Planting a tree in sandy soil


We have a large area with full sun but very sandy soil. We would like to plant a moderate sized tree but are curious on what type would grow well in our sandy/full sun area. We would prefer something that does not require much pruning to keep healthy and if it would be nice if it is a flowering tree to add some colour to the property.



Thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners

There are several small trees that would accommodate the sandy sunny location and provide you with seasonal color.

Downy serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea): grows 15 to 25 feet in all soil conditions. This particular serviceberry is low maintenance and disease and pest free.

Redbud (Cercis canadensis) does well in full sun and in all sorts of soil types including sandy soil. Pink flowers are closely attached to the trunk in April. Reddish-purple leaves change to dark green, then to yellow.

Lilacs do well in sunny sandy soil. They come in different colors and sizes. Look for the Canadian cultivar ‘Ivory Silk’ (Syringa reticulata ‘Ivory Silk’).

‘Canada Red’ Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana ‘Canada Red’): This small tree has flowers in spring, fruit in the summer and lovely fall color. Another good feature – they are drought tolerant.

Fruitless ‘Spring Snow’ crabapple (Malus ‘Spring Snow’) Crabapples adapt to a wide variety of soil types and need full sun to bloom. The one listed is fruitless and requires little pruning.

‘Snowdrift’ crabapple (Malus ‘Snowdrift’): mid-spring bloomer, the snowdrift crabapple grows in acidic, loamy, moist, sandy, silty loam, well-drained and clay soils and full sun.

American mountain ash (Sorbus americana). Small tree that has clusters of white flowers, colorful berries and amazing fall interest, not to mention its lovely compound leaves: sun loving and grows well in sandy soil. Rarely requires pruning.

Cockspur hawthorn (Crataegus crus-galli) Has  white flowers in spring that become red pommes in summer, with beautiful leathery leaves that turn right orange and red in the fall. It tolerates many soil types including sandy soil.

Seven-son flower (Heptacodium miconioides) Seven-son flower tolerates a wide range of soils, requires medium moisture, well-drained soil and does well in full sun. The white, fragrant clusters of flowers appear in September, and are followed by a beautiful display of fall color.

Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata) is a small tree with white flowers in the early spring. The star Magnolia is adaptable to sandy soils as it does not like poorly draining soils.

Smoke tree (Cotinus obovatus) Prefers full sun is adaptable to all soil types has beautiful 6 to 10 inches of flower clusters, in the fall the leaves turn shades of yellow, orange, red and purple.

Eastern Wahoo (Euonymus atropurpureus) Has small purple flowers that bloom in the leaf axle in spring. Tolerates all soil  types, it is grown for the beautiful  red berries and fall colors. This plant can become invasive in natural areas so should be planted with care.

Pin cherry (Prunus pensylvanica) This is a small tree with white blossoms that grow in bunches that turn into small red cherries. Grows in a variety of soils.

Planting your tree is as important as choosing your tree: This youtube video shows how to plant in sandy soil. or