Growing Trees & Bushes

  1. Broadleaf Evergreens are All the Rage

    BoxwoodsBoxwood is such an interesting plant because their shiny green leaves stay on the plant year-round even in areas that have snow and cold. There are different forms both spreading and upright. Boxwood in the colder climates may need some protection from the drying winter winds (on the west and north exposures) in some areas. Some of these newer selections are outstanding for areas into hardiness zones 5 and some even into zone 4. They are wildly popular especially into the colder climates to introduce some winter interest into the landscape. They make incredible sheared and formal hedges and the upright forms make perfect pyramidal specimens. Boxwood can also be used less formally and look great without shearing, but allowed to grow more naturally.



    There are other plants too that fall into the same category as Boxwood that are all included under Broadleaf Evergreen plants that have leaves but hold them all year round and don't fall off in the fall. There are a couple of groundcovers included in this category as well. Pachysandra holds that beautiful glossy green foliage all winter long. Interesting as the snow sculpts a large sweeping bed under the shade of low branched trees like the Flowering Dogwoods and various Redbud selections. Vinca Bowles is another fine textured broadleaf evergreen again used in the shade of low branched ornamentals and shaded understory of the edge of the woods. Striking deep green leaves are beautiful all year round.

    Vinca Bowles Vinca Bowles

    Let's not forget about the Genus Ilex, or the broadleaf evergreen Holly plants. Here again, different forms both spreading and upright and some dwarf ones too. Dark shiny green leaves are pointed and the branches are used for winter and holiday decorations. The flowers are not big or showy, but the red fruits are amazingly ornamental and almost look artificial. Some of the deciduous species of Ilex will drop their leaves but can still produce that incredibly showy fruit. The broadleaf evergreen selections can be used as hedges, foundations plants, in the understory of larger trees and large scale shrubs, and most any place you might find boxwoods.


    One more group of plants we cannot get by without mentioning is Rhododendron. The Genus Rhododendron includes all the Azaleas as well. The Rhododendrons are all broadleaf evergreens holding their shiny foliage all winter long just like the Boxwood, Pachysandra, Vinca Bowles, and Ilex mentioned above. Rhododendron selections are almost endless and new ones are introduced all the time. The shiny green leaved plants sit there quietly all summer, fall, and winter long but come springtime look out as the Rhododendron flowers are so profuse and the color spectrum so diverse it almost makes you wonder if the flowers are artificial or not. Here again, you can use these plants just like you would Boxwood with the bonus of incredible flower displays, and interesting purplish winter color.


    Remember broadleaf evergreens offer year-round interest because they don't lose their leaves, contrast nicely in the winter landscape, and offer cover for songbirds and other animals when so many other plants are naked for the winter. Diversity in the landscape is important when you are selecting trees but shrubs too. Don't forget to check out this incredible category of plants from Nature Hills.

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  2. 5 of the Biggest Trees You Can Plant at Home

    "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now." - Chinese Proverb Every tree is different.  Some are little more than bushes at their tallest, while others are meant to grow gigantic and form canopies in the sky.  If you're looking for a tree that will tower over your yard for decades to come, check out these varieties:

    Northern Red Oak 2

    5. Northern Red Oak: avg. 90 ft, exceptional specimens taller than 140 ft

    Sometimes called the champion oak, the northern red oak (Quercus rubra) is native to North America and can be found growing wild almost anywhere east of the Rocky Mountains. In the forest, they grow over 100 ft tall. Grown in an open yard, they are likely to be more stout, but with heights still averaging about 70 ft tall.  In spring and autumn, the red oak earns its name with bright red foliage.  This tree puts down deep roots quickly, and is not easy to relocate once it's been planted.  However, a healthy Northern Red Oak may have a lifespan of 500 years, according to the USDA.     

    Red Maple

    4. Red Maple: avg. 59 to 89 ft, exceptional specimens taller than 115 ft

    Another big red tree to consider is the Red Maple.  These are among the most common trees found in the eastern and central United States and Canada.  The tallest known specimen is in Michigan, and is 125 ft tall.  Because they are so common in the wild, the red maple is a good tree for bringing birds to your yard.  On average, they will grow to around 60-90 ft tall.  They grow somewhat quickly, with saplings reaching 20 ft tall within the first 10 years.     

    Dawn Redwood 1

    3. Dawn Redwood: avg. 50-90 ft

    The Dawn Redwood is the last living species of its genus, Metasequoia.  Native to Asia, it can thrive as an ornamental in the United States.  Unlike its relative the California Redwood, the Dawn Redwood is deciduous.  Its leaves are thin and conifer-like, but it is not an evergreen. Although it is dwarfed in comparison to the other redwoods, it will still grow up to 200 ft.        


