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The Best Tree Varieties For A Zone 3 Garden

by on September 21, 2023
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If you’ve followed From Soil to Soul for some time then you know I’ve done my fair share of tree planting over the last 10 years. In fact, my husband and I have planted over 500 trees on our 4-acre property here in Manitoba, Canada. So we’ve come to discover the tree varieties that can both withstand our extreme cold Winters while also putting on growth quickly! In this blog, I’ll share with you the best trees varieties for a Zone 3 garden, including the varieties we love.

This post covers:

  • Choosing The Right Trees That Can Survive Zone 3’s Tough Climates
  • The Importance of Cold Tolerance When Selecting Trees for Zone 3
  • Trees That Thrive in Zone 3’s Harsh Conditions
  • What’s The Fastest Growing Tree For Zone 3

Choosing The Right Trees That Can Survive Zone 3’s Tough Climates

There’s several factors that come into play when considering what variety of tree to plant in a Zone 3 climate. 

But the two biggest things to consider are:

  1. Zone Hardiness, meaning the coldest zone the tree can grow and thrive in and …
  2. Care Requirements, meaning how you can set the tree up for success throughout the coldest months of the year.

But, what are the right trees for Zone 3?

The right trees for Zone 3 are trees that are;

  • Native to your region
  • Hardy to Zone 3 or ideally a zone colder (remember, Zone 3 can get as cold as -45°C!)
  • And trees that don’t require extensive care throughout Winter. 

Find my list of the best tree varieties for Zone 3 further down in this blog!

You’ll also find more detailed planting advice and info on my personal philosophy on planting trees here in my blog Why Fall Is The Best Time To Plant Trees In Canada.

The Importance of Cold Tolerance When Selecting Trees for Zone 3

As mentioned above, understanding the cold tolerance or zone hardiness of the tree is your first step to success!

Canada’s plant hardiness zones range from range from 0 to 9, with 0 being the coldest and 9 the warmest. For example, a tree labelled ‘hardy in Zone 3’ can be planted in Zones 3-9, but not in Zone 2, 1 or 0.

When it comes to zone hardiness, my personal belief is to select trees that can survive in a zone colder than what you’re planting in. 

So for my Zone 3b property, I typically select trees cold tolerant to Zone 2. This rule works best when applied to non-native tree varieties, such as ornamental or tropical trees .

The exception to this rule is trees that are native to your region. If you’re planting say a spruce that is either native to your area and/or specifically bred for your climate, there’s no need to go a zone lower.

Further to that, you can try and experiment by selecting a tree that is best suited for a Zone slightly warmer than yours. For example, if you have an area of your property that is well protected from the Winter elements, try planting a tree for Zone 4 or even warmer. Chances are it will do well!

When planting non-native trees here in Zone 3, I’m sure to be extra cautious with my approach to planting and Winter protection. 

So why should you plant cold tolerant trees in Zone 3?

Because these trees are either bred to and/or native to survive extreme conditions, including the wind, snow and low temperatures that happen in Zone 3 climates.

So ultimately, choosing a cold tolerant tree will drastically improve your chances of it both surviving and thriving year round.

Trees That Thrive in Zone 3’s Harsh Conditions

Spruce, Poplar, Maple, Pine and more trees layered throughout a Zone 3 forest.

Here’s a master list of the various trees, excluding fruit trees, you can consider planting if you live in Zone 3 that will do well in the harsh conditions:

*Note, these are not all the trees you can plant in Zone 3, but the ones that will thrive in Zone 3.

  • Maple
  • Birch
  • Ash
  • Spruce
  • Tamarack
  • Poplar
  • Oak
  • Lilacs
  • Flowering Crabapple
  • Fir
  • Hemlock
  • Elm
  • Dogwood
  • Beech
  • Cedar
  • Willow
  • Cypress
  • Basswood
  • Cottonwood

What’s The Fastest Growing Tree For Zone 3

In my experience, the fastest growing trees for Zone 3 are typically any hybrid variety of tree that has been bred to put on new growth and height quickly.

We personally love Prairie Sky Poplars and have planted hundreds as a wind barrier around the perimeter or our property. They have an average growth rate of 4ft per year and can get as tall as 60ft!

Praiire Sky Poplar trees after just three years of growing with a height of 1ft at planting.

Other hybrid varieties that have an annual growth rate of more than 3ft include;

And there you have it!

That covers the best trees for Zone 3, including trees with the fastest growth rate so you can enjoy their beauty even quicker!

You can follow @fromsoiltosoul on InstagramPinterest and Tik Tok for more gardening content too.

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