Austrian Pine

I am pretty sure the reason is a combination of what they sell at the local Home Depot, what will grow, and what is in style. I have some of these trees and I like them, but now I want something different.

Here are some that I am considering:

Bur Oak

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This looks like a fine tree. One of the finest trees you could ever have in your yard. The problem is, I do not have room for a 60 foot crown. I suppose I could prune it. On the other hand, they grow about 1 foot per year. I will likely be dead before it is a problem. Someone else can prune it in 50 or 60 years.

Chinkapin Oak

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The <a href="http://www.wildflower.org/gallery/species.php?id_plant=QUMU "target="_blank">Chinkapin oak looks almost as magnificent as the Bur Oak. It does not get quite as large so it might be a better fit. It reminds me of the tree where Chip and Dale live. I cannot see any downsides to this tree. You can also eat the acorns without too much preparation. Animals like them too. According to the Arbor Day Guide:

Chinkapin oak acorns are at the top of the food preference list for wild turkeys, grouse, whitetail deer, black bears, chipmunks, squirrels, and hogs. Cattle will eat the leaves.

I think it will make an excellent source of food for the local black bear population while providing up close learning experiences for neighborhood children.

Kentucky Coffeetree

The Kentucky Coffeetree is another fine tree.

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One drawback for me regarding this tree is the way that is loses its leaves. Some hang on all winter leaving additional leaves to rake in the spring. This is not a deal breaker, but it would be nice if they all fell off at once and blew into the neighbors yard in the fall as seen in the diagrams below:

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Tree in the Fall:
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Yellow Poplar or Tulip Tree

The yellow poplar is not actually a member of the poplar family, but a member of the magnolia family. This one is probably planted more often than the others I have mentioned because of the pretty flowers and fast growth.

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I really like this tree. The problem I have with this tree is that I feel like a sell-out planting it. Planting an Oak tree feels more sophisticated to me. It is like Doing something the "right way" even though it will take longer. They are both beautiful trees, but only one is commonly referred to as "mighty".

The Giant Sequoia

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Apparently, there are a few of these around. They are well adapted for this climate, unlike the coastal redwood. The biggest pro is that I would have a Giant Sequoia. Cons include that it might get a little big, but not for like 2000 years. Before I plant one of these, I will have to go see some in person around the valley.

The Choice

Regardless of which tree I plant, I hope that I have given you some ideas regarding some different types trees that should do well in Utah that are not flowering pears or cottonwoods (which seems like all people plant these days). I wish I could, but I cannot plant all of these. I would love it if my nieghbors planted a few. So when you go to choose a tree, don’t be a self-indulgent wiener. Be a connoisseur. Mix it up a bit and plant something with some style. I would especially like to see people planting some more Giant Sequoias. They look like magnificent trees.

Additional reading:

Better trees for Utah

USU Tree Selection