If you love ornamental trees but are unsure where to begin in terms of choosing which one will be right for your property, the selection process can almost lead to decision paralysis. Especially since there are just so many options from evergreens, flowering varieties, and those with changing bark colors.
Trees with heart-shaped leaves can be an excellent choice that will not only beautify your garden and your surroundings but make them stand out in your neighborhood.
Fear not! In this article, you will discover just what constitutes a tree with heart-shaped leaves, as well as nine of the most beautiful varieties. All of which are capable of providing your yard or garden with color and natural allure for many years to come.
Identifying Trees with Heart-Shaped Leaves
Trees with heart-shaped leaves are most often classified as members of the Cercis genus or the Tilia genus.
Depending on the variety, they are capable of producing beautiful blooms of different colors and can be distinguished by their flowers, their size, and their foliage.
These features as well as their ideal growing region, preferred climates, and conditions for growth are discussed below.
What is a Heart-Shaped Leaf
Referred to as cordiform or cordate-shaped, heart-shaped leaves are pretty unique and differ from the majority of oval-shaped leaves with the presence of a wider base with a dent at the center and a tapered tip.
Present in clusters, those unusual shapes can provide each tree’s canopy a special allure available nowhere else: proof of just how truly unique they are.
Trees with Heart-Shaped Leaves
The trees that I have described below are some of the most popular varieties of those in this category. Here you will find out all you need to know about their key features, shade tolerance, growing zones, and soil preference.
A recent arrival on the horticultural scene – it was introduced in 2020 – Cercis canadensis ‘NC2016-2’, as it is known, is multicolored and looks something like a vine-draped on a narrow tree trunk. Its heart-shaped leaves appear in gold, red, green, and orange.
- Tree Size: It takes about a decade for it to reach its full height of 20 feet however, it starts to bloom in just half that time filling your garden with its wondrous blossoms.
- Planting Zones: This tree thrives in zones 5 – 9. As a result, its northern limit extends from Seattle in the Northwest in a winding line that swoops downwards through Denver, Nebraska, and Iowa and right through to Maine in the Northeast. (Winters here range between -20° and -10°F.) Its southern limit on the other hand includes Georgia, Florida, and Texas. (Winter temperatures in this region range between 20°F to 30°F.)
- Position: Flame thrower redbud trees need anywhere between 6 – 8 hours of sunlight per day. However, they can tolerate moderate quantities of shade.
- Soil Type: These trees prefer acidic soil and are capable of growing in sand, loam, or clay.
Rather than green foliage, this tree boasts natural vivid hues and even produces large quantities of lavender flowers in March and April further enhancing its beauty in the spring.
For the best results select an area exposed to plenty of sunshine with well-draining soil. Water twice each week (or when the top 3 inches are dry). You will need to continue to check for dryness even after the first year.
Pruning is best carried out in winter to remove any broken branches or in summer when the tree is no longer producing any blooms.
Also referred to as Cercis canadensis ‘Hearts of Gold’, this tree is also something of a newcomer horticulturally speaking it was first spotted in a Greensboro (North Carolina) private residence in 2002.
- Tree Size: The heart of the gold redbud tree is capable of growing to a height of 20 – 25 feet – it can take as many as 20 years for it to reach its full height – and is considered to grow at moderate rates.
- Planting Zones: Like the flame thrower redbud tree, it also thrives in zones 5 – 9 where winter temperatures range between -20° and -10°F to 20°F and 30°F. As a result, it can be grown across most of the United States.
- Position: The hearts of gold redbud requires 6 hours of sunshine daily. However partial shade particularly during very hot periods may be beneficial to it. Being exposed to sunlight during the summer months will make its trees change from one hue to another.
- Soil Type: Although the hearts of the gold redbud tree prefers well-drained soil, it can tolerate a rather wide variety. Hence, it can be grown in chalk, clay, loam, or sand. It is also able to tolerate acidic or alkaline soils lending it an impressive level of versatility in this regard.
The tree is known for its dense foliage which morphs from emerald to green gold and gold at different times of the year.
But its beauty also extends beyond its changing foliage: early in the spring, it produces bursts of lavender color in the form of blossoms which can last for 3 weeks.
Once transplanted, the tree will require a 3-inch layer of mulch. It will also need to be watered twice a week during the first year (or in the event of the top 3 inches being dry).
Botanically referred to as Cercis Canadensis ‘JN2‘, this cultivar was discovered at Jackson Nursery, Belvidere, Tennessee, in 2006.
It is also known as the Love tree or Judas tree and is considered to be the most drought and heat tolerant member of the Cercis genus.
- Tree Size: The tree can grow to a maximum height of 12 feet and attain a spread of 8.
- Planting Zones: Like the flame thrower redbud tree, it also thrives in zones 5 – 9 where winter temperatures range between -20° and -10°F to 20°F and 30°F.
- Position: The rising sun redbud can tolerate shade. However, in order for its flowers to bloom fully, they will need to be placed in an area in which they will have access to direct sunlight continuously.
