When considering what species of trees you’d like to plant around your home, it’s standard to ask, “What qualities am I looking for?” and go from there. Perhaps you envision a forest of fast-growing trees with a wide reach once they are fully mature or maybe a shrub that has very dense branches so that it can be planted as a privacy screen or windbreak. Maybe you need a species that can handle long, dry periods without much rain or a type of tree that thrives in shadier spots.
Yes, it’s important to think about what you want, but many homeowners neglect to consider what they could also do without. Why does this matter?
A considerable number of trees that are typically used for landscaping, gardens, and other outdoor spaces may actually have certain undesirable qualities. Young saplings that seem promising when planted can turn out to create more work for you later down the road as they mature. One of the main complaints that arborists and other tree specialists hear are those regarding the number of fruits, berries, and seed pods that unexpectedly litter a lawn. This is usually followed by the question, “What are the least messy trees that I can plant?”
It’s perfectly reasonable to not want to add extra labor to your life and to make sure that the tree species you select isn’t going to create a headache later. To facilitate your search, here are some suggestions for low-maintenance and least messy trees for your yard:
Arborvitae is an evergreen that comes in several varieties. This tall and elegant tree serves well for hedges or privacy purposes. The branches grow densely, adapting well to shaping and pruning. These attributes contribute to the popularity of arborvitae as low-maintenance landscaping trees, with a high degree of utility in return.
Arborvitae will thrive in many different types of soil conditions and can handle weather extremes. They will naturally grow in a pyramidal shape, and at full maturity, they may reach heights of up to 50 feet.
There are numerous types of dogwood trees, and the flowering variety is one commonly seen in gardens and landscapes, for good reason—it is attractive year-round. In springtime, large fragrant flowers appear, while in summer, the blossoms turn into green leaves. By autumn, the foliage turns a dark red and grows berries. The leaves drop in winter, but the tree remains attractive due to the unique appearance of the bark and long, elegant branches.
This tree grows quickly, reaching full size in about a decade, which can range from 10 to 25 feet in height. It thrives in full sun and partial shade and grows easily in well-drained soils. The flowering variety of dogwood does indeed have berries, but the fruits are quite small and very much loved by birds, so you won’t have to worry about clean-up.
Spruce trees are commonly used as landscape plants and feature sharp, stiff needles that grow to about an inch in length. The Colorado blue spruce is one example. It’s native to North America and valued for the bluish-green color of the needles. This species will grow to heights ranging from 30 to 70 feet. Dwarf spruce varieties, meanwhile, are excellent for ornamental uses, as they typically reach only maximum heights of 15 feet. Spruce trees tend to grow slowly. In the case of the blue spruce, cones are produced only when the tree reaches maturity.
These conifers are considered low-maintenance trees that need little care. They do require relatively well-drained soil that is also rich in organic matter, so compost may be necessary. Once established, spruce trees need regular watering, but pruning is not something that homeowners need to worry about, since these trees do best when their branches can grow all the way to the ground.
These trees are known for their aesthetic beauty, especially in autumn, but they also fall into the category of least messy trees. The foliage turns different shades of gold, crimson, and orange in the fall, while the new leaves that emerge in early spring will eventually offer plenty of shade in summer. While the leaves that fall will require raking, there are no fruits or blossoms that will create additional organic matter on your lawn that then needs to be removed.
You may associate maple trees with the sticky sap that is used to make maple syrup, but that doesn’t mean you’ll have a sticky tree to clean! These popular landscaping trees come in all shapes and sizes, so there are many options. The Japanese maple, for example, is one common landscaping variety that doesn’t produce sap. It can grow as tall as 25 feet, with dwarf varieties maturing around 2 feet tall.
What to Avoid
There’s no tree variety that truly doesn’t shed leaves, needles, pinecones, or fruit at some point. There are, however, those that require less clean-up, as mentioned above, and there are those that require a significant amount of work. In addition to knowing some examples of the least messy trees, it’s good to keep in mind some tree species to avoid if you’re genuinely looking to avoid the hassle:
The seed pods of this tree are the ones you see on the ground shaped like a gumball but spiky. Imagine having to clean up loads of these off your lawn.
Northern Catalpa Trees
These produce large leaves and bean-like pods. And while the trees themselves are beautiful, the leaves and pods will cover your lawn and create a giant mess.
Eastern White Pine Trees
Not only does this species shed leaves—that is, pine needles—in large amounts, it also produces a sticky sap, called pitch, which creates quite a mess and can only be removed using a solvent such as rubbing alcohol.
If you still have questions about what trees to plant—or not plant—in your yard, it might be a good idea to talk to an expert. The arborists at Mr. Tree have years of experience and can certainly give you a hand in selecting trees that will make you happy for years to come.