Many family homes have one of two features. A driveway, guiding guests to the front door, or a strip of curb-side grass.
These areas present the perfect opportunity for elevated curb appeal and a potential increase in your property’s value.
The most effective way to achieve these is by choosing the best trees to line driveways and sidewalks. Creating a line or allee of architectural, colorful beauty.
Below are 12 fantastic options that incorporate attractive form, vibrant color, and best of all, low-to-no mess.
Evergreen Trees For Driveways
A driving path lined with stately evergreens conveys a sense of elegance and grandeur. You may be surprised to learn that this seemingly opulent driveway feature is not as expensive as it looks.
Fast-growing evergreens come in a variety of shapes and sizes, allowing you to find the best match for your landscape. Evergreens also have different climate preferences, increasing your range of choices, no matter where you live.
Taylor Juniper Tree
An Eastern Red Cedar and Emerald Green Arborvitae hybrid, the Taylor Juniper is cold-hardy in zones 3-9 and has proven resistant to juniper blight. 20ft tall and 3ft wide, at maturity, this conifer grows 2ft per year when planted in full sun.
Dense sprays of blue-green “braids” on a tall, slender form give this Juniper its elegant appearance. Female species develop indigo-colored berries in winter.
Drought tolerant once established requires consistent watering after planting. Fertilize every few years with an evergreen NPK and prune only to remove damaged branches.
Eastern Red Cedar Tree
Not to be outdone by its offspring, this majestic cedar is hardy down to zone 2 and reaches 50ft by 20ft, at maturity. Full sun and well-draining soil will result in lush growth that offers shade and protection.
Long, outstretched branches, covered in dark green foliage, form a wide, conical canopy atop a tall, sturdy trunk. In autumn, female trees release blue-green berries for wildlife.
Eastern Red Cedars are typically satisfied with rainfall but benefit from hand-watering in times of drought. Given their size and deep roots, fertilizing and pruning aren’t required.
Degroot’s Spire Thuja Arborvitae Tree
For statuesque elegance in zones 6-9, these vibrant spires reach 10ft, at maturity. Their 3-foot-wide footprint is perfect for smaller spaces where loose loam and dappled sunlight will ensure thick foliage growth.
Degroot’s Spire is a dwarf conifer with feathery, evergreen foliage that takes on a faint purple hue, in winter. In summer, foliage emits a subtle citrus fragrance.
These prefer consistently moist soil. A yearly application of evergreen shrub fertilizer will encourage lush, new growth. When necessary, prune in late winter/early spring to maintain shape.
Now, let’s take the refined and polished appearance of evergreens and add eye-catching color, stimulating fragrance, and seasonal interest.
To varying degrees, these deciduous, flowering trees will lose their leaves in Autumn. But, these can simply be left to break down and nourish the soil and your trees.
Miss Kim Lilac Tree
Lilacs reign supreme when it comes to color and fragrance. The ‘Miss Kim’ Lilac, in particular, thrives along walkways without risking hard surface damage. Maturing 8ft tall and wide, these prefer full-partial sun and alkaline, well-draining soil, in zones 3-8.
Rising through green, heart-shaped leaves in late spring, cold-hardy Lilacs produce a trove of fragrant, pastel flowers in panicled clusters.
Lilacs prefer consistently moist soil for optimal hydration and nutrient absorption. A triple 10 NPK can be applied in early spring, when necessary. Pruning away spent flowers will encourage prolonged blooming.
More often associated with warm climates, many Magnolia cultivars, like the Saucer Magnolia, are quite cold-hardy. This variety can reach 25ft, at maturity, but is easily grown smaller in zones 4-9. Full sun and moist, loamy soil will encourage prolific blooming.
Large “cup-and-saucer” blooms, in gradient white and pink, emerge in early spring, releasing a sweet perfume. Broad, green leaves fill each silver-brown branch.
Water deeply after planting, until established. Feed with a nitrogen-rich NPK, in early spring. Prune to maintain an open crown with sufficient air circulation and the desired shape.
The best ornamental trees to consider depends in part, on what your ultimate goals are. Are you going for lots of spring colors? A gorgeous autumn show? Or, perhaps a nice and tidy row of low-maintenance trees along your driveway?
As you peruse the following ornamentals, keep an open mind. Some may be low-maintenance and non-flowering but provide brilliant, perennial color. Others may welcome fall with fruit and beautiful bark rather than colorful leaves.
Featuring vast leaves with sweeping vein patterns, non-edible Bananas vary in color from vibrant green to deep green, orange, and magenta. This exotic Abyssinian cultivar (pictured above) reaches 10-30ft, at maturity and thrives in zones 8-11, full-to-partial sun and well-draining soil.
Ornamental bananas impart a tropical element with oar-shaped leaves, in rich, variant colors, rapidly sprouting from the plant’s base. Creating a giant plume of botanical beauty.
Keep the soil around these consistently moist, especially in times of drought, and fertilize with a triple 10 NPK, if the soil has become depleted of nutrients.
Edible Mulberries offer healthy fruit and quaint elegance. The self-fertile, Everbearing Mulberry supplies bushels of juicy berries on a 15ft tall structure, in zones 4-10. Preferring full sun and loamy, well-draining soil.
Grown as a single or multi-trunked tree, autumn fruit develop from tiny yellow florets on long, yellow-green pods. Large, tear-drop leaves are also edible and can be steeped as tea.
Water mulberries weekly until established. A larger yield will result from applying an organic, fruit tree fertilizer in early spring. Prune only to remove damaged or broken branches.
