Worst Trees For Your Yard

After living in our current home in Northern California for over 20 years, I’ve come to the conclusion that the majority of trees people plant in their front and back yards are the worst trees to plant.

In the last 15 years we’ve spent the money to have the following trees removed from our yard at great cost.  They weren’t all removed at once – we had them removed one or two at a time until we were free of these nasty trees.Trees we had removed are:

  • Eucalyptus
  • Birch
  • Privet
  • Holly
  • Cherry
  • Italian Plum
  • Sycamore

Thank goodness we never had one of the olive trees so prevalent in most of our neighbors’ yards.  These olive trees are simply dirty trees.  When the fruit ripens, you’re in big trouble if you have one of these trees hanging over your sidewalk or driveway.

Until I had the last three removed about 3 years ago (three birch trees growing together), I continued wondering exactly what criteria the previous homeowners used in selecting the trees in our yard.

None of them fulfilled the primary purpose of a tree – to provide badly needed shade in the summer.

I suspect that many trees are selected as they grow fast and most homeowners want “instant” big trees in their yard.  So, they end up choosing crappy trees that grow fast.

Eucalyptus Worst TreeOne of the worst trees is the Eucalyptus.

It was our largest tree … occupying space in our side yard.  This tree has very soft wood and when it gets very tall, strong winds cause huge limbs to fall to the ground.  Worse yet, they fall into your roof or that of your neighbors.  After one really close call, I had it removed.  It cost me $1,500 which was very painful since I hadn’t planted it in the first place. If the worst does happen to you and you need to make roof repairs, make sure to use a reputable contractor like Allstate Roofing.

The professional tree company had to rent a special crane to lift the huge limbs and trunk from between the two houses.

Here’s a bit of history about this tree.  It was imported to the U.S. about the time the railroad was being built across the country.  Since it grew rapidly, the railroad folks thought it would be a great source for railroad ties.  Unfortunately, because it is a soft wood, they quickly discovered that these ties didn’t last long and needed to be replaced more frequently.  By then it was too late.  We were stuck with this tree in our country and we have no Koala bears to eat the leaves.

At least after my experience, there is one less of them in California.

Birch Worst TreeWe put up with the 3 birch trees way too long.

Every year I threatened to get them removed.  The morons who planted them put them in the absolute worst possible location in the front yard.  The canopy of limbs and leaves hung over the driveway, the front sidewalk, and the concrete patio just outside the front door.

Aphids love birch trees.  Almost every year, these nasty trees covered our trucks, sidewalk, patio, and everything on them with sticky sap.  And I mean sticky sap.  Plus, they also hung over the roof so the gutters were constantly filled with the flower/fruit-like growths that appeared on them and finally the leaves in the fall.

If you are adamant about planting birch trees, plant them in a far corner of your yard – someplace where you never walk.  Better yet, talk yourself out of buying and planting them.  Select a better tree like a wonderful maple tree.

The privet in our back yard was another tree that dropped crap all year long on the roof, in the hot tub, on the deck, and ground.

This tree might look beautiful in the spring, but looks are fleeting.  Your love affair with a privet is guaranteed to be short-lived.  If you see a small one anywhere in your yard, cut it immediately before it gets too big.

Holly Worst TreeAnd then there was the beautiful holly tree.

Every year my next door neighbor offered to split the cost of having this pest removed as it hung over his yard.  Not only are the leaves adorned with needle-sharp points, every year these trees bear red berries.  The problem with the berries is that the birds love eating them.

And I don’t mean 5 or 10 birds at a time.  I mean hundreds of them feasting like condemned prisoners having their last meal.  Some would grab a berry and fly to the birch trees to eat it.  Unfortunately, in the process of eating each berry, lots of berry pieces would fall to the sticky ground.  Plus, we all know what birds do while sitting in trees.  The initials are also BS.

Both my neighbor and I celebrated when the tree company came to cut down the holly tree.  Of course I said the same thing after every one of these was gone – “Why did it take me so long to call the tree removal guys?”

