12 Best Trees to Plant in Central Illinois

Getting confused about choosing which trees for your Central Illinois landscape? Sit back and relax! We have compiled the 12 best trees to plant in Central Illinois for you. They are not only pleasing but also provide shade wherever they grow. Some are fast-growing and evergreen trees, while others are fruit trees and produce flowers that will add beauty to your landscape.

In addition, we have also made a brief summary of the needs of each tree to thrive, such as lighting levels, climate, soil type, soil conditions and pH, and more. So, what are you waiting for?

Let’s dig in!

Best Trees To Plant in Central Illinois

Central Illinois, with its varied seasons and rich soil, beckons nature lovers to cultivate its land. But what trees truly thrive in its embrace? Delve into a leafy journey as we unearth the arboreal stars of Central Illinois.

From shade providers to vibrant bloomers, let’s branch out into this tree-mendous adventure!

1. Common Winterberry (Ilex Verticillata)

best trees to plant in central illinois
Common Winterberry (Ilex Verticillata)

An interesting characteristic of the Common Winterberry is the striking dense clusters of red berries that grow over the stems, replacing the wilted foliage in winter. Birds are highly attracted to this native tree, thanks to the berries!

Unlike other hollies, the leaves are not evergreen and have no sharp teeth.

Since it grows well on both wet and dry sites, Common Winterberry becomes one of the best trees to plant in Central Illinois – a region that is famous for its freezing winters and hot, dry summers.

Moreover, this deciduous tree can be planted under sun, partial shade, or shade; thus, making it easier for you to choose a planting location. Additionally, you will need to have both male and female trees if you want to harvest a bunch of berries.

2. Eastern Redbud (Cercis Canadensis)

best trees to plant in central illinois
Eastern Redbud (Cercis Canadensis

It is one of the best trees to plant in Central Illinois as it grows stunning pink flowers, covering up the brown stems. Besides offering a breathtaking view, the flowers from Eastern Redbud are edible, adding a unique characteristic to the tree.

They are usually processed into salad pickles because of their sour taste. Meanwhile, for birds, the flowers are filling heaven with nectar.

If you are interested in planting it in your front or backyard, choose a part shade or shady place. Then, make sure the soil is fertile, moist, well-drained, and moderately alkaline.

Once established, you only need low to medium watering.

3. Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida

best trees to plant in central illinois
Flowering Dogwood (Cornus Florida)

While other native plants grow as flowering perennials or shrubs, Cornus Florida or Flowering Dogwood is a beautiful flowering tree. It showcases its beauty as one of the most exquisite flowering trees to plant in Central Illinois.

Depending on its cultivar, it features stunning pink or white flowers that fill the stems in spring to early summer.

Moreover, the aromatic bark and root of Flowering Dogwood are natural remedies against malaria used by native Americans. Suppose you are interested in growing this shade-loving tree because of these advantages.

In that case, you can prepare a space whose soils are rich, well-drained, and acidic. It does not need much watering, making the native tree easier to care for.

4. Gray Birch (Betula Populifolia)

best trees to plant in central illinois
Gray Birch (Betula Populifolia)

There is a reason why Betula populifolia is popular as Gray Birch. This multi-stemmed tree features horizontal fissures on the gray to white trunk barks. The branch bark is gray to black, while white lenticels are seen on the reddish-brown twigs, adding to the unique aspects of Gray Birch.

Though it is among fast-growing trees, Betula populifolia is a short-lived native tree. It thrives in wet to dry and poor soil. Furthermore, you can easily adjust its planting area since it loves full sun, partial shade, and shade.

Additionally, Gray Birch offers many benefits for further processed into wooden objects, such as spools, toothpicks, clothespins, thanks to its soft and weak texture.

5. Green Ash (Fraxinus Pennsylvanica)

best trees to plant in central illinois
Green Ash (Fraxinus Pennsylvanica)

Because of its upright, wide-spreading growth at maturity and capable of reaching 50-75 feet tall, Green Ash is an ideal choice for shade trees. The leaves unsightly grow thickly in a round shape.

