Located in the central eastern region near Maryland and Virginia, Washington D.C. has its own climate and weather patterns akin to its surroundings. In 1960, the district designated the Scarlet Oak as its tree, prized for its vibrant red fall foliage. Fast-growing and preferring loamy-sandy, slightly acidic soil, this medium-sized deciduous tree can grow up to 90 feet tall. Despite its popularity, D.C. growers have several other species to choose from, considering the district’s small size, diverse climate zones, and high population density. While the Scarlet Oak adds autumnal splendor to the Nation’s Capital, there exists a plethora of alternatives for D.C. planters. Considering its compact dimensions, diverse climate zones, and bustling urban environment, savvy D.C. growers must assess factors such as climate, soil type, precipitation, irrigation needs, growing zones, and resilience to weather damage when selecting the ideal tree species for their locale.
Read about the specifics for the D.C. region 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:
The Washington District of Columbia is renowned throughout the United States as a comfortable, healthy, and safe state in which to abide. It is no wonder that D.C. residents may notice new homes being built nearby, new developments and shopping centers popping up, and highways carrying loud cars laid in bulk near their home. Planting trees along yard perimeters will add both privacy and beauty to the Washington D.C. yard. Although there are many options from which to choose, in Washington D.C., a planter cannot be mistook by the American Holly. Growing throughout the United States, American Holly is adaptable, fast-growing, and colorful. Reaching at least 15 feet in height, the American Holly forms dense evergreen walls reminiscent of hedge mazes. In addition, D.C. residents can also choose from the Leyland Cypress or Nellie Stevens Holly to form the perfect private paradise.
Washington D.C. experiences a humid subtropical climate with distinct seasons, featuring warm springs and falls, mild to cool winters, and hot, humid summers with temperatures averaging around 80°F in July, accompanied by 66% humidity. Winters are cool with temperatures averaging 38°F, occasionally dropping below freezing, with the lowest recorded temperature being -15°F in 1899.
The District of Columbia’s soil is predominantly sandy and loamy, often enriched with minerals from flooded areas. A simple soil test, such as the squeeze test, can determine soil type: clay, loam, or sand. Loam, with its ideal water retention properties, is optimal for tree growth.
The Squeeze test is aptly named because it requires only a small handful of dirt from just beneath the ground’s surface, and your hands. The soil should be moist, but not drenched. The tester simply squeezes the soil and observes one of the three following events.
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.
Washington D.C. receives moderate rainfall, totaling 40.78 inches annually, with most precipitation falling from May to September. Snowfall is occasional, averaging around 15 inches annually during Nor’easters.
Due to high population density, irrigation is crucial for managing water distribution, particularly for newly planted trees susceptible to under-watering stress during transplantation.
Washington D.C. encompasses two USDA growing zones: 7a in the south, with rare temperatures dropping below 0°F, and 6b in the north, where temperatures may reach as low as -5°F.
While inland, Washington D.C. is susceptible to hurricanes and severe thunderstorms, with flooding being a significant concern due to its proximity to the Potomac River. Trees act as a natural defense against flooding by preventing soil erosion.