Skip to Main navigation Skip to Left navigation Skip to Main content Skip to Footer

University of Minnesota Extension
We're looking for your feedback on the Extension website. Please take our survey.

Extension > Garden > Yard and Garden > Trees and shrubs > Recommended trees for Minnesota: An ecosystem approach > Northern tallgrass prairie

Print Icon Email Icon Share Icon

Recommended trees for northern tallgrass prairie in Minnesota: An ecosystem approach

Gary R. Johnson and Peter Bedker with technical adviser Gerald L. Jenson


Trees shade and cool us in the summer, protect us from cold winter winds, supply us with clean air to breathe, beautify our communities and provide habitat for wildlife. Selecting the trees that will survive and grow into healthy urban forests requires a thorough analysis of the planting site and a careful match of the trees to that environment.

The Recommended Trees series recognizes that Minnesota is an ecologically diverse state. For this series, the state is divided into six major ecological regions, each with characteristic soils, precipitation patterns, topography, and natural vegetation. Recommended trees for each region perform reliably in that environment, and should thrive for many years.

Recommended trees by region: Southeast | Southwest | Northwest and central | Northern tallgrass prairie

Northern tallgrass prairie in Minnesota

Ecological areas of northern tallgrass prairie in Minnesota

Bounded to the west by the Red River and extending eastward to the limits of continuous tall grass prairie presettlement vegetation, much of this region is a large lake plain formed by the Glacial Lake Agassiz. Soils range from clays to sandy/gravelly beach ridges, may be poorly to moderately well drained, and are often very alkaline. Originally, the area was vegetated by bluestems, Indian grass, and other grasses. Narrow, forested floodplains were common along larger streams and rivers. Broader zones of woodland were common along the fire shadows of streams.

Recommended trees for northern tallgrass prairie

Recommended trees: Trees in these sections include species that have a history of performing well as street, boulevard, or landscape trees in general for Northern Tallgrass Prairie Minnesota.

Limited use: Trees in these sections may have some value in certain instances, such as unusually harsh planting sites, or for wildlife cover, but are not recommended for general use.

Trees to try: Trees in these sections have shown promise in landscapes or as street trees, but either do not have a long history of use in Northern Tallgrass Prairie Minnesota or require specific siting requirements such as wind protection or acidic soils. Use caution until their performance is better documented.

Trees to use with caution: Trees in these sections either have chronic problems with growing and overall health, such as damaging diseases or site intolerances, or are not reliably hardy to the area, e.g., they are out of their natural cold hardiness zone. Use these trees with moderation in very well-prepared landscape sites with regular maintenance or well-protected microclimates.

Deciduous trees for northern tallgrass prairie

Conifers for northern tallgrass prairie

Revised by Adam Flett 2009

  • © Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved.
  • The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer. Privacy