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Rhode Island Guide to Growing Trees

Oftentimes, people don't know where to start when it comes to planting and growing a tree. They might not know what type of trees are best for their area or how to plant the tree properly. Fortunately, there is help! Here’s our guide on how to grow Rhode Island trees! 

Rhode Island Trees

The Best Flowering Trees to Grow in Rhode Island

Vitex Chaste Tree

One of the best trees for bold color and large, full blooms is Vitex Chaste. This tree thrives in the ground or as a container making it versatile for any landscape. The Vitex is drought and cold tolerant, which means it always looks good. The Vitex blooms all year so you never have to worry about being without color or fragrance. Clusters of fragrant lilac blooms emerge in early summer, filling your yard with a sweet fragrance. The Vitex is irresistible to all kinds of birds and insects, and it's the perfect way to make your yard the envy of your neighborhood.

Planting & Care

Plant your vitex in full sun, with well-drained soil. Plant your tree as deep and wide in the hole, then backfill the soil around it. Water and water any surrounding plants to conserve moisture. You should water your tree once or twice a week, about 12 inches down. Alternate fertilizing in the spring and fall. Remove dead or broken branches and prune in the late winter for shaping.

White Kousa Dogwood

The White Kousa trees, which are commonly called "Cornus kousa," thrive best in moderate and full sunlight. They have a unique umbrella growth pattern and make wonderful shade trees for the landscape. White Kousa Dogwoods grow at a moderate rate of 12-24 inches, depending on the environment. Their blooming period typically lasts between May and June. The Kousa displays striking red and purple hues during the autumn season, attracting a wintertime audience as well. White springtime blooms and red berries last for months until replaced by green foliage that provides exquisite shade during blistering summer days. Kousa Dogwood produces flowers a month later than the standard varieties, but it has leaves from spring to fall. It tolerates both cold and hot weather relatively well. This Rhode Island native is perfect for border and foundation planting, as well as other arrangement purposes. The shallow root system of the Kousa makes it a perfect tree to plant near homes without fear of ruining structures with its roots.

Planting & Care

Place your tree in a location with four hours of sunlight each day and good soil. Trees prefer sandy or clay-based soil but can grow on most. Place the tree in your hole standing it straight. Loosen the soil around roots and remove containers when needed for more room. Add root stimulant to help width grip, water site, and place a 2-3 inch mulch layer on each side of plantings. Keep the soil moist around White Kousa Dogwoods. These are not considered drought-tolerant trees, so you’ll need to water daily for the first week while keeping it moist. After that, one or two times weekly during the first growing season should be enough. Before fertilizing your White Kousa Dogwood, it is best to test your soil first. Testing the soil will help you figure out which type of fertilizer is best for your tree. According to the Rhode Island Forest Service, if your soil already has a good pH balance you should use a fertilizer with an NPK (nitrogen-phosphorus-potash) ratio similar to that of 12-4-8 or 16-4-8. Optimal times for fertilizing are in April and May, follow label instructions on how much fertilizer to use so as not to injure any roots. It is not necessary to trim a White Kousa tree unless you want it as shade and want the unique bark and branching to be shown. There are a number of pests that attack dogwood trees, including aphids and they can be controlled simply by spraying with a stream of water and applying Neem Oil to the tree. Pests affect the Dogwood tree by tunneling through its trunk and twigs. Treatment is easy however because of the borer’s treatable nature, there should be no long-term damage done if you remove any affected branches and destroy them while they are active. Treating the base of your dogwood with insecticide May will help prevent further infestation as well

The Best Shade Trees in Rhode Island

Red Japanese Maple Tree

If you are looking for a year-round show-stopper, the Red Japanese Maple might be what you've been waiting for. This tree transforms in style from bright red in the Spring to burgundy during summer and scarlet in the peak Fall season. Red Japanese Maples come in a variety of colors, including reds and blacks to provide warm tones during colder months. They can also be pruned at any height, making them perfect for small yards. The Red Japanese Maple brings three appealing aspects to your yard: it increases the value of an area, it has a stunning appearance, and its color change is spectacular. Contrasting colors like reds, pinks, and oranges create an interesting and unique look for your yard. And best of all, the ornamental value you get from a Red Japanese Maple comes with no work. As easy plants, these give a performance without effort.

Planting & Care

Proper sunlight, location, and a hole that is two or three times as wide and deep as the root system are all important considerations for tree planting. To help the roots establish themselves quickly, mix in a few cups of organic compost (conifer bark mulch, rhododendron or azalea planting mix, or rose compost) with the soil that is recommended but not necessarily necessary. The root of the plant, where it was grown in a pot or in the ground, should be level with the ground surface. Backfill soil and tamp down as you go to create an airtight seal. Water the planting site and then cover with mulch for the preservation of soil moisture. You should provide the average amount of water to your new Japanese maple tree. Do not water it in the midday sun as this may cause scorching, which appears to have been burnt by the sun, a condition brought on by more frequent watering during these times. Japanese maples do not require as much fertilization as other plants, so if your other lawn and garden plants are doing well your maple should be all right. Any fertilization recommendations for the maple tree should use a balanced complete fertilizer for shrubs and trees. This should be applied once per year, preferably in early spring before the leaves emerge. Fruit trees will need two to three years to become firmly established in your yard. You may begin pruning it after that time period, but you don't have to.

Sawtooth Oak Tree

Want a tree that will quickly grow to provide shade and coverage? Then the Sawtooth Oak, which has been grown in the U.S. for 150 years, is for you! It grows 1-3 feet per year and can reach 30 feet in 15 years! It creates a canopy of shade with significant growth. These trees start out as a pyramid, but they mature to be wide and rounded when the tree matures. Younger leaves are bright yellow-green which darkens into the shiny green during the summer before turning to rich gold and russet in late fall. They get their distinctive look from being chewed up on edges giving them their common name.

