Best Trees for Allergy Sufferers

a small family sitting outdoors on the grass with large trees in the background

Do you enjoy early mornings on the patio or in the garden, but suffer from seasonal allergies? We put together a list of seven of the best trees for allergy sufferers to help you build an allergy-free landscape. 

Allergy season varies, depending on where you live. Get started with allergy-free gardening by learning more about the best trees for allergy sufferers, and how you can best manage allergy symptoms. 

Each of the best trees for allergy sufferers is low-pollen monoecious, meaning the tree has both male and female flowers. While the male flowers produce pollen, it’s coarse and heavy compared to pollen produced by wind-pollinated trees, since it doesn’t need to travel very far.

Male dioecious (not self-pollinating) trees and high-pollen monoecious, like birch trees, are the leading contributors to your seasonal allergies. You can have dioecious trees in your allergy-free garden, too, just make sure they are female or sterile. 

1. Crabapple trees (Malus spp.)

Fragrant crabapples bloom for a week or two during mid to late spring. Its flowers range in color from pink and white to red and magenta. Throughout the year, foliage is mostly green. Depending on the variety it will turn orange, yellow, or red in fall. 

Crabapples produce small, usually red, fruit that resembles miniature apples. Their fruit is tart compared to their relative the apple tree, but crabapples can be canned and used to make jam. They were introduced to North America in the 18th Century and now grow throughout the United States. 

  • Hardiness zones: 3-8
  • Reproduction: Monoecious
  • Sun: Full sun
  • Soil: Well-drained, rich soil
  • Foliage: Deciduous
  • Bloom time: 10 days from mid-late spring
  • Mature size: 15-20 feet tall, 10-25 feet wide

2. Crepe myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)

The crepe myrtle (AKA Lilac of the South) is loved for its color and for being a low-maintenance tree. Its showy blooms flower in the summer, sometimes continuing into the fall. Foliage changes from green to red, orange, and yellow in autumn. It also has peeling bark and small brown fruit. 

The crepe myrtle tree can grow somewhat quickly with a moderately long lifespan, sometimes more than 50 years. 

  • Hardiness zones: 7-10
  • Reproduction: Monoecious
  • Sun: Full sun
  • Soil: Slightly acidic, medium moist, and well-drained soil
  • Foliage: Deciduous
  • Bloom time: Varies; typically begins mid-late spring lasting for 90-120 days
  • Mature size: 10-30 feet tall, 15-25 feet wide

3. Dogwood trees (Cornus spp.)

One of the most beloved flowering trees in the United States, Dogwoods produce beautiful pink and white blooms in the spring, and small red fruits in the fall. The flowering dogwood is the state tree of Virginia and Missouri. In autumn, its foliage turns reddish-purple. 

Dogwoods are primarily pollinated by insects, and the pollen is unlikely to cause an allergic reaction. 

  • Hardiness zones: 5-9
  • Reproduction: Monoecious
  • Sun: Partial shade to full sun
  • Soil: Moist, well-drained soil that’s slightly acidic
  • Foliage: Deciduous
  • Bloom time: 10-14 days in April or May
  • Mature size: 15-40 feet tall, 15-20 feet wide

4. Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis)

The eastern redbud is Oklahoma’s state tree and is found from central Texas to the East Coast. It has beautiful pink blooms in April, which flower close to the branches, coating the tree in color. Its heart-shaped, leathery leaves turn from red to green and usually yellow throughout the year.

This tree is in the legume family, and its fruit looks like dried bean pods that turn brown or black before falling to the ground.  

  • Hardiness zones: 4-9
  • Reproduction: Monoecious
  • Sun: Full sun to partial shade
  • Soil: Moist, well-drained
  • Foliage: Deciduous 
  • Bloom time: 2-3 weeks in March or April
  • Mature size: 20-30 feet tall, 25-30 feet wide

5. Magnolia trees (Magnolia spp.)

The sweet-smelling magnolia is a Southern favorite, with enormous, waxy leaves and colorful spring blooms. Flowers bloom in early spring with a variety of colors, including white, yellow, purple, pink, and red. Some can stand tall as trees in your yard, while other cultivars can adorn your landscape as tall shrubs. 

If grown from seed, magnolias may not bloom for several years — it can even take up to 20 years, in some cases. Southern magnolia is the state tree of Mississippi. 

Common magnolia varieties include Southern magnolia, sweetbay magnolia, and star magnolia.

  • Hardiness zones: 4-9
  • Reproduction: Monoecious
  • Sun: Full sun to partial shade
  • Soil: Rich, acidic, and well-drained
  • Foliage: Can be evergreen, semi-evergreen, or deciduous
  • Bloom time: Varies greatly depending on species, from weeks to months
  • Mature size: 15 to 80 feet tall (depending on the variety), up to 40 feet wide

6. Pear tree (Pyrus spp.)

Pear trees, like most fruit trees, will contribute to your kitchen, not your seasonal allergies. Pear trees are popular because they don’t have as many pest issues compared to apple trees, and are low maintenance. Pear trees have glossy, rounded green leaves that turn red or yellow in the fall.

You’ll need to be patient if you want to bite into a juicy pear from your backyard; they can take between three and 10 years to begin producing fruit. 