Don’t get me wrong.  I love a good shade tree.  I’ve since planted a nice maple tree in the front yard.  It is growing quickly and already has a nice canopy.  It not only provides shade but drops leaves only once a year.

Japanese MapleI also planted two wonderful Japanese maple trees that I got free from a friend who was moving.  While she had them in large containers – and I mean large – I’ve since planted them in the ground where they can grow taller and fuller.

As a result of having a collection of the worst trees in our yard and finally removing them over time, I’ve become much more aware of the crappy trees our neighbors have in their yards.

One of the worst trees is the sweet gum tree or liquidambar as it’s called in California.

A neighbor down the street had 5 of them between her house and that of a neighbor.  After two incidents where huge limbs tore through the roofs of both houses, she had these pests removed.  You see, these trees also readily shed their limbs in high winds.  The park at the end of the block is full of liquid amber trees and after a high wind, there are downed limbs littering the park.

Evergreen Worst TreeMy final complaint is with any type of pine or evergreen tree growing in a yard.

These trees belong in the forest, not your yard.  All year long sticky needles litter the driveway, sidewalk, and clog the gutters.  And assorted pine cones drop once a season – often on the roof of your car or on your head.  But it’s the constant flow of pine needles that is the most aggravating.

Another problem in the city we live is the “heritage tree” rule.  If the circumference of the base is 50 inches or greater, you can’t cut it down.  And you must get permission before you can have a professional trim these trees.  So, you have to get rid of your pesky trees before they become heritage trees.

So, before you buy another tree for your yard, do your research.  Take your time and make sure you select the perfect tree – one that provides shade without burying your yard, gutter, driveway, and sidewalk with droppings throughout the year.

GinkoThe owner of a local tree trimming/removal company lives in the next block.  He tells everyone who will listen that one of the best trees for your yard is a gingko tree.  I walked over to verify that he practices what he preaches – he does.

Still, my #1 recommendation for yard trees is maple trees.

They come in several varieties, have nice canopies for shade, their leaves turn color in the fall, and they drop manageable leaves only once a year.

Another thing you should do before buying and planting another tree in your yard is to walk your neighborhood and look at all the trees for an entire year.  The best trees will soon become obvious.  They have wonderful canopies for shade and they don’t drop stuff all year long.

Finally, you’d be mistaken if you believe you can buy gutter guards to keep leaves and other junk out of your gutters.  I’ve tried most of them and they simply don’t work.  Even if they keep big leaves out of your gutter, your gutter will become clogged with dirt and grime in the air and the tiny sand that comes off your roof shingles.   And once you have gutter guards, you’ll have a tough time getting to the sludge that builds up inside your gutters.

There are many great trees to plant, so don’t get stuck with one of the worst trees for your yard.

19 thoughts on “Worst Trees For Your Yard”

  1. PLEASE add the wretched Black Acacia to your list. This miserable excuse for a tree is like a giant weed, that while providing shade, provides little else but aggravation. The previous owners of my house were just as you mentioned in your article – Plant ’em fast and furious without any thought to the aesthetics. The whole yard is privets and black acacia. The privet is like a dream compared to the B.A. It drops “things” all year round, but in April, May and June it really goes to town! Drops these small furry balls – thousands of them – that turn to yellowish brownish mush and dust everywhere. If you dare to sit outside with your coffee in the morning, you will even find them in your cup. Well, this is it’s last season of misery. I have a tree removal company coming and while I will miss the privacy the huge beast provided from neighboring homes, I will miss nothing else! Thanks for a great article, and remember – Beware the Black Acacia!

    • I agree the Walnut tree is messy,stinks,the black hasks are horrible, and it’s every year. clean up isn’t anything I loves doing. when I left home for college I swore I’d never have one in my yard. and the other was to never have a weeping willow. again messy all over everything. car,roof,gutters,sidewalks, in your flowerbeds,yuk.having fun.

