8 Best Trees to Plant Along Your Street and Sidewalk

These curbside trees offer tolerance to compacted, infertile soils and the environment found in cities and along streets.

Yellow ginkgo leaves lining an urban street.

jyapa / Getty Images

These are among the 10 best trees that tolerate compacted, infertile soils and the general environment found in cities and along streets and sidewalks. These recommended best curbside trees are also considered to be the most adaptable of all trees to the urban environment and are highly praised by horticulturists.

Messy, brittle trees that can cost property owners significant time and money for clean up are not included in this list. Several of these trees have been chosen "Urban Tree of the Year" as picked by The Society of Municipal Arborists (SMA).

of 8

Acer campestre "Queen Elizabeth": Hedge Maple

Acer campestre
Carol Sharp/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images

Hedge maple tolerates urban conditions with no serious pests or disease problems. Acer campestre also tolerates dry soil, compaction, and air pollutants.

The small stature and vigorous growth of hedge maple make this an excellent street tree for residential areas or perhaps in downtown urban sites. However, it grows a little too tall for planting beneath some power lines. It is also suitable as a patio or yard shade tree because it creates dense shade.

of 8

Carpinus betulus "Fastigiata": European Hornbeam

Detailed shot of European hornbeam leaves.

PSNH / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

The smooth, gray, rippling bark of Carpinus betulus shields extremely hard, strong wood. Fastigiata European hornbeam, the most common hornbeam cultivar sold, grows 30 to 40 feet tall and 20 to 30 feet wide. As a very densely-foliated, columnar or oval-shaped tree it is ideal for use as a hedge, screen, or windbreak. The European hornbeam is usually preferred over American hornbeam as it grows faster with a uniform shape.

of 8

Gleditsia tricanthos var. inermis "Shademaster": Thornless Honeylocust

A medium (~12-15 foot tall) honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) tree planted on the grounds of the Mary Hill Museum, Washington, USA.
Kevmin/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 3.0

Gleditsia tricanthos var. inermis or "Shademaster" is an excellent fast-growing street tree with essentially no fruit and dark green leaves. Many horticulturists consider this to be one of the best cultivars of North America's honeylocust.

Since thornless honeylocust is also one of the last trees to leaf out in springtime and one of the first to lose its leaves in fall, it is one of the few trees well-suited for planting over a lawn. The tiny leaflets of the thornless honeylocust turn golden yellow in fall before dropping and are so small they easily vanish into the grass below, without any ​raking necessary.

of 8

Quercus macrocarpa: Bur Oak

Close up of nuts on a Bur Tree.

Matt Lavin / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Quercus macrocarpa or Bur Oak is a large, durable tree tolerant of urban stresses. It is also tolerant of poor soils. It will adapt to acid or alkaline soil and is suitable for parks, golf courses, and anywhere adequate growing space is available. This beautiful but huge tree should only be planted with plenty of space.

Bur Oak has been chosen an "Urban Tree of the Year" as determined by responses to an annual survey in arborist magazine City Trees. This magazine serves as the official journal to The Society of Municipal Arborists (SMA) and readers select a new tree each year.

of 8

"Shawnee Brave": Baldcypress

A closeup of the leaves of a Baldcypress tree.

Putneypics / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Although the baldcypress is native to wetlands along running streams, its growth is often faster on moist, well-drained soil. The "Shawnee Brave" has a tall, narrow form that reaches 60 feet high and only 15 to 18 feet wide. It has excellent possibilities as a street tree.

Baldcypress has been chosen "Urban Tree of the Year" as determined by responses to an annual survey in arborist magazine City Trees. This magazine serves as the official journal to The Society of Municipal Arborists (SMA) and readers select a new tree each year.

of 8

Tilia cordata: Littleleaf Linden

Close up of Tilia cordata or Littleleaf linden

Dinesh Valke / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Littleleaf linden is valued for its vigor and improved branching habit. It tolerates a wide range of soils but is somewhat sensitive to drought and salt. It is a good specimen tree and is suitable for areas where adequate root space is available.

Architects enjoy using the tree due to its predictably symmetrical shape. Tilia cordata is a prolific bloomer. Its small, fragrant flowers appear in late June and into July. Many bees are attracted to the flowers and the dried flowers persist on the tree for some time.

of 8

Ulmus parvifolia "Drake": "Drake" Chinese (Lacebark) Elm

A Chinese Elm tree in a field against blue sky.

Greg Blick / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Chinese elm is an excellent tree that is surprisingly under-used. It possesses many traits that make it ideal for a multitude of landscape uses. Also known as lacebark elm, Ulmus parvifolia is a fast-growing and nearly evergreen tree, since leaves tend to stay on.

Lacebark elm is extremely tolerant of urban stress and resistant to Dutch elm disease (DED). The elm thrives under drought conditions and will adapt to alkaline soil. It is relatively free of pests and diseases.

of 8

Zelkova serrata: Japanese Zelkova

Close up of leaves on a Japanese Zelkova serrata.

harum.koh / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Zelkova serrata is a fast-growing, graceful tree suitable as a replacement for American elms and tolerant of urban conditions. Under extreme conditions, splitting can occur at the crotch because of the narrow-angle. The tree is resistant to Dutch elm disease. The cultivar "Green Vase" is an excellent selection.

Zelkova has a moderate growth rate and likes a sunny exposure. Branches are more numerous and smaller in diameter than those of the American elm. Leaves are 1.5 to 4 inches long and turn a brilliant yellow, orange, or burnt umber in the fall. This tree is best suited for an area with plenty of room and space.