Growing trees in a windy conditions can be a bit of a challenge. Trees with brittle or weak branches tend to snap in the wind, causing much yard debris. Wind-tolerant trees, on the other hand, can protect your home by providing a flexible living barrier from the ravages of strong air currents. Master gardener Kathy Green at Colorado State University recommends trees with flexible, wide-spreading, strong branches and low centres of gravity for gusty environs.
Master gardener Kathy Green also notes that trees with narrow leaves or needles are ideal for windy conditions, as broader leaves tend to "catch" the wind, leading to possible branch damage. Conifers, or cone-bearing trees, are well suited to strong winds, not only because of the nature of their foliage, but because of the suppleness of their twigs and branches. Conifers include such trees as pine, spruce, thuja (also known as arbor vitae), cedar and juniper. These trees are also evergreens, maintaining attractive and aromatic foliage year-round.
Golden Rain Tree
Another tree that tolerates and protects from strong winds is the golden rain tree (Koelreuteria paniculata), also known as the varnish tree. This fast-growing, deciduous tree native to Asia also tolerates excess heat, drought and air pollution. It thrives in most soil types, and is appropriate for USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 9, a region that includes much of the central and southern United States. The zones (see Resources) are based on annual average minimum temperatures and are used to describe a plant's cold hardiness.
The golden rain tree grows to heights of 30 feet, bearing lacy compound leaves that yellow in autumn. Fall also brings showy clusters of golden flowers to the tree, for which it is named. These flowers give way to attractive, papery pink seed pods.
The Zelkova tree (Zelkova serrata), native to Asia, is another appropriate choice for planting in windy places. This large Elm family tree reaches a mature height of up to 60 feet, with a wide spread. Its flexible branches bear oval, serrated, pointed dark-green leaves that burst into flaming shades of orange, red and burgundy in October and November. The Zelkova tree is hardy in Zones 5 to 8. It enjoys full sun and moist soil.
The common hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), also known as the American hackberry, is a highly adaptable tree. Like Zelkova, this tree is a member of the Elm family. Unlike Zelkova, it has little ornamental value in the autumn and is native to North America. This remarkable tree not only withstands wind but thrives in poor, rocky soils, and tolerates heat, drought, flooding and pollution. It is a favourite summer shade tree in Zones 2 to 9, a region encompassing most of the United States and southern Canada. Common hackberry trees can grow up to 70 feet tall, with a spread of up to 50 feet.
The Amur maple (Acer ginnala) is a low-growing deciduous tree famous for its tolerance of wind, drought and dry soil. Hardy in Zones 3 to 8, this tree grows 15 to 20 feet tall, producing a rounded canopy of foliage that turns bright crimson in fall. In spring, the Amur maple bears perfumed white flowers that give way to red, winged seeds.
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- Colorado State University: Wind Tolerant Trees and Shrubs; Kathy Roth; 2007
- "Gardening with Conifers"; Adrian Bloom; 2001
- Floridata: Koelreuteria paniculata
- Ohio State University: Zelkova serrata
- Ohio State University: Celtis occidentalis
- North Carolina State University: Ground Covers: Acer ginnala; Erv Evans