Planting and Caring for Your Trees and Shrubs in Western Pennsylvania Climate | Superior Lawn Care
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Planting and Caring for Your Trees and Shrubs in Western Pennsylvania Climate

Trees and shrubs are a great addition to your home’s landscape, offering visually pleasing aesthetics, adding oxygen to the air, and shading the yard in the warmer months. In Western, PA, there are a variety of popular trees and shrubs that thrive in the climate of Western, PA, and certain techniques for caring for them and protecting them from insects and diseases common in the area.

Popular Trees in Western PA Climate

There are a variety of beautiful trees native to Pennsylvania that provide beautiful spring flowers and gorgeous colored leaves in the fall. Some of the most popular native tree species include:

Red Oak or White Oak

Generally, oaks are very beneficial to PA native wildlife, with the red and white oak being great choices for shade trees.

With the red oak, you will get a tree that grows fairly fast, growing to roughly 50 to 70 feet tall and wide. This type of tree has strong branching, a straight trunk, and beautiful dark foliage in the fall.

The white oak, similar to red oak in size, is also big, with strong branching, and has a distinctive light-gray bark color lighter than the other oaks. Like the red oak, it is also a heavy acorn producer and has dark red foliage in the fall. You can expect it to grow slightly bigger than the red oak.

River Birch

The river birch is a fast-growing tree commonly found along riverbanks or other damp areas in nature. This makes it a great choice for damper areas in your yard, but it will also tolerate areas with drier soil. Embed from Getty Images
The river birch is known for its cinnamon-colored peeling bark and the habit it has to arch multiple stems, typically three or four trunks. You can expect the river birch to grow roughly 35 to 40 feet tall and 20 to 25 feet around. They grow great in full sun or partial shade, and they have bright yellow foliage in the fall.

American Fringe Tree

This is a very unique looking tree, nicknamed the “old man’s beard” due to its shaggy white flowers that are seen when the tree is in bloom. This tree can be pruned down to a single tree trunk or can be left to grow into a more irregular, multi-stemmed tree. This tree has gorgeous yellow foliage in the fall.

The American fringe tree grows slowly and can be expected to grow to 15 to 18 feet tall and wide. It can grow in full sun or as an under-story tree, partly shaded by taller surrounding trees.

American Dogwood

This may be considered one of the most loved flowering trees in the area. The American dogwood is covered in beautiful white or pink flowers in later April and has stunning burgundy foliage in the fall along with bright red oval fruits that are loved by birds.

This type of tree often has issues with powdery mildew, anthracnose diseases, and borers. To prepare them to fight off these issues, they require loose, rich, acidic soil and occasional deep soakings in drought conditions. You can expect the American dogwood to grow about 18 feet tall and wide. It ideally grows as an under-story tree or in an area that gets morning sun and afternoon shade.

Red Maple

The red maple is a shade tree native to Pennsylvania and is most well-known for its bright red, sometimes reddish-gold fall foliage. This fast-growing tree has wide, three-lobed leaves with pointed tips. The leaves emerge in spring with a red tinge and turn green in the summer.

Varieties of the red maple, such as the Red Sunset or the October Glory, are some of the most impressive, brilliantly colored backyard options for shade trees. Most of these varieties will grow 40 to 50 feet tall and around 30 to 40 feet wide, growing best in full sun. They tolerate both damp or dry soil.

Popular Shrubs in Western PA Climate


Rhododendrons are a common shrub seen planted around homes in Western PA. This plant blooms in the spring with large red, purple, pinks, and yellow clusters.

Once you’ve established this plant, it is relatively low maintenance and easy to care for. They are available in a variety of sizes, serving as low ground cover or as large bush plants. With over two thousand different types of rhododendrons, you can choose from many varieties of color, scent, and height to suit your preferences.


Much like the rhododendron, peonies are easy to grow and require little maintenance. They can be treated with chemicals due to their resistance to bacteria, and they do not require a lot of watering once they have been established.

They offer beautiful, distinct pink blossoms that will bring bright splashes of color to your landscape.

Crape Myrtle

If you are looking for a bush that has a long-lasting bloom time with brilliant, bright color, then the Dwarf Crape Myrtles are the perfect bush for you. Special varieties of the Crape Myrtles only grow to be about three to five feet, about the size of a shrub, asking them a great addition to this list!

Their bloom period begins in the summer and lasts throughout the fall in PA, with some blooming for almost a third of the year. These plants can be used as anchor shrubs for islands or gardens to add bright color to your outdoor space.

