What's the Most Useful Tree to Grow in My Yard?

beautiful row of arborvitae trees growing in privacy hedge

Call us tree-huggers if you want, but there's no doubt about the benefits of trees in the home landscape. The best one for you depends on what you're trying to achieve. That said, here's a list of trees to consider based on the situation.

Add Little Privacy

It might be nosy neighbors or an unfortunate eyesore you're trying to hide. Either way, you need something to fill in that gap between you and the undesired. With a variety of fence styles to choose from, including electric fences, a living fence dividing your property from your neighbors is an attractive option for those wishing to naturally disguise their view.

For this we like Emerald Green Thuja (Arborvitae). These fast growing trees are hardy in a variety of climates. They only grow 12-14 ft tall, nearly half the size of it's giant relative that can grow to 30-40 ft, for easier maintenance in the home landscape. They can take full to partial sun, and can fit into a variety of landscape styles.

If it's a bathroom window that needs a little guarding, evergreen trees are better than deciduous for year round privacy. Think of holly trees as more than just a Christmas thing. Their prickly leaves lend added security to deter any would-be burglars from gaining easy access.

And camelias, though considered a shrub, can grow into huge statement plants depending on the variety. Choose one that doesn't grow so large, and you'll have a lovely green screen and foundation plant with beautiful flowers to boot.

arborvitae trees growing in privacy hedge

Bring Fruit to the Table

There may be other things you can think of that are more satisfying than harvesting and eating your own produce, but we daresay, being able to grow your own fruit should be high on that list of things that make you happy.

Fig trees are one of our favorites not only for their delicious fruits, but also for their ease of maintenance, hardiness, and productivity. Their deep green leaves are wide and leathery, providing lots of shade. And when they shed their leaves, they reveal a lovely gray bark, becoming a statuesque feature in your garden.

With such a wide variety of plum trees available, choose one that suits your preference. Cooking vs. fresh eating. Dwarf vs. semi-dwarf vs. standard. Self-pollinating vs. cross-pollinating. Plums generally ripen all at once, so be prepared to share the bounty with your friends and your neighbors.

Persimmon trees are striking in the landscape when laden with their smooth orange orbs in late fall. The round, squat types, similar in shape to tomatoes can be eaten while still firm and crisp.

The pointed, oblong shaped varieties must be eaten only when fully soft and ripe, otherwise you'll be treated to its mouth-puckering astringency. They are native to the southeast, but also do well in western landscapes.

beautiful peaches growing on a tree

If you live in a tropical area, banana trees are easy to manage and prolific fruiters. They grow in clumps as baby trees shoot up near the base of the mother tree. Once the fruits are harvested from the mother tree, she will no longer produce and is cut down so the babies can develop.

There are many varieties, but the apple-banana is one of the more widely planted. Fruits are shorter than the standard Cavendish offered in grocery stores, but the flavor is delightfully sweet with a dense, creamy textured flesh.

We couldn't end a section on fruit trees without including citrus. While these trees are restricted to wam climate areas, there are many varieties that do well enough in pots for the intrepid cold weather gardener. Even they can get a dose of fresh, liquid vitamin C plucked straight from the tree!

Add Value to Your Property

pretty trees in front of house

That added value is subjective, especially since that meticulously cared for arborvitae hedge might be considered boring to a more adventurous gardener. And those beloved fruit trees could just turn into a nightmarish mess to someone who isn't a fan of the fruit you planted.

While you can't predict what others might deem valuable, at the very least, do your research and avoid planting trees considered invasive in your area. Instead, plant trees suited to your climate. Palm trees in cold-weather areas may give your garden an alien vibe, so unless you're a specialty grower, stick with trees appropriate to your particular zone.

Regardless of what trees you plant, trees that are healthy and well-cared for will undoubtedly make your home more attractive to you, the neighborhood, and any potential buyers—if that's who you're striving to impress.