Types of Fragrant Flowering Trees

Flowering trees add charm and grace to the landscape. There are few gardens so small that a flowering tree can't be added. If you choose wisely, the tree can provide interest in several seasons, not just when it is in bloom.

Flowering Dogwoods

The most popular flowering dogwoods in tree form are Cornus florida, native to the United States, and Cornus kousa, or Chinese dogwood. There are many cultivars of each type. Most are hardy to zone 5. Dogwoods prefer partial shade and rich, moist soil. Most flowering dogwoods have fruits for winter interest (until the birds eat them) and pretty fall color. The natural flower color of both dogwoods is white, but pink- and red-flowered forms can be found.

C. florida, Cherokee Daybreak, is disease-resistant and has rosy red flowers in spring and variegated foliage marked with pink and yellow. C.kousa, Wolf Eyes, has a gold center to each leaf, white flowers and gorgeous pink and red fall color.

Rarer flowering dogwoods include Cornus nuttallii, Colrigo Giant, a variety of our native Pacific dogwoods which is a medium-sized tree with huge, creamy flower clusters up to 8 inches across. It has excellent yellow to red fall color and is hardy to Zone 6. Cornus controversa, Giant Dogwood, a native of Japan, is truly a giant, making a large shade tree. It has white flowers, black fruits and purple-red fall color. Cornus capitata is an evergreen dogwood. It forms a small tree with glossy leaves, large yellow flowers and red fruits. It is hardy to Zone 8.


Beloved in the South are the magnolias, and Northerners like them too, with some varieties hardy to Zone 5. Many magnolias bloom early in the spring. While the tree may be hardy, northern magnolia flowers often are killed by late frosts. There are several flower types, from large cuplike flowers to tiny starlike ones. Some are fragrant and colors range from white to red. Check the zone hardiness of each type before planting in your area.

Magnolia virginiana, Jim Wilson, is a sweetbay magnolia with glossy leaves and late-spring, white cup-shaped flowers. Hybrid magnolias include Butterflies, which has 3- to 4-inch yellow flowers; Galaxy, a columnar shape for tight spots with large reddish-purple blooms; Daybreak, a very fragrant, rose pink, late-flowering tree, and Spectrum, also rose colored but with repeat blooms through the summer.


Crabapples, Malus species, and hybrid crosses are another popular flowering tree with hundreds of varieties to choose from. There are rounded, weeping, narrow upright and shrub forms. Crabapples are prone to the same diseases that harm regular apples, and although there are disease-resistant varieties on the market, some preventative spraying is usually needed. Crabapples need full sun. Most varieties are hardy to Zone 4.

Candied Apple is a nice weeper with pink flowers, red fruits and red-tinted foliage in spring. Golden Raindrops has finely cut, lacy leaves on a small spreading tree with white flowers and tiny golden fruits. Prairie Rose has double deep-pink flowers in profusion but does not set fruit, good for those who do not like cleaning up crabapples from the lawn. Royal Raindrops is also a cut-leaf crabapple but it has purple foliage, rose red flowers, red fruit and lovely orange-red fall color.

Cherries, Pears, Peaches and Apricots

Many fruit trees have had varieties selected for their flowers. Some of these do not make fruit. Like crabapples, they may need preventative sprays to keep them disease- and insect-free. They prefer full sun and well-drained soils.

Prunus cerasifera, Krauter Vesuvius, is a purple-leaved plum with light-pink flowers.

Prunus mume, W.B. Clarke, is a weeping apricot with pale-pink flowers. The tree becomes gnarled and twisted with age for winter interest. Prunus vedoensis perpendens is a weeping Yoshino Cherry. The trailing branches are covered with pale-pink almond-scented flowers in early spring. Prunus padus, Summer Glow, is a cherry with white, fragrant spring flowers, purple foliage all summer and tiny red fruits. Pyrus calleryana, Redspire, is a nice flowering pear adapted to tough city conditions with pretty white flowers in spring and a blaze of crimson-purple foliage in fall.


The common eastern Redbud, Cercis canadensis, is well-known in Eastern gardens. It has branches lined with tiny purple-pink flowers in spring and heart-shaped leaves. The variety Forest Pansy has purple leaves. A related tree, Cercis siliquastrum, or Judas Tree, has clouds of white to rosy lavender flowers and purple fruits. It's hardy to Zone 7. Redbuds prefer light or partial shade and are small trees.


There are several forms of Catalpa, both native and Asian. Catalpa speciosa, sometimes called Indian Bean, is hardy to Zone 4. It has fragrant, orchid-like flowers, white with purple, red and yellow markings in summer. The leaves are very large and heart shaped, and the flowers turn to long, brown, beanlike pods. Catalpa erubescens, Purpurea has purple leaves. Chinese Catalpa, Catalpa ovata, has smaller yellow flowers dotted with brown and blooms later in the summer.

Other Fine Flowering Trees

Hawthorns are small, thorny trees that have spring flowers, fruits and good fall color. Crataegus crus-galli inermis is a thornless hawthorn hardy to Zone 4. It has white flowers in spring, glossy dark green leaves that turn orange in fall and small red fruits loved by birds. Crataegus opaca, Harrison, is a hawthorn for the southwest, with showy spring flowers and pink fruit that makes great preserves.

Stewartia (various species) is a small tree with cup-shaped white flowers in spring or summer, good fall color and reddish peeling bark for winter interest.

Golden Chain Trees, Laburnum anagyroides and related species have long chains of yellow pea-blossom-type flowers in late spring.

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