In addition, they will provide an amazing seasonal transition from green to yellow-reddish leaves in fall. Moreover, this fast-growing tree attracts birds and butterflies and becomes larval hosts.

Like other trees mentioned, Green Ash stands well in dry, wet, and moist soil with a circumneutral pH. It favors full sun yet can also grow in partial shade and shade lighting conditions.

If you want to propagate the seeds, pre-treatment is necessary.

Perform moist warm stratification on the seeds for 60 days and then continue for 120 days at a temperature range of 34-40’C. They are usually commercially available at the nearest local nursery.

6. Green Hawthorn (Crataegus Viridis)

best trees to plant in central illinois
Green Hawthorn (Crataegus Viridis)

Planting trees does not mean you will only have a greeneries view. With Green Hawthorn, you will be presented with a beautiful view of the combination of green leaves with dense white flower clusters during spring.

No wonder this showy tree is a center point in its natural habitats, like prairie state, savannas, and open woodlands.

Despite loving to grow in partial shade locations, Green Hawthorn does best in a sunny area. It is also perfectly adaptable to most sites and soils. However, moist to wet soil is preferable. Therefore, the water requirement is high.

The best time to plant Hawthorn trees is in spring after frosting.

7. Pin Oak (Quercus Palustris)

best trees to plant in central illinois
Pin Oak (Quercus Palustris)

One of the Illinois plants you cannot miss is Pin Oak or Quercus palustris. It is a strong pyramidal tree whose trunks grow straight with horizontal branches as it develops. The leaves are green which will turn dark red when autumn comes and will last to the winter.

Unlike other gnarled oak trees, Pin Oaks tend to gracefully grow slender.

Being one of the easiest and fastest-growing oaks, Quercus palustris does not need any specific requirements to grow. Similar to other native Illinois trees, it can grow in partial shade and shade, yet is a sun-loving species.

It also does great in moist, wet, poorly drained, acidic soil since Pin Oak is intolerant to alkaline pH. Because of this quality, you can grow in your waterlogged yard without worrying about root rot.

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8. Red Buckeye (Aesculus Pavia)

Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia)
Red Buckeye (Aesculus Pavia)

Depending on pruning methods, Aesculus pavia or Red Buckeye can fall in the category of both shrubs and small trees. It produces showy deep red panicles that develop into bell-shaped flowers in early spring.

Some hybrids have red and yellow flowers, creating an exquisite shade combination in one tree. Meanwhile, the pinnate leaves are dark, glossy green on the upper side, white underside, that will fall as the summer ends.

As a water-loving tree, Red Buckeye requires medium to high watering. However, do not overwater because its leaves are prone to disease in such conditions. Instead of the sun, it prefers part shade.

For the pavia variety, moist, well-drained sand, clay, loam, and acidic soil are more favorable than neutral pH favored by the flavescens cultivar.

Unfortunately, the young shoots and seeds of this tree are toxic to humans if eaten with different levels of severity depending on the physical criteria of each person.

9. Serviceberry (Amelanchier Arborea)

Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea)
Serviceberry (Amelanchier Arborea)

Similar to Red Buckeye, Serviceberry or Amelanchier arborea belongs to both tall shrubs and small trees based on its growing habit. It can even reach up to 30 feet tall. This attractive tree has fragrant white flowers which grow early, followed by young bronze leaves with tiny soft hairs.

As it grows older, Serviceberry produces reddish-purple edible berries ready for harvest in late summer to fall.

Due to its not too big size, Serviceberry may be grown in your Illinois garden. In that case, you need to prepare some requirements, such as dry to moist, well-drained, acidic soil conditions.

You do not have to worry about lighting levels as it can live under the sun, part shade, and shade. Due to its wonderful features, it is prone to pests and diseases even though it is not life-threatening to the plant.

10. Silver Maple (Acer Saccharinum L.)

Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum L.)
Silver Maple (Acer Saccharinum L.)