  • Hardiness zones: 4-8
  • Reproduction: Monoecious
  • Sun: Full sun
  • Soil: Deep, moist, fertile, and well-drained soil
  • Foliage: Deciduous
  • Bloom time: A couple of weeks between February and April
  • Mature size: 8-30 feet tall (depending on the variety), 8-20 feet wide

7. Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera)

Indiana’s state tree, the tulip tree, is a fast-growing tree with tulip-shaped flowers. Sometimes called tulip poplar or yellow poplar, this tree blooms in May and June with orange, yellow, and green flowers. 

Tulip trees have hand-shaped (palmate) leaves with four pointed lobes. When planting, keep in mind that this tree’s trunk can grow up to 6 feet in diameter. The tulip tree is also sensitive to high temperatures and drought conditions. 

  • Hardiness zones: 4-9
  • Reproduction: Monoecious 
  • Sun: Full or partial sun
  • Soil: Moist, well-drained, slightly acidic soil
  • Foliage: Deciduous
  • Bloom time: For a month or more in late spring and early summer
  • Mature size: 90-120 feet tall, 35-50 feet wide

Other hypoallergenic trees

You have plenty of options when it comes to your allergy-free landscape. In addition to the trees listed above, look into planting low- or pollen-free trees such as:

  • Fruit trees like apples, lemons, and persimmon
  • Stone fruit trees, like plums, apricots, cherries, and peaches
  • Female or sterile dioecious trees like mulberry, aspen, boxelder, juniper, cedar, and yew

While you’re looking for allergy-friendly trees, why not begin learning about the best flowers for allergy sufferers, like petunias and geraniums? With some research and creative landscaping, you can create a garden full of flowering plants that’s allergy-free.

What is pollen, and how does it cause allergies?

That irritating yellow dust seems to come out of nowhere and cover the town each year, usually in the spring, but what is it for? 

Pollen is made by the stamen, or the male reproductive part, of the tree’s flower. That pollen is intended to reach the female reproductive part, the pistil. Monoecious plants that have both stamens and pistils (usually very close together) can self-fertilize, often with the help of pollinators like bees and butterflies. 

Dioecious plants, however, often require wind pollination for the fertilization process, which is why their pollen is saturated in the air. This is the pollen you breathe in, which can lead to an allergic reaction. 

Signs you may have a tree allergy

Allergies largely depend on the type of trees that grow in your region. Most people experience spring allergies, while others can have seasonal allergies every winter or fall. Usually, your pollen allergies will flare up around the same time each year if you stay in the same city or region. 

Allergies, sometimes called “hay fever,” are most common between March and May, when most trees pollinate. Warmer climates often experience allergy flareups in the fall, between September and December. 

Symptoms of allergies include:

  • Headache
  • Red, watery eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose or rhinorrhea
  • Itchy mouth, ears, nose, eyes, and throat
  • Sore throat
  • Tiredness 
  • Mucus 
  • Sinus infection
  • Plugged ears
  • Nasal congestion

It’s common for people with allergic asthma to be triggered during allergy season and experience some symptoms of asthma. 

To determine whether you’re dealing with a cold or allergies, check your mucus (gross, we know). Allergy mucus tends to be runny and clear, compared to cold mucus which is thicker and tends to be white, yellow, or green. 

How to manage tree allergies

You can’t always see the pollen in the air, but that doesn’t mean you can’t minimize exposure. 

Make your home and yard allergy-free:

  • Plant female, sterile, or non-allergenic trees
  • Wash the pollen off your car, house, and outdoor spaces
  • Keep doors and windows closed
  • Change clothes and shower after coming inside

Avoid breathing in or ingesting pollen:

  • Cover up with a hat, long sleeves, pants
  • Add a mask and sunglasses to keep pollen out of your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Wear glasses instead of contact lenses
  • Wear the above with gloves while doing yard work
  • Avoid going outside between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m., when pollen counts are typically the highest

Manage your allergy symptoms with: 

  • Nose spray (Cromolyn sodium)
  • Decongestants
  • Antihistamines
  • Nasal irrigation devices (like Neti pots)
  • Immunotherapy
  • Nasal corticosteroids
  • Leukotriene receptors
  • Over-the-counter allergy meds

Consult with an immunologist if your symptoms are severe. They can conduct allergy testing to help you find out what exactly is triggering your allergy symptoms. Once you know your triggers, an allergist can help you manage symptoms with allergy injections and medications. 

Pro Tip: Keep an eye on the pollen count and start taking allergy meds ahead of time, before you start sniffling. 

FAQ about the best trees for allergy sufferers

1. What trees should I avoid planting?

Beware of planting male dioecious trees and monoecious trees that tend to produce high amounts of pollen. Some of the worst trees for allergy sufferers include:
Birch trees
Beech trees
“Cedar” or Juniper trees
Cottonwood trees
Elm trees
Hickory trees
Maple trees
Mulberry trees
Oak trees

2. When do tree allergies strike? 

Allergies affect most people during the spring, around March, April, and May. This is when trees and other allergenic plants usually pollinate. However, some trees pollinate in the summer, fall, and even the winter, so depending on the trees in your region and what you are allergic to, you could be sniffling throughout the year. 

3. What else is to blame for my allergies?

Trees aren’t the only culprits. Other pollens you might be reacting to include: 

Flowering plants and shrubs
Weeds like ragweed

Don’t get coated in pollen while mowing the lawn. Contact a local Lawn Love expert to take care of your lawn care needs and keep you from sneezing. 

Main Photo Credit: Agung Pandit Wiguna | Pexels

Sav Maive

Sav Maive is a writer and director based in San Antonio. Sav is a graduate from the University of Virginia and is a loving cat and plant mom.