10 Best Types of Trees to Plant in Rocky Soil


Deciding which trees to plant on your property depends on a number of factors. One of them is the type of soil you have. Behind my home, the earth is loaded with rocks that I have had to deal with for years. So, which trees are best to plant in this type of dirt?

The best types of trees to plant in rocky soil are typically resistant to drought and have shallow roots. Good examples are aspen, birch, alder, pine, fir, cherry, maple, cedar, cottonwood, and apple trees.

Now let’s go through them and cover what characteristics of each type of tree make them thrive in rocky soil.

Aspen Trees

These trees can grow pretty much in any kind of soil. They do better in rocky or sandy soil and in moist soil. Their origin is Canada, but they have become widespread through North America, especially in places like Aspen, Colorado. However, they can be found in places like Northern Europe and Asia.

Birch Trees

These are trees that prefer sunlight. You will find birch trees all over the countryside in Canada, especially around the Northeast and East. They will thrive mainly in the northern region across the globe.

Alder Trees

Growing an alder tree is just like raising a birch tree. Soil conditions and sunlight needed are basically the same, so the effects are the same for both trees. Alder trees can be found in different places all over the United States and even in places like Algeria, Asia, and Europe.

Pine Trees

Pine trees can grow in shady or sunny areas. When growing in rocky soil, they get more of the heat they need, but they thrive more in sandy soil. They grow mainly in places like the United States, China, South Asia, Alaska, and some parts of Russia.

Fir Trees

Rocky soil is home to the fir tree. Evergreen firs will grow all year long. They do need plenty of sun, lots of heat, and moist soil. With their region being mountain ranges all over the world, they thrive in rocky soil. The sun hitting the rocks radiates heat towards the ground, which causes moisture.

Cherry Trees

Cherry trees love the sun. If you want to plant a fruit-bearing tree in rocky soil, then the cherry tree is a perfect one to grow.

Maple Trees

A tree that does well in sunlight or slightly shady areas is the maple tree. The roots raise up more than most trees, so it’s easier for heat and moisture to reach them. A rocky soil helps here if you live in a dry area. These trees are found mainly in the United States, Canada, and Europe, although some can be found in China.

Cedar Trees

Cedar trees are perfect for growing in rocky soil because they love the sun and the dry weather. They can be found around the Rocky Mountains and the British Columbia area. They are also common in areas like Iowa, West Virginia, Arizona, and a few other places.

Cottonwood Trees

Since rocky soil helps to create moisture, cottonwood trees can grow really well in rocky soil. These trees are immensely popular in places like the East, Southwest, and Central areas of the United States. They also grow in some regions of Canada.

Apple Trees

Apples love sunlight and rocky soil, which is great because they need to be kept away from things like snow and frost. The heat from the rocks helps with that as the rock will melt the frost and snow, causing moisture the tree needs.

How Do These Trees Grow in Rocky Soil if They Need Moisture?

Rocks can hold in moisture, and that helps the trees grow. Rocky areas also usually have a lot of sun. The sun radiates off stone, causing the rocks to “sweat” and drop into the soil, therefore adding moisture.

Step-by-Step Basics on How to Plant a Tree in Rocky Soil

As with any time you dig, make sure to call your electric company a few days before you dig to make sure you won’t be running into any issues on that front.

  1. You will need a tiller to turn over the ground as deep as the ball of your root is big and preferably at least 15 feet away from any structure. You will need to dig out any of the larger rocks for the roots to be able to spread out and grow in all directions. Leave the smaller stones; they help draining water get to the soil.
  2. Layer the area where you want to plant with compost, about 1/2 of the depth that you tilled.
  3. Till again to mix the compost in with the soil.
  4. Dig a hole the size of the ball of the root and plant the tree.
  5. Make sure the trunk of the tree is at ground level and not buried underground. Planting the trunk underground can stunt the growth of the tree and cause it to rot.
  6. Now fill in the hole about 1/3 of the way and pack the soil gently. Check to make sure the tree is standing up straight. Once you have it placed where you want it to be, fill in the rest of the hole and pack it down firmly.
  7. Water the area, saturating the ground all around it to make sure any air pockets will be taken out. Pack the soil again.
  8. You can add a layer of mulch if you’d like to.

Water your tree when it needs it but do not saturate the ground again. Add more mulch and compost a few times a year. The mulch breaks down and mixes with the soil, so it is safe.

Final Thoughts

Before deciding exactly what type of tree to plant, there are many other factors that you must consider. I recommend calling a locally owned nursery or two and finding out precisely what might be best for your region. They will usually be more than glad to help out a potential customer. If you want to see reviews first, you might check Angie’s list to find a good one.

I hope this article has pointed you in the right direction. Thanks for reading!

For more, check out 2 Best Lawn Mower Engine Brands (Based on Consumer Ratings).

Anne James

Hi, I'm Anne but my grandchildren call me Jelly Grandma. I have over 50 years of experience as a Southern cook and am a retired librarian. I love sharing what I have learned. You can find me on YouTube as well! Just click the link at the bottom of your page. I hope your visit here has been a sweet one.

Related Articles