The Q&A Archives: Ornamental tree suggestions close to foundation

Question: We had to remove a very tall and overgrown spruce tree from the corner of our house because it became brown in the middle and appeared diseased. Not to mention that it was not very attractive. We would like to plant an ornamental tree (about 20' tall) at this location. The corner is south facing and the tree would be planted approximately 5-7 feet from the corner of the foundation. Do you have any suggestions of trees that would be safe to plant this close to the house? I saw a Pee Wee Hydrangea tree which seemed pretty, although I don't know how it would grow in this zone. A local landscaper suggested a Bradford Pear, some type of plum, or a dogwood - all of which seemed to be too large at maturity for this location. We are in zone 6B. Thank you.

Answer: Generally speaking, even small trees will be far too large to be planted that close to your house, including the trees you mentioned. Trees send their roots out at least wide if not wider than their branches, and they need ample room to grow and mature. A possible exception might be one of the smaller cultivars of crab apple. They do need full sun however to grow and bloom well.

A medium or large shrub would probably be a better choice. The Hydrangea paniculata or PeeGee hydrangea can be maintained as a multistemmed shrub form or it can be trained like a small multi-trunked "tree". It can be pruned if required to direct its shape or control size, but should mature to a manageable size in that spot. Pruning of this type of hydrangea is done in early spring as it is a summer bloomer and blooms on new growth of the year. This hydrangea is very winter hardy and should do well in your zone; it does best in a sunny location or in half day sun.

I hope this helps.

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