    2. American Sycamore: avg. 30 to 40 m (98 to 131 ft)

    Lovely, hearty, and steadfast, the American Sycamore (Plantus occidentalis) is a deciduous tree native to North America, east of the Rockies. Its most distinguishing feature is its bark.  Older bark sloughs off in thin pieces, exposing dappled fresh bark underneath. This gives the tree a nice ornamental appearance.       

    Eastern White Pine 2

    1. Eastern White Pine: around 150 ft after 50 years

    The Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus) can become a giant in your very own yard.  They are fast growing between the ages of 15 and 45 years, adding around 3-4 ft of new height every year.  Younger and older trees grow more slowly. They have a long lifespan, thought to be around 400 years.  The tallest currently living white pines are around 180 ft tall.  

    If one of these 5 trees do not fit your needs, click here to check out our entire selection of large trees.

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  3. The Advantages of Planting Bare Root Plants

    Have you ever been shocked to find that the tree or shrub you ordered showed up to your door completely naked?  Don't be!  This is what we call a bare root plant, and they come with a number of advantages over their potted and balled-and-bur-lapped (B&B) counterparts.

    Autumn Blaze Maple TT1.5  

    The most obvious advantage?  Bare root plants cost less!  They are cost saving to the merchants, who pass these savings on to you.  Because their packaging is lightweight and stackable, shipping them is a breeze.  Potted and B&B plants must be handled carefully, because their heavy, soil-laden roots can make messes or even cause damage.  Bare root plants don't have this problem.  Furthermore, the lighter packaging means less fuel is needed to transport bare root plants.  That's not only cost-saving, but eco-friendly, too!   Speaking of eco-friendliness, bare root plants have other environmental advantages.  When plants are shipped with soil, microbes can hitchhike along.  These can include insect eggs and other pests that can cause shock damage to your yard.  The mix of microbes in the plant's soil might not integrate well into the mix in your yard's soil, which could delay your new plant's integration into the landscape.  

    In fact, the overall health of your new plants tends to be higher when they are planted as bare root specimens.  Their root bundles tend to be larger and more robust than those shipped in soil.  This helps them get established quicker and grow faster.   Optimized-Birch Clump

    When planting your new tree or shrub, bare roots make it easy.  Potted or B&B plants are heavy, messy, and cumbersome.  With bare roots, you don't have to worry about handling that clump of soil.  You simply spread the roots and plant them in the earth.   Nearly any tree or shrub can be produced as a bare root specimen, including bare root fruit trees.  The leafless, naked look results from uprooting the plant during its natural dormant season.  This is why they are most widely available from autumn to mid-spring.  Uprooting the plants while they are dormant takes advantage of the natural hardiness they employ to combat winter weather.  

    When your bare root plant arrives, you should try to plant it within a week.  Make sure to keep the roots shaded and moist until they are in the ground; it's important that they don't dry out.  Prior to planting, soak the roots for 12-24 hours (in the shade!) to ensure that they are supple and give the plant a head start.  After soaking, spread the roots out and prune off any damage.  Next, dig a hole with rough edges.  It should be big enough to accommodate the expanded root bundle without overcrowding it.  If it's a bare root shrub, backfill it, water copiously, fortify with mulch, and you're done.  If it's a bare root tree, follow the steps for alignment like you would with any other tree.  Keep it vertical while backfilling, water copiously, and then you may want to steady it until it gets established.  Two or three stakes around the tree securing it with soft rope should do the trick.  

    Planting bare root plants is not so different from planting potted or B&B plants, but the results can be remarkably advantageous.  They settle in faster and grow quicker.  They don't bring any unwanted little visitors to your yard.  And the cost cutting and environmental impact are worth it on their own.  So, the next time you find a nice bargain on a beautiful, air-cleaning tree or shrub, don't be surprised if it comes to you naked.  That just means it's ready to go!  

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  4. Dwarf Citrus Tree: A Perfect Accent for Your Baby's Room

    Indoor Citrus Tree

    Gearing up the nursery involves a lot of tough choices. After all, you and your baby will be spending a lot of time in there. You want it to be as healthy as possible for your little one, but also comfortable and decorative. There's no better way to achieve all of that than houseplants. Houseplants are nice decorative accents, and are well known for improving air quality, as they produce clean oxygen from their leaves.

    Choosing the right plant for your child's room is important. You want something that will be safe, non-toxic, and thrive in the nursery environment. Dwarf citrus trees are a good fit for the job. They actually require a lot of the same environmental conditions as babies! Like infants, citrus trees prefer a room that's 65-70 degrees F, without sudden fluctuations in temperature. They like a lot of sunlight (around 8-12 hours a day if possible), and grow best when placed in front of a south or southwest facing window, casting a nice dappled shade into the room.


