December 4, 2020

Most Common Trees in Georgia

The state of Georgia can claim some of the most picturesque settings in the nation, and a large reason for that beauty are the millions of trees that fill our impressive landscape. Think of the joys they give us, whether it is the statuesque maples of fall, their leaves burst forth in a blazes of red, orange and yellow, or the comforting sight of a spring dogwood in full bloom, banishing the chill – not to mention the cooling shade of a spreading oak in summer or the inspiring sight of winter snow caked to the needles of a hardy pine.

And trees do so many things for us beyond eye-pleasing scenery, as they also provide a shield from the elements and even improve our mental and physical well-being.

As with all things there is also a downside, however. And weakened, sick or dying trees can indeed prove a fall hazard and troublesome worry for property owners.

That is why it is important to know your trees and how to make sure they stay healthy and strong – as well as how to spot the signs of danger/decay and what to do if/when that occurs.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the most common trees of Georgia – the ones you are most likely to find on your property – and answer the question, “how do you take care of them?”

First some basics of maintenance rules that apply to ALL trees in Georgia (and then we’ll look more closely at each specific tree):

Keep them watered

All trees require water in order to remain healthy and vibrant (though amounts differ based on species, age and outdoor conditions). But, when you do water trees, it is important to know how. In order to reach the root system, water must penetrate to a depth of 10 inches or more. Therefore, utilizing short shallow watering methods is a waste. Instead, utilize long, soaking methods, that ensure the water reaches the trees’ root systems. The good news is that established trees do not require constant watering, so you do not have to do this often. (An easy way to test the need for water is by pushing an eight-inch or longer screwdriver into the ground. If it does not penetrate at least six inches, it is time to water.)

Mulch it up

Placing a 2-4-inch deep ring of mulch around the base of your tree is a good idea no matter the time of year or tree type. Make sure to leave 1-2 inches of space between the mulch ring and the tree trunk (so that the mulch is not actually touching the trunk) and spread the ring out 4-5 feet in diameter around the tree. Mulch retains moisture and allows you to not have to worry as much about watering the tree.

Do not fertilize trees during drought conditions

Fertilizers can be great for a healthy three. But fertilizers, especially high-nitrogen fertilizers, can draw water out of the tree. So, adding fertilizers during a dry period will only stress the tree further. You should also avoid fertilizing most trees in late fall or winter as the tree is going dormant.

Prune responsibly

It’s smart to prune any tree of broken, dead, insect-infested or diseased branches, but be careful not to cut back too far or too much. Most tree pruning should be performed between late fall and early spring – though there are exceptions (see below for particular differences).

Keep an eye out for signs of sickness or damage
Drought-stressed trees, in particular, are more vulnerable to attack. But if you know the trees on your property, keeping a periodic eye on them will let you know if they’re looking poorly – either from disease, insect infestation or storm damage.

Know an expert

It is a good idea to find an arborist or your county extension agent. Either will be able to answer a number of questions about your trees, how they should look, and what you can expect from them. And, should you experience damage or need to remove a tree, it is best to a call a professional. Cutting down standing trees – or partially downed trees – is dangerous and requires experience and knowledge in order to avoid damage to your property or person.

OK, now that we’ve got that out of the way, lets identify the most common Georgia trees and learn about proper care for each (tree types listed in alphabetical order).

Beech TreeBEECH


A native species to the United States, the Beech can reach heights of 120 feet and can live for 200-300 years. However, they are sometimes hard to pick out simply because they like to establish themselves in near-full shade. Beeches have smooth silver-gray bark and actually keep their leaves during the winter – though they turn brown and are paper thin.


If you are planting a beech, know that they like rich, acidic soil that is moist, loose and well-drained (as well as shade, as previously mentioned). A beech crown spreads 40 to 60 feet at maturity, so give it plenty of room. Mature beeches withstand moderate drought but will need a good soaking if you go a month or more without a drenching rain. Once its dense crown develops, mulching is no longer necessary, but it does need regular fertilization. Spread fertilizer over the root zone and water it in (a pound of 10-10-10 fertilizer for each 100 square foot of the root zone – which extends a foot or so beyond the canopy of the tree – should suffice).

Dogwood TreeDOGWOOD


One of the most iconic flowering trees in Georgia, Dogwoods produce beautiful white blossoms in the spring, and its leaves turn a deep red-orange in the fall. Its fissured gray bark is also unmistakable, and mature dogwoods reach heights of 15-20 feet.