Panicle Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas are versatile and can be used to form a hedge or to provide a stunning all-around your property. These bushes should be planted in partial shade and will produce large white flowers. Sometimes their flowers will turn pink before they dry out. Hydrangeas need to be pruned in the early spring to encourage new growth. Embed from Getty Images

If you are concerned with them growing too large, you can instead choose to plant dwarf varieties that will stay small.

Best Times to Plant

To ensure your trees and shrubs thrive, it is important to plant them at the optimal times in Western PA.

When to Plant Trees in Western Pennsylvania

The autumn season is a great time to plant trees, but bear in mind that many of the best tree selections are available in the spring season. If you choose to plant your trees in the spring, you can monitor their growth and progress for months, and it will also be easier to provide them with the water they need to in the warmer months versus the winter. Here are some tree planting best practices to follow when planting a tree:

• Choose a day that is cool and cloudy for planting. If the sun is beating down, it can dry out the tree before and after it has been planted. If, for some reason, you have to plant the tree on a sunny day, be sure to protect the tree from the direct sun while preparing to plant and afterward. Consider using a large cardboard box to cover the root area after planting and watering are finished. Keep the roots shaded until nightfall or throughout the next day if the forecast is sunny.
• Water the tree the day before and the day of planting. This can be done by watering the tree in its pot or ball. Dig a hole as deep as the tree’s roots and twice as wide. This will give the tree roots adequate room to grow.
• Loosen the soil on the sides and bottom of the hole. This will help the tree roots penetrate the soil. If the side and bottom of the hole are smooth and roots can get through the soil, the tree will die.

Best Time to Plant Shrubs in Western Pennsylvania

For shrubs, autumn is also a great time to plant, allowing the shrubs to focus on root establishment and growth, rather than using their energy to produce flowers. The shrubs planted in the fall will require watering during dry periods in the winter while they work on forming a strong root system. If you plan to plant your shrubs this fall, here are a few tips to help ensure success:

• Loosen the roots prior to planting. For potted shrubs, the roots tend to be circling around the inside of the pot and will need to be gently loosened before planting.
• Dig the hole no deeper than the container or rootball and twice as wide. When you dig the hole for planting, make sure to dig no deeper than the root ball, but make sure the hole is twice as wide. This will help to encourage the roots to grow outward and will prevent the shrub from being planted too deep, which can kill the shrub.
• Do not fertilize or prune shrubs too soon. Before you fertilize or prune your shrubs, you need to allow them to become acclimated to their new environment. This can take anywhere from nine to 12 months. After this period, you can fertilize or prune your shrubs.

Caring for Your Trees and Shrubs

One of the biggest factors in caring for your trees is pruning. This will help to keep your trees healthy. While some of this work can be done by the homeowner, certain tree pruning and inspection duties should be completed by a professional for the best results.

Pruning for Young Trees

When it comes to pruning young trees, it should be done slowly for the first five years. This will help prevent future damage and maintenance costs. By pruning young trees, you can promote balanced and well-spaced branch structures and maintain the typical form of the species. Removing the low branches that get in the way of people and equipment can encourage root growth, trunk taper, and trunk growth. You can also remove competing leaders to promote one leader or trunk.

In the first year, only dead or broken branches need to be pruned. All pruning needs to be done uniformly, and no more than 35 percent of the tree’s foliage should be removed within the year.

Pruning for Mature Trees

Mature and older trees are more complicated and dangerous to prune, so it is strongly recommended that homeowners consult with a professional arborist when seeking pruning services for mature trees. Basic guidelines for pruning mature trees include:

• Use thinning cuts. This will prune a limb back to the trunk or back to a limb that is large enough to assume growth. Keep in mind that limbs need to be pruned back to a limb that is at least one-third of the size of the limb that you are pruning.
• Avoid removing more than 25 percent of the tree’s foliage in any year.
• Avoid removing more than 20 percent of the foliage or branches that are larger than eight inches.
• Do not perform root pruning. Hire a professional for this task.

Watering Your Trees

Trees should be watered regularly, especially within the first year. The tree will need long, deep watering for maximum benefit. Keep a schedule, and do not rely on Mother Nature to get the job done. If there has not been any rain in a few days, be sure to water the tree.

Fertilizing Trees

The best time to fertilize your tree is in late April or May if needed. You can also choose to fertilize your tree in the late fall when your tree is dormant. Fertilizer should be spread evenly over the soil surface, and the amount of actual nitrogen should be applied three pounds per square feet. The type of fertilizer you need will depend on the type of tree you have. Consult with the landscape experts at Superior Lawn Care for the top recommendations.