- Soil Type: The rising sun redbud prefers acidic to alkaline soils with pH values that fall between 6.5 – 8. An impressive level of adaptability means that this tree will grow in just about any soil even those that are somewhat dry. That said, it will not thrive in soil that is waterlogged or has standing water.
Throughout the year, its foliage changes from orange to yellow, then to green.
Its blooms are a striking purple and appear between early to mid-spring before its leaves, making this one of the best trees for your front yard, to provide eye-catching interest throughout spring and summer.
The rising sun redbud will require deep watering once a month, especially during dry conditions. It’s best to apply tree fertilizer in spring, and a balanced, slow-release product should be used. The tree requires very little pruning and only damaged or crossing branches should be removed.
A tree of many names, the quaking aspen is also referred to as the golden aspen, mountain aspen, white aspen, or Populus tremuloides.
It is known for its characteristic pale bark with dark markings, and its leaves which turn golden yellow in autumn.
- Tree Size: Quaking aspen trees can grow as high as 60 feet; they are capable of living for up to 60 years and some of them have been known to live for more than a century.
- Planting Zones: The quaking aspen grows between hardiness zones 1 – 6. As a result, it can be grown between regions with winter temperatures of -60°F to -50 °F and those with minimum temperatures of -10°F to -0 °F.
- Position: In spite of its ability to reproduce aggressively, the quaking aspen has a very poor shade tolerance and can only thrive in the presence of full sunlight. As a result, it will require a minimum of 4 hours of sunlight daily.
- Soil Type: This tree prefers soils that are well-drained yet moist. It is capable of growing in loam or clay soils and will thrive in those which have a pH range that falls between 5.5 to 8.0.
The tree is a firm favorite among horticulturists for its golden foliage and its pale catkins which lend it a special allure. It is also distinguishable by its leaves which shake in a slight breeze.
For optimal results, plant your quaking aspen in rich soil and feed it with a balanced fertilizer in spring. Pruning should be carried out in winter since the tree will be dormant during the season.
Referred to as Catalpa bignonioides in scientific circles, this tree is also known as the cigar tree or smoking bean tree. It is known for its occasionally knotted trunk, scaly bark, and veiny leaves.
- Tree Size: The tree is capable of growing to moderate heights of 60 feet. Its spread can grow up to 50 feet and it can live for as long as 70 years.
- Planting Zones: Southern catalpas thrive between zones 5 – 9. The northern limit of this region extends through Idaho, Iowa, Pennsylvania, and New York. The southern limit passes through Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, Texas, Alabama, and Georgia with winter temperatures ranging from 20° to 30°F.
- Position: The tree is capable of withstanding hot weather and prefers full sunshine. However, it is also capable of handling moderate shade as well.
- Soil Type: Southern Catalpa trees prefer fertile, well-draining acidic soils. They are capable of tolerating a pH range of 5.5 – 6.
The tree is known for its flowers which make a brief appearance between May and July and its leaves which give off an unpleasant odor when crushed.
It is also known for its resilience and for its ability to shed its leaves and blossoms in colossal quantities leading to its being considered something of an environmental nuisance. However, bees are very fond of it.
Seedlings should be grown in the shade and then planted outdoors in the spring in sunny or partially shaded areas.
The young plant should be watered, and the soil monitored to ensure it remains moist without becoming waterlogged.
Originating from central China, the Paulownia tomentosa is also known as the princess tree or the empress tree. It possesses large, wrinkled leaves and is renowned for its ability to grow especially fast. However, this ability to sprout pretty quickly means that it is considered to be an invasive species capable of quickly taking over areas in which it is planted.
- Tree Size: Foxglove trees can grow as high as 80 feet with a spread of 30 feet. Owing to their impressive growth, they are capable of growing as high as 20 feet in a single year and of reaching maturity by their 10th year.
- Planting Zones: This tree thrives between hardiness zones 6 – 9. The northern limit of this climatic band winds downwards and eastwards through Oregon, Utah, New Mexico, right through to Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Tennessee with winter temperatures falling between -10°F to 0°F. The southern limit on the other hand includes Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, Texas, Alabama, and Georgia with winter temperatures ranging from 20° to 30°F.
- Position: Empress trees can tolerate moderate shade. However, they will thrive when provided with a minimum of 6 hours of sunlight per day.
- Soil Type: Foxglove trees are pretty versatile in terms of the soil they are capable of growing in. They can thrive in acidic, neutral, and alkaline soils which have pH values ranging between 5 – 8.5.
They are also capable of growing in sand or clay.
Soil Type: Southern Catalpa trees prefer fertile, well-draining acidic soils. They are capable of tolerating a pH range of 5.5 – 6.
The bark of foxglove trees makes their trunks seem as though they are wrapped in silver bands. Their flowers which are a delightful purple have a scent that is similar to vanilla.
Empress trees are impressively hardy and do not require any feeding. They possess incredibly resilient roots. As a result, they are ideal if you prefer low-maintenance ornamental trees.