Considering the climate, having lush trees is fun, especially during hot summer. And for that reason, Silver Maple can be a great option to provide shade to your landscape. It is a medium-sized ornamental tree that produces attractive green foliage in the summer.

At the same time, stunning soft yellow shades appear gracefully in the fall. Thanks to these features, Silver Maple is among the best trees to plant in Central Illinois.

Its growing conditions depend on several criteria, such as light exposure, soil type and pH, and water requirements. As with some native Illinois trees, Silver Maple can grow under the sun, in partial shade, and in shaded areas on rich, wet to moist, and slightly acidic soils.

Knowing it loves moisture, regular watering is suggested. Despite being so eye-catching, it is not recommended to be planted near sidewalks because the roots can damage the paving.

11. Water Hickory (Carya Aquatica)

Water Hickory (Carya aquatica)
Water Hickory (Carya Aquatica)

Another fascinating tree that would be perfect for planting in Central Illinois is Water Hickory or Carya aquatica. This tree has tall-straight trunks whose branches are covered with green pinnate leaves.

In addition, this long-lived tree is famous for bitter nuts that are consumed by waterfowl and small mammals. It is also home to some insects and butterflies to visit.

In its natural habitat, Water Hicroky is a tree species that dominates wet zones, like clay flats, backwater areas in streams or rivers, and wetland forests. And so, it is utilized to clear water drainage.

Considering the growing conditions, Water Hickory thrives best in wet soil and part shade sites. However, despite favoring water, it can still thrive in well-drained areas.

12. White Oak (Quercus Alba)

White Oak (Quercus alba)
White Oak (Quercus Alba)

You cannot leave White Oak behind if talking about the best trees to plant in Central Illinois. It is a 100 feet tall deciduous tree with many branches that grow rounded as it develops. The leaves will pamper you with fresh green in summer and striking red in fall.

In spring, you can enjoy a picturesque view from the pink shade of the foliage that fills in every inch of the branches.

This showy tree grows ideally in the sun, part shade, and shade, though it depends on the soil. It is not suggested to plant in a combination of shade, poor drainage, and alkaline soils.

Instead, rich, dry to moist, acidic soils are the best possible locations for the native tree to thrive. Though it is prone to some troublesome pests, the White Oak can live 200 to 300 years. What a long life!

Final Thought

As we leaf through the verdant tapestry of Central Illinois, it’s evident that the right trees can transform landscapes and enhance ecosystems. These arboreal champions not only beautify spaces but also create lasting legacies for generations to come.

With the insights shared, may you be inspired to plant a tree, or perhaps a grove, cultivating a greener, more connected future for Illinois. The soil is rich, the potential vast; now it’s your turn to root for change.

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FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

What are the fast-growing trees in Central Illinois?

From our list above, you can try some of the fast-growing trees to plant in Central Illinois or Illinois state in general. For example, Gray Birch (Betula populifolia) and Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica). 

Gray Birch is among the fastest-growing trees to grow, yet it also has a short living period (only up to 30 years). Meanwhile, Green Ash can live much longer – for about 120 to 175 years.

Which trees truly thrive in Central Illinois’s environment?

Central Illinois is blessed with a tapestry of trees, including the regal White Oak, which also holds the title of our state tree, and the vibrant Redbud, painting landscapes with its vivid hues each spring.

How do you choose the right tree for your property?

Consider your property’s soil type, space, and the tree’s purpose (shade, aesthetics, or wildlife attraction). Visit a local nursery for recommendations tailored to your specific conditions.

How should you select an apt tree for your Central Illinois property?

Analyze your soil type, the available space, and the purpose behind planting – be it shade, aesthetics, or wildlife attraction. Don’t hesitate to take a stroll through a local nursery for expert insights.

What is the best time to plant trees in Illinois?

The best times for planting in Illinois depend on the weather, such as the amount of rain and frost. Generally, you can start planting in spring when the soils have unfrozen until early Summer (June).

Then, you can give it another try in mid-September until the ground is frozen.

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