Zone 3 is a tough one. With winter lows getting down to -40 degrees F. (-40 C.), a lot of plants just can’t make it. This is fine if you want to treat a plant as an annual, but what if you want something that will last for years, like a tree? An ornamental dwarf tree that blooms every spring and has colorful foliage in the fall can be a great centerpiece in a garden. Trees are expensive though and usually take a while to get up to their full potential. If you live in zone 3, you’re going to need one that can stand up to the cold. Keep reading to learn more about ornamental trees for cold climates, specifically dwarf trees for zone 3.
Choosing Ornamental Trees for Cold Climates
Don’t let the thought of living in a cold region put you off from enjoying the beauty of an ornamental tree in your landscape. Here are some dwarf trees for zone 3 that should work just fine: Seven Son Flower (Heptacodium miconioides): Seven Son Flower is hardy to -30 degrees F. (-34 C.). It tops out between 20 and 30 feet (6-9 m.) tall and produces fragrant white blossoms in August. Hornbeam: Hornbeam gets no taller than 40 feet (12 m.) and is hardy to zone 3b. Hornbeam has modest spring flowers and decorative, papery seed pods in the summer. In autumn, its leaves are stunning, turning shades of yellow, red, and purple. Shadbush (Amelanchier): Shadbush reaches 10 to 25 feet (3-8 m.) in height and spread. It is hardy to zone 3. It has a brief but glorious show of white flowers in early spring. It produces small, attractive red and black fruit in the summer, and in the fall its leaves turn very early to beautiful shades of yellow, orange, and red. “Autumn Brilliance” is an especially beautiful hybrid, but it’s only hardy to zone 3b. River birch: River birch is hardy to zone 3, with many varieties hardy to zone 2. Their height can vary, but some cultivars are very manageable. “Youngii,” in particular, stays at 6 to 12 feet (2-4 m.) and has branches that grow downward. River birch produces male flowers in the fall and female flowers in the spring. Japanese tree lilac: Japanese tree lilac is a lilac bush in tree form with very fragrant, white flowers. In its tree form, Japanese tree lilac can grow to 30 feet (9 m.), but dwarf varieties exist that top out at 15 feet (5 m.).
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The only child of a horticulturist and an English teacher, Liz Baessler was destined to become a gardening editor. She has been with Gardening Know how since 2015, and a Senior Editor since 2020. She holds a BA in English from Brandeis University and an MA in English from the University of Geneva, Switzerland. After years of gardening in containers and community garden plots, she finally has a backyard of her own, which she is systematically filling with vegetables and flowers.