When considering trees, shrubs, and plants for your yard, weather is a starting point. Then there’s your soil, the size of your yard, and what you’re looking for in your landscape from colors to shade and more.
There are trees and plants that grow great in our area and those that perhaps grow too well. Those plants and trees can damage your yard and your home’s foundation.
Alabama Trees and Shrubs
There is a large number of trees that do well in our state. Here’s a starting list of the best trees: sugar maple, katsura, big leaf magnolia, fringe tree, river birch, serviceberry, pink dogwood, Japanese maple, Cornelian cherry, Japanese crepe myrtle, Japanese snowbell, and saucer and star magnolias.
These shrubs are also recommended: wax myrtle, loblolly bay, mountain laurel, yaupon, hydrangea paniculata, rhododendron, Chinese snowball, inkberry, devilwood, Florida anise tree, coastal and highland dog hobble.
Worst Trees to Plant in Alabama
Our list of trees to avoid includes those that are fast-growing with invasive root systems. They can cause damage to your home’s foundation, sidewalks, driveway, and patio.
- Eastern cottonwood. The aggressive, shallow root system can break up concrete and foundations. Its weak structure is susceptible to breaking branches. Its seeds go everywhere.
- Chinese flame tree. Seed capsules blow everywhere and sprout rapidly. They can quickly overwhelm your yard and your neighbors’ yards.
- Bradford pear. It’s prone to splitting and cracking in windy or stormy weather. The blossoms emit an unpleasant smell. Seeds spread easily, making this an extremely invasive plant.
- Female ginkgo tree. The male tree works well. The female tree drops messy fruit all over your lawn.
- Mimosa. Short-lived and prone to disease and insects, the seed pods hang on all winter long after flowering.
- Silver maple. This one is fast-growing but has shallow roots that can cause cracking and heaving of concrete walks and foundations. It can also easily blow over in strong winds.
- Sweet gum. Shallow surface roots cause problems. The seedpods cover your yard and call for regular cleanup.
- Sycamore. Leaf and bark drop makes for a messy yard. Leaves fill up your gutters. Its roots break up your concrete and damage foundations.
- White mulberry. Roots can run through the yard and damage walkways, driveways, and foundations. Berries can create quite a mess and attract birds with their own messes.
- Tulip poplar. Grows very fast and can overwhelm your landscape. The wood is weak and subject to breakage.
Worst Bushes to Plant in Alabama
These bushes are extremely invasive, take over everything around them, crowding out your other plantings.
- Chinese privet. Forms dense thickets that shade out other plants. Produces highly allergenic pollen.
- Buckthorn. Grows 20 to 25 feet tall forming an impenetrable layer of vegetation. Shades out all other plants and contributes to erosion.
- Winged burning bush. Creates dense thickets, crowding out smaller plants.
- Japanese barberry. Breeding ground for black-legged ticks that can carry Lyme disease. It is also invasive and covered in sharp barbs.
- Himalayan blackberry. Takes hold and invades the rest of your garden. It’s very difficult to root out.
- Bush honeysuckle. Grows just about anywhere under sun, shade, wet, or dry. Also spreads anywhere and pushes out your other plants.
Invasive Plants in Alabama
In addition to the bushes above, here’s a short list of invasive plants that may either find their own way to your garden or could even be planted there. Once growing, they move on to other places, taking over all around them.
- Bamboo. World’s most invasive plant. Grows up to 12 inches per day. Sends out roots as far as 20 feet. A nightmare to control.
- Wintercreeper. Seeds are spread by birds and mammals. Vine growth can top trees, depriving them of sunlight.
- Nandina. Spreads via underground roots and seeds. Berries are toxic to cats and livestock.
- Autumn olive. Creates dense shade, reproduces very quickly through prolific seed production. Displaces native plant species.
- Princess tree. Grows rapidly almost anywhere. Even survives wildfires. Crowds out native plants.
- Sweet autumn clematis. Forms dense blankets of growth over other plants. Blocks sunlight, killing nearby plants.
- Cogongrass. Forms dense circular infestations that exclude all native species. Highly flammable. It takes several years of herbicide treatments to get rid of it.
- Kudzu. This infamous vine can grow up to 100 feet long, completely smothering whatever tree or plant it has chosen to cover.
- Japanese knotweed. This weed can grow up to six feet tall and spread 65 feet wide. Its roots can significantly damage your foundation and walkways. We’ve provided a guide on how to remove Japanese knotweed.
Where to Plant — Sunlight and Shade
The correct level of sunlight for your plants is essential to their growth and health. Spacing is also important so they are not crowding into one another.
It’s also critical to keep them at the right distance from your foundation. This avoids foundation root damage along with excess moisture around basement or crawl space walls.
Protect Your Home’s Foundation
Careful water management is required to protect your home’s foundation. Landscape grading allows the water to flow away from your home. Gutters and downspouts route water off the roof and away from the foundation.
An irrigation system can be used to maintain just the right balance of moisture in the soil around your foundation as well as for your plants. A smart sensor can adjust the amount of water based on the rainfall or lack of rainfall.
Drying soil can cause foundation shifting and resulting cracks. When the rain comes again, it can seep into the cracks bringing moisture and even flooding.
If you’re experiencing a damp basement, consider waterproofing that includes installing a drainage system and a sump pump with a backup battery to collect and remove water before they become problems.
We recommend you consult the professionals at AFS Foundation and Waterproofing Specialists for a free inspection and repair estimate to identify any issues with your basement or crawl space as well as the surrounding landscape that need attention.