The snarl of a chainsaw never sounds sweeter than when slicing through the trunk of a nasty Bradford pear. As you know, I have railed against the spring-blooming, white-flowering tree for years. It explodes in windstorms, its flowers smell like fish, it grows too big, and thousands of its thorny seedlings now consume roadsides and the woods.
If you're ready to get rid of the Bradford pear in your yard, try one of these Bradford pear alternatives. Many of them are underused in Southern gardens, and they deserve a closer look. They all bloom in spring with white flowers, but without the fetid stench of the Bradford pear. Read on, you won't be sorry.
Three Spring-Blooming, White-Flowering Trees Better Than Bradford Pear
Serviceberry ( Amelanchier sp. ), pictured above, is a native tree with white flowers in spring, blazing orange and red leaves in the fall, and small reddish-purple fruits that taste like blueberries. I have serviceberry in my own yard—it is underused in Southern gardens—and I highly recommend this tree. The bloom time is shorter than that of most flowering trees—three to four days or so—but if you add in the fall color, the delicious berries (just try to beat the birds to them), moderate size (up to 25-feet tall), and lack of pests, that's a winner in my book. Give it fertile, well-drained soil and full to partial sun. Hybrids with particularly splendid fall color include 'Autumn Brilliance' and 'Princess Diana.' Adapted to USDA Zones 4-9.
Caroline silverbell ( Halesia Carolina ) is another Southeastern native tree that you don't see enough in gardens. For the life of me, I cannot understand why. It's easy to grow, attains a moderate size of 30-40 feet tall, and has no serious pests. Snow white, bell-shaped flowers hang beneath the length of its graceful branches in spring. Leaves turn yellow in fall. Give it acidic, well-drained soil and full to part sun. A related silverbell, Halesia diptera magniflora , has even showier blooms. Adapted to USDA Zones 4-8.
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Fringe tree ( Chionanthus virginicus )—also known as grancy graybeard or old man's beard—is a Southeastern native tree that gets its name from the clusters of fleecy white, softly fragrant flowers suspended beneath the branches in spring. This is yet another tree we need to plant more —it's tougher than dogwood, more dependable than saucer magnolia, longer-lived than cherry, and smells way better than Bradford pear. It's usually rounded and multi-trunked, growing 12- to 20-feet tall and wide. Female trees bear attractive blue-black fruit favored by birds. Broad green leaves turn bright yellow in fall. Give it fertile, well-drained soil and full to partial sun. Note that it's one of the last trees to leaf out in spring, so don't give up on it. Until recently, no pests really bothered it, but as it's related to ash, don't plant it in areas infested by the emerald ash borer. Adapted to USDA Zones 3-9.
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Selection Ideas for Picking and Planting Trees
If you want even more tree suggestions besides serviceberry, Carolina silverbell, and fringe tree, here's some trees for small yards and additional flowering-tree ideas . If you're ready to plant a new tree, do some ground work on where to plant one in your yard and choose accordingly. Match your preferred planting site to the tree's size at maturity—you may need a small, medium, or large tree; and consider any overhead lines to make sure plants won't eventually interfere with them, advises Southern Living 's Charlie Thigpen. "The ideal time to plant a tree is in the late fall or winter when they're dormant, but they can be planted any time," Thigpen says in this tree planting 101 guide .
Bradford Pear Tree Bans and More Awful Trees to Avoid
If you're still on the fence about removing your Bradford pear, just know disdain for this tree goes beyond my humble opinion— it's been banned to be sold or planted in South Carolina and Ohio —because it's invasive. Additionally, here's more trees you should never plant , including these ones with invasive roots systems .