    Busy moms, fear not! Citrus trees only need to be watered once or twice a week. They can also let you know if the air humidity in the room is right for your baby's health. If they are requiring more water than recommended, then the air is dry. If there's dew collecting on the leaves, its a sign that there's too much moisture in the air and you should turn your humidifier down. Generally, citrus trees like a moderately humid environment, like what's recommended for baby's room. Many dwarf citrus trees on the market have no thorns, barbs, or spikes. Their leaves have dull edges and the entire plant is non-toxic to humans. However, like many houseplants, some citrus species are toxic to cats and dogs. It's always important to keep your houseplants out of reach of any pernicious pets who are prone to sampling leaves.


    Dwarf citrus trees look like babies themselves, but the truth is that they are mature plants specially designed to be grown indoors. Their dwarf rootstock prevents them from growing taller than a few feet. A properly grown dwarf tree from a good vendor will never outgrow your space, so you can watch your little one get taller than his tree.

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  5. Fruit Tree Fertilization

    Fertile soil

    You want the best fruit your fruit tree can give, right? Good fruit comes from fertile soil, so the key is to  maintain soil health.  Sometimes, this means adding fertilizer, but know how to prevent over-fertilizing. Fertilizer in excess can be more damaging than no fertilizer at all. The most practical way of checking soil fertility is by investigating the annual growth of the tree.  If you inspect the branches and follow the branch from the tip to the previous year's growth, you can measure how much the fruiting tree grew in a season. New growth is flexible and green, while last year's growth is darker (often brown) and more rigid.  A mature, fruit-producing tree should have 6-8 inches of vegetative growth each year.  Immature fruit trees grow more quickly, but don't produce fruit.  

    Green, flexible new growth stems

    Soil is "fertile" if it has the right balance of nutrients to support healthy growth.  These nutrients include nitrogen, potassium, and phosphates.  You can find pre-mixed fertilizers at your garden store that include all of these.  For fruit trees, you want a fertilizer packed with phosphates to promote healthy fruit and flower development. A common mistake with home gardeners is to use too much nitrogen, or the wrong type of nitrogen compound.  Nitrogen additives affect the pH of the soil.   If your soil pH is above 7.0, that means it's "basic," and you should use an ammonium-based fertilizer for nitrogen.  If you find that your soil pH is below 7.0, that means it's "acidic" and you should use a nitrate solution for nitrogen.  To learn more about pH and how to test your soil, ask a local horticulturist or agriculture extension agency. A suggested rate of fertilizer to use for each fruit tree is one pound of fertilizer for every inch in trunk diameter. BUT be sure to read the directions on the fertilizer packaging.  Some fertilizers are packaged more concentrated than others.  Fertilization should be done directly before bloom. For most trees, this is around March.  Be sure to know the flowering time of each specific tree, though.  If you purchase your tree from Nature Hills, you can figure this out with a quick look at the product page.

    Healthy fruit on an apple tree

    Don't let all this talk of numbers and pH and nutrients scare you out of buying a fruit tree. Fertilization is much simpler than it sounds.  

    The keys:
    1. Don't over do it!
    2. Phosphates are your friends!
    3. Pay attention to pH!
    4. Read the directions!

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  6. The Top 6 Best Trees For Wildlife

    6 Terrific Trees for Wildlife  

    Deer in the forest
    1. Quaking Aspen

    2. American Holly

    3. Eastern Red Cedar

    4. Hackberry

    5. Shumard Oak

    6. American Persimmon
    If you’re anything like me, watching a graceful deer stroll across my yard brings a special sense of awe and tranquility to my home. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of welcoming some of nature’s most spectacular creatures to share a part of my life, and having the right trees can be essential to issuing that invitation directly to them.
    One of my favorite choices for wildlife-friendly trees is the Quaking Aspen. Not only is this tree lovely (with its white bark and gently dancing leaves), but it’s also a versatile gift for wildlife. Deer, Elk and Moose enjoy its shade, and love to nibble its leaves and twigs for the nutritional boost it gives them throughout the year. Many animals venture into the Aspen’s stately presence to enjoy its protective shade, and Ruffed Grouse particularly enjoy it for the nesting opportunities it presents.
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  7. Growing Honeysuckle

    Red Honeysuckle Flower

    Growing honeysuckle is a fun and easy activity for any gardener. Honeysuckle is relatively easy to care for, if the proper conditions are given. Most honeysuckle plants require full sun, yet some will tolerate partial shade. Honeysuckle plants also need a good amount of moisture in the soil to thrive, but standing water may cause rot. The best thing to do when growing honeysuckle is to mulch heavily near the base of the plant. This will allow the soil to maintain moisture and also provide shade for the root system.

    Growing should be done in a location with a good amount of soil drainage. While they are drought tolerant, growing honeysuckle plants do need a good deal of moisture in order to grow properly. They should be watered regularly to ensure that the soil is moist. Growing honeysuckle plants can be done in just about every region of the world, as there are some that grow in dry, arid areas, and others that will grow in Arctic Russia.

