Tree & shrub selection: Recommended Trees for Minnesota by Region

Trees shade and cool us in the summer, protect us from cold winter winds, supply us with clean air to breathe, beautify our communities and provide habitat for wildlife. Selecting the trees that will survive and grow into healthy urban forests requires a thorough analysis of the planting site and a careful match of the trees to that environment.

DD6945_tree_brownThe Recommended Trees series recognizes that Minnesota is an ecologically diverse state. For this series, the state is divided into six major ecological regions, each with characteristic soils, precipitation patterns, topography, and natural vegetation. Recommended trees for each region (four out of six are currently available) perform reliably in that environment, and should thrive for many years.

The following links recommend which trees should be selected for each region of Minnesota:

More tree and shrub selection resources:

Emily Hanson deals with natural resources of urban areas. She is based in St. Paul.

You may also like


    1. Hi Terry. Depends on why you want to plant them. If you’re hoping to grow veneer black walnut trees to fund your grandkids’ college education, you’d be wasting your time. On the other hand, if you enjoy planting different species and are going to be OK if they have poor form and suffer dieback from time to time from adverse growing conditions, go for it.

  1. here i am looking for trees that can be planted in my state of birth and I have never scene a web site that goes no where. U of M, come on give me the info. by zip easy. What good is this site for something simple and I was let down. I just want to see what I can plant by Park Rapids so I can get my order in for the Sherbure SWCD order before the 1st of Feb.

    Best Regards,

    1. Hi Clark. If all you want is an answer, here it is: Plant red pine. It grows beautifully on many sites around Park Rapids.

      But: If you want an answer good enough to put money, work, and years of your land’s productive growth on, that’s a whole different question. To answer that requires a lot more information:

      What grew previously on the site? How rich and wet is the soil? (Generally the soils in your area are sandy but that is not true on every site.) What is the current condition of the stand: open field, recently clearcut, existing stand? Is there slash on site, how much, and how is it distributed? What vegetation control has been done already and how much money are you willing to spend to control competing vegetation over the next several years? Are any seedlings already established on the site? How do you feel about chemical use to control competing vegetation? Do you view the planting as a financial investment to generate timber revenue or are you simply trying to get trees growing on the site? How interested are you in wildlife habitat, what kind of wildlife, and when? If that is important to you, what habitat elements are missing from the surrounding landscape that this parcel could provide? How many acres are we talking about and what is your budget?

      We could easily post a list of trees that grow well near Park Rapids. The documents linked above have some good information. But before you make a multi-year investment, I would strongly advise you to talk to a local forester, preferably one that knows your land. Do you have a Stewardship Plan? If so, consult it. If not, consider investing in one.

      Sorry the site didn’t answer your question right off. We work hard to provide reliable information to help landowners make informed decisions. Some questions are more complex than they seem, and in some cases, there is no substitute for talking to a knowledgeable local person.

  2. My husband and I have been trying to figure out what type of tree grows quickly, and provides privacy, in northern Minnesota (Bemidji- Lake Movil area).
    As it is, we have ten adult spruce trees ( that line our property)that have died and will have to be removed, and we are looking for something that could take their place.
    Do you have any idea what would be an ideal tree that grows to at least 20ft, and provides privacy? It doesn’t have to be a pine tree. Anything that will be healthy and provide privacy. We are willing to plant a couple rows of staggered trees to get the same effect. It’s just so sad when beautiful elderly trees die….

  3. I live in Northeast Minneapolis. I have a relatively small lot but would like two plant two shade trees.

    The first is place is about 10 feet of the road and just past the sidewalk. We removed a sugar maple from this spot maybe 5-6 years ago, it had girdled roots. The spot receives partial sun.

    The second spot is a little trickier, I have two 30-40′ ash tress that are about five feet from each other. They offer fantastic shade to our house… but they are ash. I would like to plant something now to replace the shade we will be losing with their seemingly eminent demise. I would like to get as close to them as I safely can. The main issue is that it would receive very little sun until it got tall enough (maybe 15′) to over come the shade cast from my neighbor’s house.

    I am considering a river birch in the first spot, and a Sienna Glen Maple in the second. In your Recommended Trees Excel spreadsheet Sienna Glen is listed as shade tolerant, but distributors suggest full sun. Would you have some other suggestions?

  4. Any time I can talk someone into planting something other than another maple, I’ll jump at the chance! I do stand on the shade tolerance of Sienna Glen (light shade, not dense shade), but it won’t color as brilliantly as it does in more sunny spots.

