Picking the right tree


Hi there,

I have an large empty space on my property (in direct sunlight) and would like to plant a tree there. I’m looking to pick a deciduous tree that will be grow to be as large and tall as possible — there is lots of space, so I want a dramatic and beautiful centerpiece for the property. I don’t particularly care about growing speed, so long as it grows very tall and wide with time.

What are some tree species that would fit this need? I was considering perhaps a maple (red? silver?) or an oak (red?), and would be very grateful to hear your thoughts. My property is located in the GTA.

Thanks for your help!



Hello and thank you for reaching out to the Toronto Master Gardeners for help in choosing a tree.

What a wonderful opportunity this is for you,  to have the space, conditions, and desire to enhance our tree canopy.  I will start off by attaching a link to the City of Toronto’s recommended  tree website.  This will be an excellent jumping off point;


The University of Connecticut has an excellent data base of trees (listed by their botanical names).


Furthermore, I would like to offer another link, this is one to the Ontario Invasive Plant Council’s advice on what not to plant, and to suggested native trees.


I would also like to recommend a book:

Tree & Shrub Gardening for Ontario (Alison Beck & Kathy Renwald). Originally published in 2001, this book takes a close look at several trees, their particular growing conditions, and likely problems such as pests.

Having  shared these resources, I would like to include some of my favorite trees:

You mentioned a Maple Acer. What could be better than a Sugar Maple Acer saccharum? This is one of the most impressive of Maples with its lovely rounded shape, reaching up to 80’ in height and 40’ in width, and of course its brilliant fall colour.  Red Maples are a close second, also growing to impressive sizes. If you are looking for red fall foliage its best to purchase the tree when in colour, as some Red Maples have yellow or minimum fall colour.

Tulip tree, Liriodendron tulipifera . This is an absolutely stunning tree, not often seen in places other than parks or large estates,  probably  because it becomes massive, growing upwards of 100’.  It bears pretty yellow tulip shaped flowers in the spring, and has  attractive yellow fall colour, but I particularly love the unusual leaf shape of this tree.

There are many oaks from which  to choose, but you can’t escape the beauty of a Red oak Quercus rubra.  It is worth a stroll through Mt Peasant Cemetery in Toronto to see that fantastic specimen in all of its fall glory. It can grow as wide as it can tall 50’ to 75’!

Here are two smaller trees to consider:

Yellowwood Cladastris kentukeais a North American medium growing native tree. It has a fairly open, vase-shaped canopy, compound leaves that turn yellow in the fall, and once established the tree produces wisteria-like fragrant white flowers in spring.  It grows to about 12m, but it does spread to 10m, when mature. It is a lovely specimen tree, and is suitable for a small lot. This tree is not seriously affected by pests and diseases.

Japanese Katsura Cercidiphyllum japonicum grows best in a sunny exposure in moist soil however, it is considered drought tolerant once established and has moderate tolerance to salt. This is a medium to large tree reaching a mature height of 12-18m with a spread of  10-18m. The growth rate is moderately rapid when young however, slows down with age. Fall colour is a spectacular yellow- orange.

I will leave you with one more post; the Master Gardener’s guide to planting trees.


Good luck with this wonderful project.