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The 10 Most Popular Trees to Plant in Richmond, VA

Trees are integral parts of great landscape design and any good planting plan. At Water and Earth, we always work to keep old growth trees in our backyard living spaces. From building custom decks around existing trees, to planting saplings that will grow to become an anchorpoint in the space, we think the right tree can make a world of difference in an outdoor living space. In Richmond, VA, some trees are more popular selections than others.

Here are ten of the most popular choices for new tree plantings in the Richmond area.

1. Dogwood (Cornus florida)

Cornus florida

The Dogwood tree, or Cornus florida, is celebrated for its iconic four-petal white or pink flowers. A harbinger of springtime in the region, it is a beloved and a true symbol of Richmond's charm. Flowering Dogwood is native to the eastern US, meaning these trees thrive in the acidic Virginian soil. Dogwood trees feature an elegant, spreading canopy and distinctive blooms that make is a great choice for elevated landscape design. To maximize their impact, they are beautiful as ornamental plantings to add color and height in your yard.

2. Green Giant Arborvitae (Thuja plicata)

Thuja plicata

Need privacy? Look no further than the Green Giant Arborvitaes, also called Thuja plicata. These classic plants are easily spotted for their classic tall, columnar stature and vibrant evergreen foliage. In landscape design, they are among some of the most reliable and useful trees out there. Not only do these plants grow fast, but they are highly resistant to pests and disease. At Water and Earth, we often incorporate these plants along fences or in place of fences at property lines. After a few years, they will grow large enough to create a “green wall”, add privacy to your backyard living space, and function as a natural windscreen.

3. Willow Oak (Quercus phellos)

Quercus phellos

The Willow Oak, whose latin name is Quercus phellos, is identifiable for its slender, willow-like leaves and a pyramidal shape when young. As time goes on and the tree matures, its shape transforms to take on a more oval form. In Richmond, these trees can often be spotted in parks and lining streets. Why? They have a lush canopy that means Willow Oaks are great shade trees. This public landscaping function is just as fitting when it comes to residential landscape design. A well placed Willow Oak will provide cool shade to homeowners for the years to come, allowing your outdoor living space to be as practical as it is beautiful.

4. Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

Cercis canadensis

Eastern Redbuds, also called Cercis canadensis, are another variety of flowering tree popular in the Richmond area. These trees are known for their striking pink to purple springtime blossoms that emerge directly from their trunks and branches, as well as their heart-shaped leaves. Due to their small stature, Redbuds are excellent ornamental trees. They provide height and texture to visual design, and are great options for smaller backyard spaces where larger trees are impractical. For best results, Redbuds should be planted in sunny areas with well-drained soil

5. Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia)


Crape Myrtles, or Lagerstoemia, are famous for their summertime blooms of colorful, crepe-like flowers in shades of pink, purple, white, and red. Crape Myrtles are popular in Richmond, VA, and are a popular tree in many other southern states as well. While the trees aren’t native to the region, they are appealing to local bird populations making them another great choice for eco-conscious homeowners looking to attract wildlife to their backyard.

6. Yoshino Cherry (Prunus × yedoensis)

Prunus × yedoensis

Yoshino Cherry trees are native to Japan, but are extremely popular here in Richmond. Like previous flowering trees, the Yoshino Cherry enjoys a lot of ornamental application in our neck of the woods. In spring, delicate pale pink and white blossoms sweep their long branches, immediately drawing the eye. If you keep your eyes open, you will notice just how prolific the cherry tree is as a staple of landscape design in Richmond, Virginia. From VCU to the gardens of Maymont, cherry trees are among the most popular in Richmond, and continue to thrive on both public and private residential properties.

7. Weeping Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum)

Acer palmatum

Unlike previous flowering selections, the Weeping Japanese Maples, or Acer palmatum, is not known for spring flowers. Rather, it is beloved in landscape design for its intricately lobed leaves fixed to elegant, cascading blanches. The foliage on these small trees is not a top choice for providing shade, but rather as a stand-out ornamental option to add height, texture, and seasonal color to an outdoor space. These maples prefer partial shade and well-drained, acidic soil. They are popular in Richmond and like cherry trees, they are commonly used as accent trees in gardens.

8. Bradford Pear (Pyrus calleryana)

Pyrus calleryana

If Hostas are a workhorse low-lying plant, then Bradford Pears are the tree equivalent. Also called Pyrus calleryana, Bradford Pears are known for their early spring clusters of white flowers and glossy, green leaves. They have a symmetrical, pyramidal shape. Like Green Giant Arborvitae, they are extremely fast growing plants. And like the Willow Oak, they provide great shade. Due to this combination of factors, they are often used as trees in Richmond parks and along city streets.

9. Emerald Green Arborvita

Emerald Green Arborvitae

No, you’re not seeing double. This is the second inclusion of Arborvitaes on our list of most popular trees in Richmond, VA. They’re simply that popular. Unlike Green Giant Arborvitae, Emerald Green Arborvitae are smaller. They are recognized for their narrow, pyramidal structure and bright green foliage. While they, too, can be and are often used as natural privacy screens, they do not grow as large. This smaller stature means they are useful in smaller yards, and can even be great container plants allowing them to be moved around your outdoor space. To ensure your Emerald Green Arborvitae thrives, plant in full sun to partial shade in well-drained soil.

10. River Birch (Betula nigra)

Most treas on this list are known for their spring flowers or unique foliage. However the River Birch, or Betula nigra, are admired for their exfoliating, cinnamon-colored bark. The peeling layers of bark create a varied color and dynamic texture which gives each tree a unique appearance. This textured bark adds unexpected visual interest, while graceful, weeping branches cut a beautiful silhouette. River Birch trees prefer full sun to partial shade and well-drained soil and are popular along water features or in naturalistic landscapes in Richmond.

Explore More Landscape Design in Richmond, VA

For a closer look at finished backyard spaces featuring some of the trees above, check out the blog or follow us over on Instagram. From great landscaping to custom backyard builds, Water and Earth can design your dream outdoor living space.

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