Utah Tree Shapes

Do you know your Utah tree shapes? September is a great month for planting trees in northern Utah, so it’s time to bone up on your tree knowledge. Each distinct shape lends itself to specific locations and growing conditions, and each provides its own benefits. Read on for a brief rundown on different tree shapes and their characteristics. Not only will this assist you in selecting your trees, but you also will be able to confidently identify the trees in and around your area.


Classic Christmas pine trees often feature the pyramidal shape, but this configuration appears in other tree species as well. Pyramidal trees tend to be wider at the bottom, with a main center trunk and horizontal branches that radiate from the center. The branches may begin near the ground or a little higher up on the trunk, depending on the level of pruning. Examples of this type include tricolor beech, autumn gold ginkgo, skyline honeylocust and the sweetgum tree. Pyramidal trees provide excellent wind-breaking ability as well as highly attractive privacy screens. Many species are fast-growing and low maintenance.


Trees featuring a round foliage structure and central trunk are ideal for providing shade and lowering the temperature of your property during the hot summer months. Norway maples, eastern redbuds, hawthorns and dogwoods are all examples of round trees. Look for the round shape when you want a classic look for your yard.


Columnar trees grow quite tall, with a thin profile and upright branches. Columnar species are also ideal as a windbreak or privacy screen, but they require less room than pyramidal varieties. The columnar Norway maple, columnar purple beech, golden rain tree and tulip tree are great examples that thrive in northern Utah.


Layered trees, also known as umbrella trees, have high branches that spread wide to make them look a bit like an umbrella. The branches are usually high enough to make these excellent shade trees for patios because they are clear underneath. Some layered species feature the same hanging type branches seen in the weeping tree shape. Examples of this tree include the Camperdown elm, catalpa, Salix, mimosa or silk tree.


Vase-shaped trees feature a central trunk that extends upward in a three-dimensional V-shape, much like a flared vase. These trees are valued for their delicate leaf patterns and graceful appearance. Many vase trees are flowering varieties or feature vibrant, colorful foliage. Most are slow-growing and heat-intolerant, but vase-like trees are ideal for lining paths or defining space in your yard or garden. Examples include the Bloodgood Japanese maple, winter king hawthorn, and the saucer magnolia.


The long, rope-like branches of weeping trees arch over gracefully, flowing like a waterfall toward the ground. Weeping trees require a large space for growth, however, and provide little advantage for shade. Examples include the golden chain tree, weeping mulberry and the snow fountain weeping cherry.

Gardening experts recommend researching potential tree varieties prior to making your selection. Consider your goals for the tree and how well the intended location will be able to handle the tree’s future growth patterns. Millcreek Gardens in Salt Lake City is your local tree specialist. Their expert staff can help you determine what species are best suited for your needs and which Utah tree shape will grow and thrive best for you.