Urban Tolerant Trees

Wild black cherry

Wild Black Cherry is a Tolerant Tree

Some trees, such as American beech, are rarely seen outside of forests because they are sensitive to the harsh conditions of urban life, like soil compaction, sun exposure, heat and drought and winter road salt. But there are hardier trees that can be planted almost anywhere if there is enough soil for them to grow.

Some of our favourite native trees grow well in urban spaces, despite the challenging conditions. And they all provide shade and cooling through evapotranspiration to help you beat the heat in your yard.

Here are a few of the hardiest trees for you to consider growing in your yard.

The Hardiest Trees

Kentucky coffee-tree comes out on top for hardiness. It can tolerate drought, salt and soil compaction. Plus, it can be planted close to black walnut trees which emit a substance called juglone that can harm juglone-sensitive plants. Common hackberry is a close second. It is resilient against strong winds, urban pollution and heat, but it cannot be planted near black walnut trees.


Most oaks are tolerant of drought, including northern red oak, which is also salt and juglone tolerant. Several sturdy evergreen trees make great windbreaks and are also drought resistant, such as eastern red cedar, eastern white cedar and white spruce.

Winter Salt

Sidewalk and road salt can kill trees and other plants. Some trees, like eastern white pine, are even sensitive to salt spray from puddle splash. Use salt sparingly and plant salt-tolerant trees like oaks, wild black cherry or downy serviceberry near places where salt is spread.


If you’re planting a tree beside a path or in a place where kids play or people walk regularly, be aware that some trees don’t like people walking on their roots. If you are walking below the branches, then you are walking on top of the roots. Freeman maple, red maple, alternate-leaved dogwood, white spruce and eastern white cedar all tolerate foot traffic and resulting soil compaction.

Always choose the right tree for the right place. Use CVC’s woodland plant list to learn the best growing conditions and tolerances for each tree species.

Photo: Dendroica cerulea

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