Kentucky, rich in music and grass, features the Tulip Poplar as its state tree, reaching heights of 165 feet and valued for woodworking. With its diverse climate and severe weather, Kentucky offers a variety of tree options beyond the Tulip Poplar. Smart Kentucky growers must consider climate, soil type, precipitation, irrigation, growing zones, and weather damage when selecting trees.
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:
A state that without doubt deserves its millions of residents, Kentucky is continuing to attract new inhabitants from other parts of the United States. Although a boon for the local economy, new infrastructure can be invasive and annoying. Solutions exist for prying eyes and sound-producing highways. Trees that are cultivated to form protective barriers, better known as ‘privacy trees’ can be planted to afford the Kentucky yard the solitude and peace it deserves.
Although there are many privacy trees Kentucky planter may plant, none is as fitting as the Willow Hybrid. The Willow Hybrid grow quickly, at upwards of 6 feet a year, and provides fast-growing privacy. Unlike many privacy tree species, the Willow Hybrid is not an evergreen but a subset of the willow, providing a unique barrier against intrusions of every kind. The Willow Hybrid is not the only option to choose from in Kentucky. Alternatively, consider the Thuja Green Giant or Juniper ‘Witchita Blue’.
Kentucky is the 15th largest state, and its history is part of the reason for its boundaries. Soundly within the humid subtropical climate, Kentucky has hot, humid summers and mild winters with occasional cold drops in temperature. The state is vast, and its weather varies throughout. Summers typically remain in the high 90s, sometimes venturing close to the 1930 record 114°F. Winters can be chilly, with low temperatures in the 20s. The record low is -37°F.
Most trees require well-drained soil rich with minerals to grow. Covering over 500,000 acres of Kentucky is Crider soil, a deep, well-draining soil used primarily for crops and pasture land. Regardless of the property’s location in The Bluegrass State, a soon-to-be tree planter can perform a simple test to determine his/her soil type.
The test requires a handful of fresh soil from the layer just below the top. It should be damp but not wet. The tester should hold the soil in the palm of his/her hand and, not surprisingly, squeeze. The squeeze will produce one of three events.
Rainfall is plentiful in Kentucky, usually lasting farmers and gardeners will throughout the autumn dry season. Average annual rain stands at 47 inches, with more precipitation found in in the southern regions of the state. Spring is the wettest season, followed by summer, both of which bring strong, localized thunderstorms that dump vast quantities of water in one place. Winter frosts and freezes happen between October and April.
Although rainfall is abundant in Kentucky, irrigation can help balance heavy rainfall in specific localities with less in others. Floods are frequent in the state, and much of Kentucky is bordered or run-through by rivers. Adequate irrigation can help to spread ease of water access. This is necessary for newly planted trees stressed by movement. Roots require consistent and controlled access to water, usually two to three times a week at a depth of three feet. Using a drip irrigation system or sprinkler system can help ensure successful growth of your tree.
Despite being the 15th largest state in the nation and its inclusion of varied geographical landforms such as the Appalachian Mountains and low valley rivers, Kentucky has, surprisingly, only two growing zones that cover most of the state, with a third zone covering two small regions directly southeast and southwest of Lexington. 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. Most of northern Kentucky experiences temperatures as low as -10°F, with the exception of the two regions south of Lexington where the temperature can drop as low as -15°F. In the southern portion of the state, west of the Daniel Boone National Forest, temperatures rarely fall below -5°F.
Distinct seasons are visible in Kentucky, and with proximity to Appalachia and wind currents from the Gulf, it is often prone to severe weather. Tornadoes are the most common, causing over 300 deaths in the last two hundred years. The most dangerous of which was the 1890 Mid-Mississippi Valley tornadoes, which hit on March 27th, killing over 100 people in Kentucky alone. Floods, ice storms, and thunderstorms frequent the region, too. Bordered by the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, Kentucky’s high levels of annual precipitation coupled with low flood plains mean annual damage from flash floods. In the past, earthquakes have also affected the area, and though uncommon, still occur today.