Unfortunately, dogwoods suffer from numerous diseases, including powdery mildew, leaf spot, canker, root rot, and dogwood anthracnose – which has decimated the dogwood population. Even anthracnose-resistant species have a higher than normal mortality rate. For best results, plant young dogwoods in rich, well-drained soil and partial shade (they prefer afternoon shade to shield them from blazing sunlight). Fertilizing your dogwood is also an absolute necessity. Once established, dogwoods respond best to light fertilizer in the spring. Make sure to supply the tree with a deep soaking until it is established and even after it has matured continue to do so at least once a month – especially during extremely dry summers. Pruning is also recommended to help maintain its vigor.

Eastern Red Cedar TreeEASTERN RED CEDAR


A conifer native that can reach heights of 65 feet, the redcedar is easily identified by its dark green scale-like leaves, blue berry-like cones, and stripy, red-hued fibrous bark. This cedar can either dominate a landscape with its full-spreading leaves that can reach up to 25 feet in diameter and flourish from tip to ground. Or it can just as easily produce spindly outputs, depending on where it is grown. It also provides a memorable, piney aroma.


Considered the most drought-resistant conifer in North America, it is still a good idea to mulch around the base (without touching the trunk) of these trees, even when mature. And you should water young redcedars regularly, while allowing them to dry out completely between each watering. Fertilizer is generally not necessary unless the soil is very unhealthy. This is a very low-maintenance tree, only requiring occasional removal of dead or diseased branches.

Hickory TreeHICKORY


A tree capable of reaching remarkable heights (mature hickories are usually taller than 60 feet) and girths (usually around 40 feet), the hickory displays pinnate leaves (veins in neat rows spreading from the long center vein of the leaf) that grow in compound sets. Its trunk is gray to brown and grows coarser with age, often displaying a diamond pattern. The mature hickory also produces a hard nut, which can damage cars and make a nuisance of itself if you need to mow anywhere near the tree.


Hickory trees tolerate most soil types but require good drainage – in other words, they like drier (not dry) soil. However, you should make sure that you keep the soil moist for the entire year when planting a young hickory. These trees also thrive in either light or shade but produce more nuts when receiving more sun. It takes a hickory 10-15 years to begin producing nuts. You should water even mature hickories during droughts, applying it slowly and in longer watering sessions in order to allow deep penetration. Fertilize your hickory annually in early spring or fall. The best method for fertilizing is to measure the diameter of the trunk five feet above the ground and use a pound of 10-10-10 fertilizer for each inch of trunk diameter. Spread the fertilizer under the canopy of the tree, beginning about 3 feet out from the trunk. Water the fertilizer into the soil to a depth of about a foot.

Magnolia TreeMAGNOLIA


There are several different species of magnolia – eight of which are native to the United States – and these magnificent trees can suit any garden, yard or growing condition. They range from the huge, low-branched climbing delights you may know from your youth, to smaller, decorative plants. Notable for broad, waxy leaves and large, white flowers, the magnolia also has a smooth, gray bark.


Most magnolias thrive in full sun or partial shade, and they are resistant to most pests and diseases. These landmarks of the southeast handle heat and some drought well. However, young magnolias require regular watering for two years until they are established. In these instances, consider utilizing a drip irrigation system to keep the tree continuously supplied with moisture. You should also fertilize a young magnolia – though mature trees do not require fertilizer. These trees also do not require much pruning other than to lop off damaged branches or to shape it for aesthetics. The best time to prune a magnolia is immediately after the tree finishes blooming in late spring or early summer.



There are a wide variety of maple species in Georgia, though the most common are the red and sugar – though silver and Japanese are also very common. Most maples have large leaves, and all are palmate (lobes spread out from the stem). The bark of a young maple is generally smooth, but it gets rougher and cracks as it ages. But what really sets the maple apart are its fall colors. Sugar maple leaves turn orange to red in autumn, while the red maple bursts into yellow and red. The silver maple’s leaves generally turn a shade of yellow, while the Japanese maple’s leaves (which are generally smaller and more delicate looking than other maples) can run a gamut of pale yellow to brilliant orange or blood red and even a darker, rusty shade.


