The Sunshine State is rightly named, for Kansas is known for its hot, sunny summers. Cottonwoods adapt well to this environment, growing into 130 foot tall deciduous trees with cracked, thick bark. Native to North America, Asia, and the Greek and Macedonian regions referred to as Aigerios, Cottonwoods are so named because of their seeds, which display in a fashion similar to dandelion puffs, transported by strong winds. Though stunning emblems of Kansas, Kansans are not limited to the Cottonwoods and instead can choose from hundreds of tree varieties.
Due to its large plains, described by one as “flat as a pancake”, severe weather systems, and hot summers, the smart Kansan grower will need to consider the following:
- Soil Type
- Average Precipitation
- Growing Zones
- Weather Damage
Best Trees for Kansas
Read about the specifics for your state in the following sections. If you’re looking for some quick ideas on what to plant, consider the following trees as expert-tested and The Tree Center approved:
- Royal Empress Trees
Ideal for providing fast-growing shade, year-round beauty, and drought resistance.
- Bloodgood Japanese Maple
Ideal for adding color, ornamental beauty, and no-hassle maintenance.
- Dwarf Cavendish Banana Tree
Ideal for bearing fruit, providing character, and moving between inside or outside.
- Willow Hybrid
Ideal for providing privacy, fast-growing properties, and easy care.
Fast Growing Privacy Trees in Kansas
New developments throughout the United States mean more infrastructure, more people, and more invasion of privacy. The residents of Kansas have the option to plant and tend trees that produce privacy, turning away prying eyes and loud noises and instead enjoying the quiet and peace of private property.
The Leyland Cypress is the perfect privacy tree for Kansan inhabitants. The Leyland Cypress grows quickly, adds distinct charm, and produces thick barriers between a private abode and unwanted chatter. Growing between 3 and 5 feet a year, the Leyland Cypress will give the Kansan yard the fast-growing privacy for which they have been searching. Alternatively, the Thuja Green Giant and American Holly will bring privacy, color, and solitude to the savvy planter’s yard.
Kansas is typically split into a one-third region to the west and two-thirds in the east. A humid continental climate with cold winters and hot, humid summers characterizes the east, and a semiarid steppe climate runs west of U.S. Route 281. The most southeastern regions enjoy a humid subtropical climate with more precipitation than the rest of the state. All three climates can be found throughout the state, however. Temperatures in summer have risen as high as 121°F and in winter they have dropped to -40°F. Winter temperatures can vary greatly, and western Kansas has seen winters with temperatures as warm as 80°F.
Most trees require well-drained soil rich with minerals to grow. The state soil of Kansas is Harney Loam silt, which is one of the reasons westward travelers stopped and settled the region. The soil is a valuable resource to the region, and supports the primary industry of agriculture. Regardless of the property’s location in The Sunshine State, a soon-to-be tree planter can perform a simple test to determine his/her soil type.
The squeeze test is a tool pedologists (soil scientists) use to determine the type of soil in a given area. Remove the first layer of soil and grab a handful of damp (but not wet) dirt. Then, squeeze the soil in the palm of your hand. When you open your hand, the results will help you to determine your specific type of soil.
1. The squeezed soil holds its squeezed shape. If you poke it, the soil will still hold its squeezed shape. You have CLAY
2. The squeezed soil holds its squeezed shape. However, when you poke it the squeezed soil collapses. Congratulations, you have LOAM.
3. The soil collapses as soon as you open your hands. You have SAND.
Once you know what soil type you have, you can find trees best suited to the dirt’s properties. Loam is the best soil to have, as its unique qualities make it ideal for holding and transferring water to trees.
Droughts and floods affect Kansas, and precipitation varies across the state. The southeast receives upwards of 45 inches of precipitation a year, whereas the southwest may only get about 16 inches annually. Similar patterns in snow are present, though these travel north to south. The far northwest can get 35 inches of snow in the winter, while the south may only receive 5 inches of snow.
With varying amounts of rainfall falling throughout the year, and a semiarid steppe, dry climate in the west balanced by humid continental climate in the east, the Kansan planter should consider irrigation essential prior to planting. Newly planted trees require access to consistent and controlled water resources, and the tree planter can provide this through use of a drip or sprinkler system.
Despite its relatively large size, ranking in at the 15th largest state in the nation, Kansas only contains four growing zones. This is in part due to its relative flatness. A growing zone simply refers to the USDA’s determination of areas where certain plants are most likely to thrive, preferring to focus on minimal temperature ranges in which a plant can survive. Once described as “flat as a pancake”, Kansas planters can expect small corners of its northwestern border with Nebraska to experience pockets of temperatures as low as -20°F. For most of the state, temperatures never drop lower than -15°F, with a small area southwest of Wichita finding temperatures remain at -5°F.
Kansas is often represented in film and cultural impressions as being a state where severe weather is frequent, and this is justified. Many areas of the state are prone to strong collisions of multiple high pressure air systems, which result in tornadoes, supercell thunderstorms, and hailstorms. Kansas is behind only Texas in the number of tornadoes it sees a year. The spring and summer bring the worst, and summer thunderstorms often drop large hail. This leads to flooding and high velocity winds. Trees, once rooted, can help prevent erosion from flooding. Ensure trees are planted away from powerlines or buildings onto which they can fall.