The legendary Neem tree is a member of the mahogany family and reaches 40ft by 20ft, at maturity. Producing up to 50 lbs of fruit within 10 years, when grown in full/partial sun and nutrient-rich, well-draining soil.
Given its vast size, this tree is ideal for large, open spaces. In spring, small, white flowers bloom and attract pollinators with a honey-like scent. Fruit develops in yellow, red, or dark purple, depending on the cultivar.
Water trees deeply when soil is dry down 2” until established. Fertilize with a nitrogen-rich NPK when the tree shows signs of deficiency.
Minimal Mess And Mess-Free Trees
In autumn, leaves will naturally fall from deciduous trees and a good storm will rattle free any loose, evergreen foliage and branches. So, no tree will be completely “mess-free”.
Typically, the messiest trees will be those full of ornamental fruits and seed pods that scatter on the wind and leave us reaching for our brooms and rakes.
If you’re looking for tidier trees, I offer the following two suggestions.
I know what you’re thinking, “coffee trees release tons of messy seed pods”, and yes, normally they would. However, far less messy cultivars have been developed that reach 50ft tall, in zones 3-8, and are highly adaptable to most soil types.
Long, fern-like fronds and panicle flower clusters, with a rose-like bouquet, emerge in mid-spring. In maturity, the Kentucky Coffeetree makes an excellent source of shade with its imposing, picturesque profile.
Consistent moisture will maintain color and a steady growth rate. This tree is a nitrogen fixer, so, high-nitrogen fertilizers should be avoided. Prune in late winter or early spring while the tree is still dormant.
Autumn Blaze Red Maple Tree
This gorgeous Red and Silver Maple hybrid has a dense growth habit that reaches 45ft, at maturity. In zones 3-8, the autumn blaze remains pest and disease-resistant when planted in full sun and well-draining soil.
Increase your curb appeal with ever-evolving leaf color, spring flower clusters, and small, winter fruit for wildlife. Autumn leaves fall and replenish soil nutrients around these very low-maintenance trees.
New plantings need deep but infrequent watering. A 7-4-4 NPK will support vibrant foliage growth. Branch thinning may be needed every 3-5 years.
Best Small Trees For Sidewalks & Driveways?
Many of the trees we’ve seen are quite sizable. So, what do you do if space is limited, but you want similar beauty and elegance? You simply look for trees with more compact maturity sizes.
Redbuds, dogwoods, and rose trees (among others) all come in smaller sizes and have relatively small root systems. This means minimal-to-no concern about any risk they may pose to sidewalks and driveways.
Iceberg Rose Tree
This dainty rose tree has stepped right out of the pages of ‘Through the Looking Glass‘. Maturing to just 3ft tall and wide, in zones 5-10, the Rose Iceberg thrives in full sun and nutrient-rich soil.
On a full, rounded form, 3-inch, white blooms erupt through leathery, green, serrated leaves from spring to fall This cold and heat-hardy rose can tolerate -20°F winters and scorching summers
Water well to encourage higher bud numbers and consistent blooming. Using specialist slow-release rose fertilizers every two months will provide the best results. In cold zones, prune back in early spring.
Garden Gems Emerald Redbud Tree
Reaching a maximum of 10ft tall and wide, the Emerald Redbud offers absolutely stunning contrast to other garden trees. While tolerant of partial shade, color is more vibrant in full sun and well-draining soil, in zones 5-9.
The Garden Gems Redbud releases bright, lavender-pink blooms in early spring, followed by lush green foliage that ebbs to autumn gold, at the season’s end.
Water new trees weekly, until established. In early spring, apply a high phosphorus fertilizer (5-10-5). Prune the tree in early summer only after spring blooming has finished.
Trees that won’t damage sidewalks or drives
When considering new trees to add to an existing hardscape, root system size at maturity will determine if they’ll be a good fit.
Large roots, planted too close, will eventually push concrete or asphalt up from beneath, causing it to buckle and creating a safety hazard.
But, if your heart is set on a large tree, like the Kentucky Coffeetree or Neem, just make sure you plant it far enough away from these surfaces to prevent damage.
Where space is limited, focus on smaller trees like Saucer magnolias, Emerald Redbuds, and rose trees. These have smaller, deeper roots systems that enable you to line your drives and walkways with them, without worry.
How do I keep tree roots from damaging my driveway?
Repairing a driveway is expensive. Of course, you want to protect it and still grow lovely trees. So, how far away should you plant trees of different sizes from hard surfaces?
Large trees, like the Kentucky Coffeetree and Eastern Red Cedar, should be planted 10-20ft from driveways and each other, depending on the size and growth behavior of their roots.
These look stunning when planted along gravel drives that wind through wide, open spaces.
Medium-sized trees, such as Autumn Blaze or Taylor Juniper should have a distance of 8-10ft. Small trees, like Miss Kim Lilac or Degroot’s Spire Thuja only need a 3-8ft distance, making this ideal for small spaces.
Best Trees To Line Driveways Final Thoughts
Lining your drive or front walk with beautiful trees, be they tall or small, can heighten your curb appeal and your property’s value.
Conveying a sense of elegance and timelessness in this way is also fairly cost-effective if you buy them in bulk.
We started with some stately evergreens. As we’ve seen, these come in a variety of shapes and sizes and present virtually no mess!
Flowering and fruiting ornamentals, on the other hand, may drop their leaves to add nutrients to your soil, but in return, they offer stunning color variation, hypnotic fragrance, and in some cases, edible fruit!