However, it is worth noting that it is actually capable of producing millions of seeds yearly and as a result, has been banned in certain states such as Connecticut where it is considered an invasive species.
A member of the mallow family, as opposed to the citrus family, in spite of a somewhat misleading name, this tree is also known as Tilia americana, Carolina basswood, American linden, or American basswood.
It is capable of growing to rather impressive heights and is especially beloved of bees – hence another of its names: bee tree.
The American linden is popularly used to provide shade and also produces small yellow flowers in summer with a heavy fragrance.
- Tree Size: Capable of growing impressively fast, this tree has been known to reach heights approaching 130 feet. However, it is more likely to reach 120 feet in height at the most with a spread of 50 feet. It also enjoys an impressive degree of longevity and can live for up to 200 years.
- Planting Zones: This tree thrives between hardiness zones 2 – 8. The northern limit of this climatic band passes through Wyoming and Alaska and sees winter temperatures of -50°F to -40°F. The southern limit on the other hand includes Texas, Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, and southern New York with winter temperatures ranging from 10° to 20°F.
- Position: American linden needs 6 hours of sunlight per day. However, they may be able to cope with less. They also possess a moderate tolerance for shade.
- Soil Type: This tree prefers neutral to alkaline soils. However, it is capable of growing within a pH range of 4.5 – 7.5.
American limes can be pretty impressive with their large size and beautiful canopies. Their tiny flowers which appear between May and July are also a special favorite with pollinators owing to the potent perfume they emit and the generous quantities of nectar they provide. The seeds they produce also attract squirrels and birds which rely on them for food.
They thrive in moist, nutrient-rich soil but are also tolerant of dry conditions. Mulch annually to avoid nitrogen deficiencies and plant in full sun to partial shade.
The Tilia tomentosa or silver linden as it is also known is capable of growing to 115 feet in height and is known for its small flowers which are heavily fragrant and produce copious quantities of nectar.
- Tree Size: On average, silver limes can grow as high as 70 feet while attaining spreads of 50 feet. However, some of them can reach significantly greater heights and grow up to 115 feet.
- Planting Zones: This tree thrives between hardiness zones 4 – 7. The northern limit of this climatic band extends from the northern part of Idaho and New York to New England and sees winter temperatures of -30°F to -20°F. The southern limit on the other hand extends from Texas to southern New York with winter temperatures ranging from 0° to 10°F.
- Position: Silver lindens need between 6 – 8 hours of sunlight per day. However, they also possess a moderate shade tolerance and may be able to grow in partial shade.
- Soil Type: Like several other cultivars belonging to the same genus, the silver lime prefers loamy well-drained soil. It is capable of growing in acidic, neutral, and alkaline soils and can handle a pH range of 6 – 8.
Silver lindens have a large, majestic canopy with leaves that have pale undersides and which can look especially enchanting when rustling in a gentle breeze. They are particularly noted for their small clusters of pale-yellow flowers which blossom in June and July.
Silver lindens are especially drought resistant: once they are established, they will only require watering during periods of drought which last for over 4 weeks.
They are best pruned when dormant, i.e., during fall or winter. If you need to feed them, you will need to use a balanced, slow-release fertilizer which should be applied before the appearance of new growth, i.e., during the fall or spring.
The Tilia x europaea (also known as the common linden) is a hybrid of the large and small-leaved limes and is noted for its lobed leaves, its hermaphrodite flowers, and its rough pale gray bark.
- Tree Size: The tree which is especially long-lived (it can live for as long as 400 years) is capable of growing up to 160 feet in height.
- Planting Zones: The common lime thrives between zones 3 – 9, a climatic band with a northern limit that extends through Idaho, Wisconsin, Maine, and New York. Here temperatures range between -40 °F and -30 °F in winter. Its southern limit runs through Georgia, Florida, and Texas. (Winter temperatures in this region range between 20°F to 30°F.)
- Position: Common linden trees need as many as 6 hours of full sunlight per day. However, they are moderately capable of handling shade.
- Soil Type: This tree prefers loamy well-drained soil. It is capable of growing in acidic, neutral, and alkaline soils and can handle a pH range of 6 – 8.
In summer the tree blossoms produce clusters of small cream-colored fragrant flowers. These blooms are both male and female and are a favorite of bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
Newly planted trees will require watering once or twice every week for the first three months – you’d be able to skip a watering session in the event of rain falling. However, care will have to be taken to ensure the soil remains damp, but not waterlogged.
The tree should not be fertilized during the first two years of its life. Following this period, you will need to feed it during the fall to prepare it to face the rigors of winter.
Final Thoughts Trees with Heart-Shaped Leaves
Trees with heart-shaped leaves can be some of the most beautiful to grace your landscape. Undoubtedly, they provide a special allure to their surroundings with flame-colored, golden, or even silver foliage, and especially fragrant flowers.
And because several of them cover quite a wide climatic range, you’re bound to find one that’s just right for you.