What Is A Specimen Tree – Information On Planting A Specimen Tree

White Flowered Specimen Tree
specimen tree
(Image credit: PhotosbyMerry)

You’ll find lots of advice on the Internet about how to use specimen trees. What is a specimen tree though? In case you are confused, it’s not a species of tree. Rather, it’s a tree planted by itself as a stand-alone garden feature. Read on for specimen tree information, including the best tips for using a specimen tree in the landscape.

What is a Specimen Tree?

This is a tree planted apart from other trees that is used as a focal point of a garden or backyard. Many gardeners like using a specimen tree in the landscape. If you plant trees in a group or in a mass, the trees themselves are less important than the grouping. A tree planted alone is itself a landscape feature. These solo tree features are called specimen trees.

Specimen Tree Information

The term “specimen” comes from a Latin word meaning "to look at." A specimen tree is a plant you decide is particularly beautiful or interesting, and well worth looking at. It is a tree that deserves to have center stage in your garden. Specimen tree information suggests that many different features can make a tree worthy of taking center stage solo. Flowering trees can be excellent specimen trees, especially if the blossoms last a long time and are showy. Trees with pleasing forms, like dogwood or weeping willow, can also serve as engaging specimen trees. Trees with features like peeling bark or twisting branches often are given stand-alone status.

How to Use Specimen Trees

When you are planning a garden or backyard, you’ll want to consider how to use specimen trees. Using a specimen tree in the landscape can provide shade to the house or to other plantings. When you have decided to plant a specimen tree in your backyard, think first about what you have to offer a tree. Identify exactly where you intend to go about planting a specimen tree. Then figure out what size tree would be appropriate there. The next step in figuring out how to use specimen trees in your yard is to take stock of your climate, soil, and hardiness zone. Those living in warmer regions can consider leafy tropicals as specimen trees. Northern state gardeners have the option of using evergreens. Both tropical plants and evergreens provide year-round interest. If you are planting a specimen tree whose attraction is limited to one season, think about planting a second specimen tree. For example, if you are planting a specimen tree that offers lovely flowers in springtime, consider installing another tree with winter interest a distance away.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.