    I’m also a bit wary of recommending river birch, despite the fact that it’s one of my favorites. Depending on where you live in northeast Minnesota, it’s marginally cold hardy for the upper sections of northeast MN (Carlton and north).

    A couple of trees to consider: If you like birches I’d recommend ‘Oasis’ paper birch. Like all paper birches, it can tolerate light shade. It’s also a better birch for drought tolerance and bronze birch borer resistance (not immunity). Yellow birch would be a good choice, too, for it’s cold hardiness and shade tolerance. It’s got a bark that is closer to river birch bark than paper birch.

    In lieu of the maple, consider ‘Redmond’ linden, a cultivated variety of our American basswood. It does very well in MN, has a nice, golden autumn color and is tolerant of light shade. I’d also consider black cherry.

    1. Thanks for the quick response, I’m hoping to get these trees in this fall. Fall is preferable planting for trees, right?

      I live in NE Minneapolis, not upstate, does that change your advice at all? The tree in the shady spot would have a house within about ten feet either side of it, so I’m a little wary of a pyramid form, a mushroom shape would really be ideal.

      Could you please elaborate on your stance against maple?

  5. Okay, I hastily read “northeast Minneapolis” as “northeast Minnesota.” Sorry. However, I stand by those recommendations, but would also support river birch, especially the Heritage cultivated variety (sometimes called ‘Curly’). Depending on how much shade you have over these trees, yellow is the most shade tolerant, then Oasis then Heritage, but it’s a pretty fine line between Oasis and Heritage.

    I think you’d still like the Redmond linden, but I would add Valley Forge elm and if the site is real shady, ironwood (Ostrya).

    I’m sorry for the confusion in the previous message.

  6. Hello, we just moved to Saint Francis on five acres. The lot is mostly flat and sandy and I would love to grow a whole forest of trees, but we do not have a lot of money to do so. Do you have any recommendations on where we can get a bunch of trees or maybe even propagate some of the trees on our land ourselves?

    1. Hi Jean. The MN State Forest Nursery has a great webpage on selecting which trees are appropriate to plant given your specific site conditions. Prices are very reasonable. Given the sandy soils that you mention, oaks and pines come to mind as species that might do well. Thanks for your interest! -Matt

  7. You say “For this series, the state is divided into six major ecological regions, each with characteristic soils, precipitation patterns, topography, and natural vegetation. Recommended trees for each region perform reliably in that environment, and should thrive for many years.” Yet there are only 4 regions listed, and nothing for northeastern Minnesota. Am I reading this wrong?

    1. Hi Casey- Thanks for your interest in seeing the recommended trees for your region. Unfortunately, we don’t currently have a finalized set of recommendations for the Northeastern part of the state. But it’s on the way! We’ve modified the post to mention this, but please check in soon. -Matt

  8. Hello, I am trying to find the right tree for my area. I’ve tried to use the suggested webpages, but some of the links were broken and I couldn’t make heads or tails of the rest. I live in highland park off of Cleveland near Ford Parkway. For the last few years we’ve been losing many trees to storm and disease in the backyard of my apartment complex. I don’t think the soil is very good and the land is hilly. Whenever there is a heavy rain the water flows down the hills like a waterfall and floods the low lying areas. Then, if it’s windy the trees just fall. I was wondering if you could recommend hearty trees with a good root system that might grow in my area.

    Thanks for your patience (I’m totally new at this),

    1. Thanks for looking into this Merry. Depending on what you want your future trees to look like, there are many options for the Twin Cities area. For smaller trees (those less than 20 ft in height, alders and serviceberry are popular trees. For larger trees, many species of elms may be appropriate with several varieties resistant to the Dutch elm disease. Lindens may also be fitting, but are much more sensitive to deicing salt. Oaks are also an option, but you would need to be aware of issues with oak wilt in the spring if you want to maintain them. See this PDF for some more recommended species that are appropriate for the metro area. Good luck deciding! -Matt

  9. I am looking for an evergreen hedge option to run the length of our backyard along the lot line (next to a cast iron fence) to provide privacy. We had arbor vitae bushes but have grown tired of them and do not want to use a boxwood either. Are there other ever options that you might suggest that are green year round in MN, hearty and can be pruned to look nice? Thanks!

    1. Thanks for inquiring Peter. I would encourage you to take a look at Extension’s Choosing Landscape Evergreens page for some ideas. Depending on your site conditions, mugo pine and junipers come to mind for sandy soils, or balsam fir is a hedge species often used and is better adapted to wetter soils. Canada yew and Japanese yew are more adapted to shady conditions. Good luck with considering your options! -Matt