  2. very funny observations…I hate the eucalyptus too. So dangerous. you never know when a branch or a big piece of bark will come down on your head. There’s a beautiful tree that I am trying to identify. It drops these weird little bristly seed covers that look like exploded hot cross buns and the bark is really smooth and full of folds. Wonderful climbing tree and so soft to to the touch.

    • If you’re having a tough time identifying a tree, snip off a small branch with leaves and take that to a nursery. They’ll identify it in a heartbeat.

  3. Have you smelled the Gingko in the fall? If you haven’t, stick your finger where the sun doesn’t shine and sniff. Smells the same as a Gingko, so I’d say your tree guy loves the smell of butt in the fall.

  4. Thanks for this but aren’t the fruit berring trees supposed to be sprayed once per year when they bloom to avoid the fruit/mess.

  5. add the pepper tree to this list.. It drops these tiny buds 2x’s a year and gets into my car.
    It’s killing my car one year at a time…also drops sap. We planted it, because some nursery person told us it was a nice tree??? Now because its on the part of our yard that
    belongs to the city we cannot cut it down??? What’s that all about…

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  7. Have to say I agree with many of your thoughts on these trees but cant say I agree with the maples. Maybe it’s the type of maple I have (silver) but the things are nothing but a pain. The roots are so shallow they are constantly coming up and killing my grass even if I try to water deep and less often. They put out so many dang leaves all winter long that I’m constantly cleaning. The pollen absolutely covers my back deck and they put off some sort of junk every year that covers my back deck as well. I have 3 blue atlas cedars and a weeping cedar which are both evergreens and havent had a problem with them. Theyre beautiful and have very little mess. Plus the roots grow deep and dont ruin my sprinlers or my grass.

  8. Have you thought by cutting down that holly, many birds now have lost a food source?! So what if the floor is a bit sticky for a few weeks of the year! Nature is great, the more trees we plant the better, and your cutting healthy trees down?!
    Very sad.

  9. As one who is facing the removal of Ornamental Pear trees, one almost sixty years old, and one twenty three years old, I appreciate your article on which ones to stay away from. My beloved trees have served us well, and have been an integral part of our Southern California backyard. It gets plenty of sunshine and the resulting heat in the summer. The hot months are brutal and we have been blessed with wonderful shade from both trees for so long, it is hard to imagine life without them. However, the Fire Blight that plagues them has taken its toll and there is no recourse. Of course, it is easy to forget that most of them don’t live nearly as long as these, especially, the one that was planted when this house was built around 1956. My thoughts have been to replace them with Peppermint Willow, but, it is early in the learning game.

  10. Oh, and stay away from Mulberry…..Our yard had one which grew like a weed into a very large and extremely messy tree. It was not at all pretty and was quickly lifting the patio concrete.

  11. A few comments here caught my eye. One was mention of a “perfect” tree. No such tree exists, of course, or we’d see Perfect Trees lining the streets of America.

    Trees have lifespans, climate and care requirements, and the like. Perhaps some think, “Plant ’em and forget ’em, all will be bliss.” They’re more like children … they need a lot less than children by far, yet what they need depends of their personalities (or “species”) and age. You have to manage trees as you would a garden, although the effort less intense and more spaced out. Also, they eventually grow huge and need major pruning, or die and need removal, both of which mean $$$.

    I second the motion on maples. Whatever species we had in Virginia spread thick roots seemingly more on top of the lawn than in the dirt, making mowing much more tedious. I’ve also seen mature maples on Pennsylvania streets that buckled sidewalks as much as 8″ with surface roots. Investigate before you plant.

    Unless you visit Unicorn Farms and buy Perfect Trees, you’re hunting for types whose advantages clearly overcome expected disadvantages.

    Before you pay for trees that could last 30 to 100 years or more, consider asking a few local nursery experts about pros and cons, narrow your list, then spend a couple of hours on the Internet. Among other useful facts, learn the mature circumference of each species, and then plant with sufficient space to minimize branch overhang and litter problems.

    Please remember that the wanton continuous deforestation of the Americas leaves too little food for wildlife, and cut ’em a break.


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