    Another important aspect of growing honeysuckle is how and when to prune. Pruning honeysuckle differently will result in different bloom times and quantities. Honeysuckle should all be pruned in late February to March, removing any dead or weak stems, as the plants will generally only flower on new growth. Care throughout the growing season will then differ depending on how and when the particular honeysuckle blooms, and how long the bloom period lasts.

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  8. Growing Ferns

    Fern in the winter

    Growing ferns differs from growing other types of plants in many ways. First of all, many plants need partial to full sun to be able to survive in a garden.  Growing ferns in partial to full sun, on the other hand, will be extremely detrimental to the health of the plants. The natural habitat of many ferns is the rainforest, and they have become accustomed to being shaded and having lots of moisture.

    Growing ferns differs from other plants in the amount of moisture needed. Most plants will get along fine when watered a couple times a week at most.  Ferns, on the other hand, require constant moisture in both the soil and the air in order to grow properly. Misting the leaves of a fern plant is the best way to mimic the extremely humid atmosphere that the plants are generally local to.

    Fern in the spring

    Another difference between growing ferns and growing other perennials is that ferns will often not survive harsh frosts in the winter.  Most perennials are used to the cold winter months and build strong root structures in order to survive.

    Ferns, as they are generally used to living in warmer climates, cannot survive the cold.  In order to prevent ferns from dying over the winter, it is often necessary to remove them from the garden and plant them in pots and hanging baskets indoors.

    Growing ferns is an enjoyable experience.  Many gardeners attempt growing ferns without first understanding the very specific conditions needed for the fern to thrive.

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  9. Growing Hibiscus


    Growing hibiscus is not an arduous task. The occasional gardener can grow hardy hibiscus with good success by following a few simple suggestions. The first task for growing hibiscus is to select an appropriate site. The plant site should have adequate sunlight. The sunlight should be fully available for at least 6 to 8 hours a day. The second growing condition that needs to be addressed is the soil. Hibiscuses are quite adaptable to soil types. Providing a location with highly organic soil will greatly enhance growth and flower production. To increase organic matter, it may be advisable to mix sphagnum peat moss into the planting soil. After planting, the soil needs to be kept moist constantly for the first year or two. When they are fully established, they can accommodate some drought or excessive moisture.

    Hibiscus Syriacus Flower

    Plant protection in harsh climates, zones 4 through 8, is also an issue for growing hibiscus. Providing mulch during winter is imperative. Pile the mulch up to 12 inches deep to keep the ground from freezing around the root system. In zone 8, the mulch does not need to be as thick as in zone 4.

    Hardy hibiscus plants are not as prone to insect or disease problems. They may have occasional outbreaks of spider mites and Japanese beetles. Controls for these pests may be purchased at the local garden center. Growing hibiscus is a task that is very rewarding, especially when the first filmy, light bloom presents itself in your garden.

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  10. How to Grow an Apple Tree


    Growing apple trees can be a fun and rewarding experience for the home gardener. Growing apple trees is a relatively easy process, and yields delicious fruit that can be enjoyed by everybody. There are, however, many factors to consider before attempting to grow apple trees in the garden. The first consideration when growing apple trees is what size tree is desired. Apple trees come mainly as a scion, or top portion, grafted ontoapple tree a rootstock. The type of rootstock used will help determine the eventual size the tree will grow to. Some rootstocks will produce a full sized tree, while others will dwarf the tree and make it grow smaller. Growing apple trees that are dwarfed is more common in the home garden.

    A second consideration before growing apple trees is that nearly all apple trees do not self-pollinate. This means that to grow apple trees that bear fruit, more than one tree needs to be planted. The two or more trees used should also be of different species with similar bloom times. This will provide healthier and more abundant fruit. Some varieties of apple tree will pollinate better than others, and selection should take this into consideration.

    Apple trees will tolerate a wide range of soils, so long as water and nutrients are not limited and the pH level is adequate. The soil used for growing apple trees should be well draining, as standing water in the roots can kill the trees.The location should also be in a higher level, as cold air in the spring will settle in lower areas and possibly damage the tree.

    Apple trees will usually begin to bear fruit in the forth or fifth year. Most varieties of apple trees require a good wind block, as the fruit will get blown off before maturity. Many varieties of apple tree will require 130 to 150 frost free days per year in order to grow properly and bear fruit. The fruit of an apple tree will reach maturity at differing times, depending on variety and climate. There is no specific date at which to expect to harvest ripe apples. Observation alone is generally the key to discerning a ripe apple tree. The apples should come off easily with no tearing, and the flesh should be yellow or white. The skin will change from its original color to one that is generally darker. Once the apples look mature, the only way to find out is to take a bite. Mature fruit from an apple tree will be crisp, juicy, and delicious.

    Apple Trees for Sale

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