The Big Sky Country, or The Treasure State, is a large, western state in the United States, sharing a border with Canada. It is here in Montana the Western Yellow Pine (or Ponderosa Pine, Bull Pine, or Blackjack Pine), a large coniferous evergreen, reaches its tall heights, the record being a 268 foot pine. This is now the tallest known pine tree. With unique yellow or orange-red bark split into large plates by black fissures, the Western Yellow Pine is easy to identify. Younger specimens display blackish-brown bark, thus the other common name Blackjack Pine. The Western Yellow Pine has bright green needles bundles into groups of three, though the size of needles varies based on the individual species. Not limited to the Western Yellow Pine, Montanan growers have many varieties of trees to choose from when planting.
Due to its large size, low humidity, and varied geography the smart Montanan grower will need to consider the following:
- Soil Type
- Average Precipitation
- Growing Zones
- Weather Damage
Best Trees for Montana
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.
- October Glory Maple
Ideal for continuous color, adaptable growing conditions, and landscaping designs.
- Everbearing Strawberry
Ideal for bearing fruit, providing color, and delicious, edible profits.
- Tulip Poplar
Ideal for providing fast-growing shade, year-round beauty, and drought resistance.
Fast Growing Privacy Trees in Montana
As property in Montana continues to be developed, land owners are searching for trees that will provide privacy from prying neighborly eyes and loud, unwanted noise. There are many fast growing privacy trees in Montana, which will quickly grow after initial planting to offer your property and family long sought-after privacy.
The Thuja Green Giant, a staple of privacy trees throughout Montana, is a fast-growing pine that will quickly provide a barrier between you and your neighbors. Growing between 3-5 feet a year, the Thuja Green Giant will offer your yard classic French design with minimal hassle. Alternatively, the Leyland Cypress and American Holly will also add color and privacy to your yard’s perimeter.
Montana displays a wide variety of geographical and topographical variations across its large mass, and so it is no surprise the climate varies widely, too. The western half of the state is mountainous and the eastern half includes low plains, badlands, and isolated hills and mountain ranges. The Continental Divide largely impacts the area, stopping the movement of both warm Pacific air and cool continental air. The records speak for the temperatures variations; the highest on record is 117°F from 1893 and the lowest on record is -70°F in 1954. Temperature generally varies based on elevation, latitude, and season. Summers are hot with relatively low humidity, cooling above 4,000 feet. Winters are cold and snowy, averaging daily at about 28°F. Again, temperatures vary greatly. The same date -70°F was recorded near Rogers Pass, Helena, only 40 miles southeast, recorded a temperature of -36°F.
Most trees require well-drained soil rich with minerals to grow. Montana is covered in the rich, deep Scobey soils. Covering more than 700,000 acres, Scobey soils are well-draining and ideal for wheat. Regardless of the property’s location in Big Sky Country, 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.
The average annual precipitation in Montana is low, measuring at only 15 inches a year. However, as geography and temperatures vary greatly, so, therefore, does annual precipitation. The east of the state is drier, with the mountains blocking Pacific moist winds and creating a rain shadow. Places in these regions often measure less than 11 inches of rain. Heron, in the west, records 34 inches of rain annually, while the mountains can receive upwards of 100 inches of rain. Snow can be quite heavy, though again variable. Some areas in the south have averaged only 6 ½ inches of snow over sixteen years, while most cities receive between 30 and 50 inches of snow in the winter. Mountains ranges, unsurprisingly, can receive upwards of 300 inches of snow in a given season.
With a low annual average of rainfall, and such variations existing across the state, the Montana tree-planter will benefit from well-though out irrigation systems. Newly planted trees require consistent and controlled access to water. Upon transplantation, new trees’ root balls and new growth can suffer. Depending on the variety of tree you plant, your tree may need water anywhere from once a week to twice a day. Investigate the property for natural or man-made irrigation systems, and if none exist, consider a drip or sprinkler irrigation system to ensure well-managed water access for your plants.
Montana’s diverse geography and temperature variations are part of the reason it has eight unique growing zones. 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. Montana’s growing zones are centered around elevation points, with divergent zones throughout the state. Along the far west of the state, temperatures do not usually drop below -10°F, while many regions of the east and north experience frequent lows between -35°F and -40°F. At very high elevations, temperatures are likely to fall to -50°F for extended times.
Snowstorms and floods are the most common in Montana. Snowstorms occur from September to May, though most falls from November to March. On the other hand, weather in Montana has continued to warm recently. Montana’s Glacier National Park is expected to be glacier-less in a few decades, and the melting water has caused flooding and record high temperatures. This has also caused severe forest fires in recent years, with a 200% increase in areas burned by wildfires and an 80% increase in air pollution. Trees can be an asset in flood and pollution situations, increasing air quality and providing protection from erosion.