Planting & Care

When planting, dig a hole that is 2x the width and depth of your tree’s root system and position it before filling it with soil. Backfill so there are no pockets of air underneath, then tamp down to ensure no more travel space. Cover the roots with soil and water to put in place. Cut off the stem of the oak tree at ground level only, leaving it above the earth. Cover the newly planted area with mulch for moisture retention. In the first year, make sure your Sawtooth Oak Tree gets water during dry spells. To check if it needs water, scoop up 3 inches of soil and test it - if there is no moisture at this level, then you should water the Sawtooth. The use of fertilizer is a controversial topic in tree care. There are arguments for and against their use, but they can be helpful if conservatively applied.

The Best Fruit Trees in Rhode Island

Anna Apple Tree

The Anna apple tree is for climates not typically suited to growing apples, providing healthy fruit with a delightful taste in up to 10 degrees cooler temperatures. With a fast and productive harvest, this tree is virtually hassle-free. Additionally, the ripening process for Anna apples has a sweet taste similar to that of a Red Delicious. The flavor is so desirable, in fact, that people have often said it tastes like Granny Smith apples at their earliest stage. Another way in which this apple is unique is its ability to be stored up until two months after picking. This allows you flexibility when deciding how wanted the fruit will be during any given season or holiday period.

Planting & Care

Begin by choosing a location with full sun (6 hours of sunlight per day) and well-drained soil. Next, find your location and make the preparation begin; start by digging a hole that is twice the width of the root ball and just as deep. Now place your tree in this space carefully. There one last step remains water to settle roots and mulch to preserve moisture! It's important not to have your mulch touching any part of the trunk. To ensure the tree thrives, water it weekly. When you're not sure when to water, feel the soil about two to three inches deep for moisture. For once-daily watering needs, your Anna Apple will need a half-gallon of water every day and for twice-daily watering needs (e.g., during extreme heat or drought), it'll need a gallon per day. If you have an established tree and it has started to bear fruit, then you should create a plan for periodic pruning. Prune the tree during dormancy periods only by cutting away any vigorous and upright stems or weak branches that are damaged or dead.

Snowbank White Blackberry Bush

With the Snowbank White Blackberry, you get plump blackberries with a new twist. The berries are similar to tiny pearls and they’ll have the same great taste as the original. Your garden will produce bucketfuls of fruit that ripen in late July, and without the need for a pollinator. You'll save time and money, and your backyard will be full of blackberries-delicious for snacking on or making jams and jellies without ever leaving home! This Blackberry bush is disease-resistant, so you will no longer need to use chemicals or sprays. The Snowbank White variety stays white as it ripens without changing color, adding a rich flavor that other berries don't have.

Planting & Care

To produce berries, choose a space with at least 6 hours of sunlight and soil that drains well. Dig a hole three times the width of the root ball and as deep. Place your bramble in the hole so that it is at ground level. Fill in around the roots with dirt. Once you’ve finished this process, give your bramble a long drink of water, mulch around its base, then fertilize it twice each year. Place a pot with rocks on your blackberry plant to help retain water. Place this pot under the tree's drip line if possible, but at least 12 inches away from the trunk of the tree. If it is very dry (and you can easily see that by poking around in the soil), then get out there and give that plant some liquid love! It is best to fertilize before new growth emerges and again after the harvest. Use a fertilizer with good all-purpose properties, such as the 10-10-10 formula. As the blackberries grow, you need to remove the tips of each cane; one 24" long and shorter than an inch. Pruning will also help your bushes stay healthy and produce better fruit.

When is The Best Time to Plant Trees in Rhode Island

In Rhode Island, you can plant in the spring and summer. Cool-season trees are best planted from late November to mid-January, while warm-season trees should be planted in March or April. Either way, there is no planting time that will work for all seasons.

Can You Plant All Season Long?

The answer is no because, for one, the ground would be too frozen to plant if it were winter. As well as the fact that most of our trees need different seasons and climates in order to grow properly. You'll want to check with a local nursery or arborist before you start planting!

What are The Best Trees to Plant Each Season in Rhode Island


The best tree to plant in the spring is a flowering dogwood. The beautiful white flowers are fragrant and attract pollinators such as bees, moths, flies, and beetles. You can also add more berries when it blooms again in late summer for an added bonus!


In Rhode Island summers heat up quickly so you want to find trees that will cool down your property with their shade. A lot of people like planting magnolias but they do not provide much additional coverage because they grow at just about eye level or below ground level if planted on a slope. What many consider the perfect tree would be one that has large leaves with deep green coloration - this means lots of chlorophyll providing natural cooling from the green coloration. A holly tree is a great choice because it provides shade, berries for the birds and squirrels to eat as well as flowers that attract pollinators in summer!

Fall time

Fall in Rhode Island comes with all sorts of colors - from oranges to reds and even yellow leaves on some trees such as maples. The wonderful thing about fall here is how vibrant these colors are because they don't get washed out by winter snow as other states might experience. You want something deciduous with different shades of orange, brown, or gold-leafed branches so you can enjoy these beautiful autumnal colors throughout your yard too!


Winter in Rhode Island brings its own set of challenges when trying to plant new trees but also brings new beauty to the cold months. Winter is when our evergreens come into their own with all sorts of greens, browns, and whites as well! The best trees to plant in these conditions are evergreens, like pines and spruce trees.

What Trees Have The Least Invasive Roots in Rhode Island

The least invasive trees in Rhode Island are rhododendrons, magnolias, and azaleas. These trees do not spread out the roots and are easy to maintain.