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5 Disease Resistant Trees

6 min read | Dec 13, 2012 | Plants 

So you want to plant a disease resistant tree?  That is great!  Many of the trees that we sell are disease resistant when placed in the proper area and planted properly.  Disease and insect issues usually arise on plants that are stressed because of poor location in the garden or water issues.  Proper placement, planting, and watering can head off many issues that can arise later in the life of a tree.  Of the many trees that we sell, it is tough to slim down to five really tough trees, but here is a shot:

1.  Japanese maple (Acer palmatum):

Japanese Maple Omurayama

Japanese maple is a popular tree for its variety, elegance in the garden, and durability.  Hundreds of cultivars exist including a multitude of red, green, and variegated leaf forms.  Weeping varieties, upright forms, and cascading types are available with many different types of foliage.  Large broad leaves are common as well as finely dissected foliage that can generally be found on the weeping forms.  Size can vary about as much as the leaf color in Japanese maple.  Any height from dwarf plants under three feet in height to much larger plants attaining heights of twenty feet or more can be found.  ‘Katsura’ is one of my favorite cultivars due to the vast array of colors shown through the foliage throughout the year.  When the foliage emerges in spring, there is a distinct shrimp pink color along the margins of the foliage contrasting with neon green in the center of the leaf.  This turns to a vibrant green for the summer months and is followed by vibrant reds and oranges in the fall.  ‘Katsura’ is truly an amazing tree!  The Japanese maples can tolerate a wide range of conditions from full sun to a hefty amount of shade.  I prefer morning sun with some afternoon shade to minimize scorching on younger plants during the summer months.  A well drained soil will keep your tree happy for years to come!

2.  Chinese Fringe Tree (Chionanthus retusus):

chionanthus viburnum

Chinese fringe tree is one of the most underused trees in the garden here inNorth Carolina.  Most of our customers looking to buy a tree want a tree that has a fast growth rate, flowers, matures around 25 feet tall, and is rugged and durable.  Guess what?  This is it!  I have seen this plant grown both as a large shrub and as a tree.  My personal opinion is that it looks best in tree form.  Purchasing a single stem form over a multi-stemmed form is the best route to go if a tree form is desired.  Our plant in our display garden is a fast growing one, growing several feet a year during optimal growing conditions.  Chinese fringe tree is absolutely gorgeous when flowering.  During late April to early May the plant is totally covered in large clusters of small strap like flowers.  They are fragrant as well!   It is a great small tree for a small lot due to its size maxing out around 25 feet tall and wide.  That is just large enough to provide some shade but small enough to leave plenty of room for other plantings.  Fringe tree can tolerate a wide range of soil conditions and we have never had any issues with insects or disease with our trees in the garden.  What a great addition to the garden!

3.  Magnolia (Magnolia sp.):


There are MANY different magnolias available for sell these days.  Southern magnolia, sweetbay magnolia, saucer magnolia, star…………etc.  Most of these species and cultivars are great plants in the garden.  For the purpose of this article, we will focus on southern magnolia.  Southern magnolia has been in gardens of the south for hundreds of years.  I am sure that many non “plank geeks” would recognize the evergreen foliage with the distinct brown backing and large white flowers during the summer months.  There are many different cultivars of southern magnolia available.  The differences are generally height related.  ‘DD Blanchard’ will get large…….REALLY large (at least 50 feet tall) while ‘Little Gem’ is a smaller tree maturing around 25 feet tall.  These two cultivars and the many others can all work well in the garden for a variety of purposes like screening, grouping, or as a specimen plant.  This is one of those plants that is tried and true for many years in the southern garden.

4.  Chinese Pistache (Pistacia chinensis): 

Pistacia_chinensis fall color

Chinese Pistache, like Chinese fringe tree, is an underused tree here in the piedmont.  There are two main reasons to plant Chinese pistache, it is as tough as nails and the FALL COLOR is AWESOME!  It is kind of an odd tree in that the young pistache is not all that attractive from a branching and trunk perspective.  The trunks can be erratic in growth and kind of zigzag shaped.  Rest assured with age, pistache straightens out and grows to heights of 25 to 30 feet.  The foliage is similar to pecan foliage in shape and size.  Come fall, the normally dark green leaves turn incredible shades of crimson red.  This tree is a sight to behold in October!  Pistache also performs really well during periods of drought and intense heat.

5.  Bald Cypress (Taxodium sp.):


via Hope Valley Tree Farm

I love this tree so I have to include it on this list.  Bald cypress is a native that grows fromTexas, down through south, and up intoNorth Carolina.  It is typically found in swampy areas but is incredibly versatile in the garden.  Bald cypress does not have to grow in wet soils.  They are actually drought tolerant.  It is unbelievably durable tolerating wet soil, dry soil, sun, shade, poor soils, and a number of other issues that could damage other trees.  Bald cypress has a delicate feathery textured leaf that is a vibrant green throughout the spring and summer.  Come fall, the foliage turns bronze with the first hard frost and falls like other deciduous trees.  Most cultivars of bald cypress can get large so quite an area is needed to grow them.  That being said, a new cultivar made its way into the market several years ago.  ‘Peve Minaret’ is a dwarf form that should mature less than 20 feet in height making it perfect for smaller gardens.  This is a tree that should certainly get some attention for that problem spot in the garden.

These are just a few of my favorite disease resistant trees.  There are many more available but remember………plant the right tree in the correct spot, plant it properly, and water responsibly for happy trees years down the road!

Happy Planting!

Brad Rollins