If you prefer to purchase your trees or shrubs in person instead of online, we offer this comprehensive guide to purchasing a tree at your local Montana nursery or garden center. However, since we don’t actually live in Montana we can’t guarantee this list to be 100% accurate – but we did attempt to be as accurate as we possibly could. We have no affiliation with any of the businesses listed below and make no guarantees as to the businesses’ ability or the quality of trees you will receive. As with any purchase you make, be sure to check out the business with the Better Business Bureau, references, and any other sources you may have.
|Belgrade||Reese Creek Tree Farm||1000 Reese Creek Road||406-388-0813|
|Billings||Billings Nursery and Landscaping||7900 S Frontage Road||406-656-2410|
|Billings||Sylvan Nursery Landscaping||1720 Shiloh Road||406-656-5169|
|Billings||Village Gardens||839 S 32nd Street W||406-656-9847|
|Bozeman||Bridger Canyon Tree Farm||8860 Bridger Canyon Road||406-587-4553|
|Bozeman||Cashman Nursery||2055 Springhill Road||406-587-3406|
|Bozeman||Heisel Springhill Sod Farm||4463 Springhill Road||406-587-4858|
|Bozeman||Westscape Wholesale Nursery||4141 Springhill Road||406-522-3797|
|Butte||Earthworks Nursery and Landscaping||6200 US Highway 10||406-494-4413|
|Columbia Falls||Columbia Nursery and Landscape||2544 9th Street W||406-892-0339|
|Corvallis||Moeller Nursery||946 Eastside Highway||406-961-3389|
|Dillon||Roxi’s Greenhouse and Nursery||1200 North Lane||406-683-4248|
|Great Falls||Bitterroot Supply||523 9th Street S||406-727-7572|
|Great Falls||Forde Nursery and Landscaping||2025 2nd Ave NW||406-727-0950|
|Great Falls||Hansen’s Nursery and Landscaping||13th Street S & 33rd Ave S||406-452-1731|
|Hamilton||Bitterroot Nursery||521 Eastside Highway||406-961-3806|
|Hamilton||Sam’s Spade Garden Tools||109 N 4th Street||406-363-1293|
|Helena||Chadwick Nursery Landscape||2010 E Custer Ave||406-442-3931|
|Helena||Shades of Green Landscape||3403 Cooney Drive||406-442-7033|
|Helena||Valley Farms||250 Mill Road||406-458-5528|
|Huntley||Sunrise Nursery||155 Highway 312||406-348-2043|
|Kalispell||Angie’s Greenhouse Plant Care||2828 Helena Flats Road||406-752-2888|
|Kalispell||Glacier Nursery||4343 MT Highway 35||406-755-2248|
|Kalispell||Greenery||2050 US Highway 93 N||406-752-7878|
|Kalispell||North Valley Garden Center||376 Tronstad Road||406-756-6945|
|Laurel||Big Sky Nursery and Greenhouse||1500 E Railroad Street||406-628-6827|
|Lewistown||Hanson Creek Tree Farm||RR 1 Box 1662||406-538-3847|
|Libby||Bill and Penni Flower and Garden||666 Bowkers Street||406-293-9224|
|Livingston||Deep Creek Green||90 Deep Creek Road||406-222-7109|
|Livingston||Montana Art and Garden||4950 US Highway 89 S||406-222-2429|
|Livingston||Rosedale Gardens||501 S 9th Street||406-222-3662|
|Missoula||Earth and Wood North||3004 W Broadway Street||406-542-1219|
|Missoula||Marchie’s Nursery||1845 S 3rd Street W||406-542-2544|
|Missoula||Pink Grizzly||1400 Wyoming Street||406-728-3370|
|Missoula||Quality Landscaping Nursery||1347 Dakota Street||406-880-4202|
|Paradise||Paradise Gardens||Highway 200 & 135||406-826-4242|
|Polson||Four Winds Nursery||Highway 35 E Shore||406-887-2215|
|Polson||Grouse Springs Nursery||5853 E Shore Rte||406-887-2696|
|Polson||Mission View Greenhouse||99 Fox Road||406-883-6162|
|Sidney||Sidney Greenhouse and Nursery||311 2nd Street NW||406-433-1107|
|Townsend||High Country Gardens||305 N Front Street||406-266-3983|
|Troy||Budding Light Nursery||406-295-9100|