Choosing Trees for Driveways

There are a couple of different ways to use trees for driveways as part of your landscape design. Depending on which way you choose to place them, the design can be either more naturalistic or formal. You can use either ornamental or shade trees.

Allee of Trees

Pear trees

Pear Trees lining a driveway

One of my favorite types of designs is to create an allee of trees. This is where trees line the driveways on both sides. When first planted it is a nice look, but it gets even better as the trees mature.

Imagine an old estate with a long driveway approach to the house with trees enveloping you. Because they have age to them, they often have large, tall canopies that arch over the drive. Charming!

driveway trees in fall color along the approach

Beautiful fall color - something to look for when selecting your trees

columnar trees along the drive

Pear Trees - more columnar but very stately

What type of trees for driveways should you choose for an allee?

My first choice would be a Red Maple, either "October Glory' or 'Red Sunset'.  These trees develop the type of canopy mentioned above and also have spectacular red color in the fall.

Start with a size of at least a two inch caliper, preferably two and a half inch. Go even larger if you like, but this would be the minimum. This is the diameter of the tree at chest height.

Other trees to consider are Pear trees or Zelkova. Pear trees are more upright but do have beautiful fall color. Zelkova has a beautiful shape, similar to the Elm tree.

Red Maple trees fall color

Red Maples - beautiful fall color

Zelkova Tree

Entry Trees for Driveways

Another way to landscape your driveway with trees is to add one tree on either side of the driveway entry. Like the allee of trees, this is a welcoming feature. You can light the trees with uplights.

Some trees to consider for this type of landscape design are Dogwoods, Purple Leaf Plum, Red Maples, Crapemyrtle, and Birch trees. These trees are good sizes for driveway entries and have a lot of nice features.

  • Dogwoods are beautiful in all seasons.
  • Purple Plums have purple foliage.
  • Crapemyrtle bloom for a very long time. 
  • Birch trees have beautiful bark.

Purple Leaf Plum

How far away from the driveway to place them depends on the particular tree. Make sure they are far enough away so that the canopy will not interfere with the cars, yet close enough so that they are related to the driveway. Use a tree's specific mature width as a guide.

Trees at driveway entrance mixed with shrubs and perennials.

Driveway entry with a combination of trees and shrubs

You can also use a tree on one side and a group of tall shrubs on the other. Add shrubs and perennials to create pretty planting beds. Use some of the same plants on each side to unite the design, although they don't have to be exactly the same.

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