Pruning for Shrubs

Shrubs can be pruned in late winter when the pruning wounds will be exposed for the least amount of time before new growth and healing begin. Summer and fall flowering shrubs should be pruned in the early spring before their buds break, and the plant has a chance to leaf out.

Spring-blooming shrubs will need to be pruned as soon as they are done flowering because they set next year’s flower buds soon after they bloom. Pruning too early prevents the plant from blooming this year ad pruning too late means the plant will not bloom next year.

If the shrub is diseased, you can prune the diseased parts as soon as you see them. Be sure to sanitize your pruning tools when finished to prevent spreading the disease to other plants.

Watering Your Shrubs

Shrubs need to be watered regularly. The newly planted shrubs will require regular, deep watering for the first year after planting. For proper watering, set the hose at the base of the shrub, turn it on to a trickle so the water can slowly seep onto the root zone over the course of a few hours. During wintertime, water for as long as the ground remains unfrozen.

Fertilizing Shrubs

Like with trees, many shrubs can benefit from fertilizer in late April or early May or in the late fall once the shrubs are dormant. Fertilizer should be applied evenly across the soil, and if nitrogen is recommended, it should be applied three pounds per 1,000 square feet.

Insect and Disease Control – Common Plant Diseases Western PA Climate

There are a variety of fungal diseases, mildew, and insects that threaten your tree in Western PA, including:

Verticillium Wilt

This is a common fungal disease affecting deciduous trees. Early stages of this disease present signs such as smaller than normal leaves, heavy seed production, and browning in the leaves’ margins. In many cases, only one side of the tree’s foliage will wilt.

You will also see that the wood under the bark of these wilting branches will appear discolored in streaks. This is a clear sign of verticillium wilt.


This name refers to a group of related fungal stem and leaf diseases that are known to infect deciduous trees such as:

• Dogwood
• Maple
• Oak
• Sycamore
• Ash
• And more

Signs of this disease include small dead spots on the leaves. Premature defoliation, dying buds early in the season, and browning along the leaf veins. The most severely affected areas of the tree are typically the lower and inner leaves and branches of the tree’s canopy.

Powdery Mildew

This disease leaves a white powdery substance on the infected tree’s leaf surface. This substance is made up of millions of tiny fungal spores. The mildew will reduce the tree’s vigor and cause the leaves to turn yellow and brown. IT will also cause distortion and premature drop in the tree.

This disease can attack a variety of different plants but can seriously impact young trees growing in heavy shade.

Spotted lanternfly

An adult spotted lanternfly is 1″ long and 1/2″ wide at rest. They have grey forewings with black spots and wingtips that are reticulated black blocks that are outlined with grey. Their hind wings have red and black contrasting patches with a white band. Their legs and head are both black with a yellow abdomen that has broad black bands. Immature spotted lanternflies are clack with white spots and will develop red patches as they grow. Embed from Getty Images

The spotted lanternfly causes damage to both trees and other plants. In the tree, it causes wilting, leaf curling, tree dieback, and oozing sap. When they feed, they excrete a sugary substance that is called honeydew. This substance encourages the growth of black sooty mold, which is harmless to humans but can damage plants.

Gypsy moth

The gypsy moth is most easily identified by the caterpillar or egg mass life stages. Their egg mass is buff or tan colored and hairy. This egg mass is usually oval-shaped and about the size of a quarter. The caterpillars at their largest are 1.5 to 2.5 inches in length with a bright yellow head capsule and five pairs of blue dots and six pairs of red dots on its back. The caterpillar is also very hairy.

The gypsy moth can kill a variety of trees such as oak, apple, alder, birches, pines, willows, spruces, and more. They also feed on hundreds of shrub species. It can take more than a year of defoliation before a tree dies, but conifers that are defoliated by gypsy moths can be killed within a single season of defoliation. It is best to keep an eye out for egg masses described above. You will also want to have any egg masses that you discover removed. Be sure to keep your yard free of piles of old wood, building materials, dead branch, and other refuse.

Superior Lawn Care’s Tree and Shrub Program

With Superior Lawn Care’s professional ornamental tree and shrub application program, we can provide you with the tools you need to maintain your vegetation’s health.
Our licensed, experienced technicians will monitor and treat insect and disease activity and will apply precisely formulated fertilization to improve plant growth, bloom potential, and overall vigor. Embed from Getty Images

Our 5-Step Tree and Shrub Services provide you with a way to effectively protect your investment in your landscape, ensuring that it looks great all year round!