Maples like more acidic soil (anything above 7.3 pH is not good), so plant any maple in nutrient-rich soil. And young maples require around 11 gallons of water a week to stay healthy. Wilting or leaf scorch (when the leaves brown and/or curl up), is a sign of drought stress. (wilting usually starts from the top of the tree and moves down). To combat drought stress, water the tree immediately. A tree watering bag is also very helpful, especially for trees 2-3 years old. Some maples do require more pruning than others, such as older silver maples, which are known to drop branches with frequency. If you prune your maple, do so in the late spring or summer after the tree has fully leafed (pruning too early will cause too much sap loss, while doing it too late does not allow the tree enough time to heal before dormancy). NOTE: Make sure to keep an eye out for various diseases that may harm your maple, including:

Anthracnose – A fungal disease that causes leaves to brown and drop in mid to late summer. Fungal spores on fallen leaves and twigs, as well as cankers will be visible. The best treatment is prompt removal of fallen leaves and twigs and pruning dead twigs and branches.

Tar Spot: Another fungal disease, it doesn’t kill the tree, but forms dark spots on the leaves. It is best treated by cleaning up fallen leaves in fall.

Verticillium Wilt: Yet another fungal problem, it is caused by a soil fungus that causes the water-transporting cells of an infected tree to shut down. It shows up as browning and/or dying leaves. Use low-nitrogen fertilizer to treat it and prune dead or dying branches.

Oak TreeOAK


Perhaps the most well-known tree in the western world, Georgia is full of all types of oak species, from the white and red oak, to the willow and water oak and beyond, it’s doubtful that you do not have an oak species on or near your property. Oaks have lobed, waxy leaves and large, spreading crowns that may be globular or semi-circular in nature. Most species grow tall and display huge canopies, making them excellent shade trees for properties and parks.


Oak trees prefer full sun and well-drained soil, as well as dry summers and moist winters. As long as you experience winter rainfall, you don’t need to water oak trees in winter. To make up for a dry winter, give oak trees a thorough soaking in the spring. It’s also a good idea to water them once or twice during drier summers. When you water an oak, do it via a gradual, all-day release to ensure a waterlogged soil. You should never water oak trees more than once a month. Fertilizer helps young oaks grow and helps mature oaks maintain health. Fertilize in the spring, late summer or autumn, when rainfall will help wash the nutrients through the soil to reach all parts of the root system. Utilize a balanced fertilizer with nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, it’s also safe to use a nitrogen-based fertilizer.

Pine TreePINE


Like the oak, there are several species of pine all throughout our state – and they are numerous. These evergreens grow quickly compared to other trees, and young pines typically have a slenderer form and round as they age (much like people!). More common species in Georgia include the white pine, Virginia pine and loblolly pine. The white pine grows from 50 to 200 feet tall (depending on its surroundings) and exhibits soft, blue-green needles. The Virginia pine is shorter, growing 15-40 feet tall, while the loblolly can shoot up to 90-110 feet tall. All three types of tree have rough-hewn bark, though the white pine is not quite as “flaky” looking. Pine wood is also soft, which makes pine trees notorious for bending – and snapping – under the weight of winter ice or spring/fall storm winds. Despite being evergreens, all pine trees also shed their needles in the fall.


Pine trees prefer drier soil, though young pine trees should be watered twice weekly to ensure optimal health. It is also advisable to water pine trees occasionally during drought conditions. Do not try and shape your pine trees through aggressive pruning – unless advised to do so by a Certified Arborist from a local tree service. However, there are times when pruning damaged or diseased branches is needed. Pine trees can sometimes turn yellow if soil pH or certain nutrient levels lower. Although Eastern White Pines are native to our area, the areas in suburban neighborhoods aren’t always ideal for their optimum health. There are also diseases that affect not only the appearance but the overall health of pines, including:

Needlecast and Rust – Both are fungal infections. Needlecast presents as black, orange-red, or tan spots on the needles of the pine, while rust looks like large rust spots appearaing around the trunk and branches. Both can be controlled by pruning and with a fungicide and by keeping the area around the tree as dry as possible.

Root rot – A serious fungal infection that presents as needle discoloration, drop off and dieback. However, most symptoms do not appear until the disease has progressed far. In most cases, the tree and stump must be removed, but milder infections may be stopped with the help of fungicidal drenches or sprays.

Pine beetle – These tiny insects usually attack stressed and dying pine trees, so keep your trees vigorous and healthy.

There are, of course, many other types of trees in Georgia, including poplar, ash, gum, chestnut, holly and buckeye. And all can be safely tended to by a vigilant and careful property owner – though it does not require unceasing vision. Just be aware and, if any questions arise, seek the help of a professional. Silver City Tree Service has been helping people with tree-related questions and problem for over two decades. We know what it means to help people advise, trim and even remove any type of tree common to north Georgia. From Atlanta, to Gainesville, to Cumming to Dahlonega and everywhere in between (that’s a lot of trees!), we are ready to help you find the tree answers you need. Simply call us today at 404-925-4013.