Top 10 Trees to Plant in Toronto

According to Toronto and Region Conservation, trees covered 90% of southern Ontario before European settlement. Settlers eventually brought new tree varieties to the region.

However, the Canadian Wildlife Federation suggests planting native trees because they’re accustomed to local soil and weather. “Native plants usually survive longer than non-native species and need less tending because they are hardier and more disease resistant.” [1]

You will want to consider utility locations, surrounding features (like buildings and roads), soil type, and light levels when deciding which tree is right for your property.

Below, you will find a list of the top 10 trees to plant in the Toronto area.

Black Oak 

Black Oaks are majestic trees that are great for backyards. Fall leaves are bright yellow. They are incredibly charming as roadway tree cover. 

Black oaks can provide acorns for local wildlife starting at about age 20 and live for about 225 years.

Habitat: dry soil, full sun to partial shade

Height: 20-25 meters

Canopy: 12-21 meters

Chokecherry

Chokecherries have white flowers in late spring and produce a fruit with a bitter and sour taste. It’s an ingredient in the native dish pemmican. You can also make it into a sugar-sweetened jam, syrup, or wine. 

Chokecherry trees host various moths, including the tent caterpillar moth. The leaves are also toxic to some mammals.

Habitat: dry soil, full sun to partial shade

Height: 1-6m

Canopy: 8m

Sugar Maple and Black Maples

Sugar maples are famous for their maple syrup. But they also put on a beautiful show of yellow, burnt orange, and red leaves in the fall. Additionally, they’re a food source for several mammals.

If planted in a non-confined area where salt is not a problem, sugar maples can live up to 400 years.

Black Maples are a subspecies of sugar maples with similar characteristics.

Habitat: dry to average soil, partial shade to full shade

Height: 18-22m 

Canopy: 12-15m

Trembling Aspen

Trembling or quaking aspens take their name from the mesmerizing way their leaves shake in the wind. The leaves have a stunning yellow color in fall. Aspens also host various birds and butterflies. 

Trembling aspens can clone themselves, sprouting new trees from their roots. The oldest quaking aspen is a clone estimated to be 8000 years old.

Habitat: average soil, full sun

Height: 12-15m

Canopy: 6-9m

Black Cherry

Black cherry trees have beautiful white flowers in spring and produce sweet, rich fruit. The fruit is tasty fresh, as preserves, or as a dessert ingredient. 

Black cherry trees make an excellent orchard. Trees live 250 years, produce fruit at age 3 or 4, and continue producing fruit throughout old age.

Habitat: average soil, full sun

Height: 9m

Canopy: 9m

White Ash

White ashes are handsome shade trees with exquisite fall foliage ranging from yellow to maroon and deep purple. Birds love to cover and nest in white ashes as well as eat their seeds. 

Habitat: average soil, full sun to partial shade

Height: 15-24m

Canopy:

White Cedar

White cedars are also called American arborvitaes. A row of them provides a low-maintenance, natural windbreak. You can also use them on both sides of a door or garden gate or at house corners.

White cedars are nesting sites for various birds and provide food for several mammals and birds.

Habitat: moist soil, full sun

Height: 12-18m

Canopy: 3-4m

Yellow Birch

Yellow birches make excellent shade trees and are one of the largest hardwoods in North America. They have gorgeous bright yellow and gold leaves in autumn. The bark splits into curly strips as it gets older. It also produces a wintergreen aroma.

Habitat: moist soil, full sun to partial shade

Height: 18-23m

Canopy: 10-15m

Green Ash

Green ash trees are popular because they grow quickly, provide excellent shade, and adapt to various soil conditions, including soil compaction. They grow almost 1m per year. They are also popular with birds for cover, nesting, and seeds. 

Habitat: moist soil, full sun to partial shade

Height: 15-18m

Canopy: 7m

Hemlock

Canadian hemlocks live for 800 years. They are graceful evergreens that you can cut back to any size or shape. Thus, they are appropriate to plant near your house. Hemlocks placed a meter apart provide an excellent windscreen. 

Birds like to cover and nest in hemlocks and eat their seeds.

Habitat: moist soil, partial shade to full shade

Height: 12-21m

Canopy: 7-10m

Final Thoughts on the Best Trees for Toronto

All the trees listed above are ones Credit Valley Conservation lists as being native to Toronto. While there are a few more native options, these are most suited to an urban environment with air pollution, soil compaction, and road salt. 

We have listed trees for all soil types and light levels. However, if you’re still unsure what will work best for your property’s habitat, you can contact one of our local experts in Toronto for a professional opinion.

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