Some trees have to be tougher than others.

Trees growing in commercial property parking lots and other paved areas have to weather some tough conditions.

Heat. Salt. Drought. Compaction.

This isn’t a job for any old tree.

Let’s take a look at five of the best trees for parking lots.

The Benefits Of Trees In Paved Areas

Nothing breaks up a big expanse of pavement like pretty shade trees.

trees in parking area

Adding trees in and around parking lots and pavement improves appearance, prevents soil erosion, and adds oxygen to the environment.

Planted areas also reduce storm water drainage problems, buffer wind and noise, and make passers-by and parking customers happy by providing cool shade.

But they have to be tough.

Challenges For Parking Lot Trees

Many of the urban challenges that trees face begin with the construction process.

At the beginning of parking lot construction, tree-loving topsoil is typically removed. The subgrade is then compacted, followed by layers of crushed stone, then asphalt or concrete that’s spread and compacted.

The resulting soil mix under the pavement is hardly root friendly and has very low oxygen.

- Lack Of Water

Paved surfaces are engineered to quickly shed water, often in directions that either deprive trees of adequate soil moisture or leave their roots submerged in excess water.

- Excess Heat

The sun really bakes parking lots and other pavement and it’s made even worse by reflecting off adjacent buildings and cars.

What Makes A Tree Parking Lot Friendly?

Selecting the right trees for parking lots and other paved areas is tricky. They need to tolerate salt, heat, drought, and compaction.

Another consideration: fruit. You don’t want a parking lot tree to produce messy or smelly fruit that annoys the customers parked beneath it.

Five Of The Best Trees For Parking Lots

Here are five of our favorite trees for paved areas:


The American elm was once the most common street tree in America, until Dutch elm disease struck in the 1930s. But the mighty elm has been making a comeback with disease-resistant cultivars, and several are well-suited to parking lots and paved areas.

Elm tree near parking lot

The Chinese elm also adapts well to a wide range of soil types and does well in urban conditions. It thrives in drought and is resistant to Dutch elm disease, elm leaf beetle and Japanese beetle.

Elms are also salt tolerant, which makes them a good choice for parking lots.

Zelkova ‘Green Vase’

A nice tree by any measure, this zelkova — a tree native to Asia — has pretty branches for a great winter silhouette and dark green leaves that turn soft yellow, orange and russet in autumn.

Zelkova tree

It’s also a great tree for the urban landscape, as it has a high tolerance for wind, pollution, drought and compacted soils.

Crape Myrtle

This beauty, with its gorgeous, drooping flower clusters ranging from red to pink to lavender to white, would brighten any parking lot.

Crape Myrtle Tree

It looks fragile and exotic, but is surprisingly hardy. These heat-lovers actually thrive in parking lots, blooming luxuriantly in the reflected heat off the pavement.

It can also withstand drought after becoming established and is relatively free of diseases and insects.

Littleleaf Linden

This pretty tree, with its pleasing shape, dense canopy and super-fragrant flowers, isn’t bothered by air pollution, poor drainage or compacted soil, making it a parking lot winner.

Littleleaf Linden Tree flowers

It does well in full sun to part shade, tolerates all soil types and has moderate drought tolerance.

Red Maple

The red maple is one of the most common and widespread deciduous trees of eastern and central North America. This hardy tree will grow most anywhere. Best known for its brilliant deep scarlet foliage in autumn, the red maple is super adaptable. You’ll find it growing in swamps, in the poorest dry soil, and most anywhere in between.

Red maple tree

Parking lots? No problem.

Let Us Help Find The Right Trees For You

Our plant experts love finding just the right trees for the right spots — including the best trees for parking lots.

At Level Green Landscaping, we provide commercial landscape maintenance services — including tree planting — in Maryland, Northern Virginia and Washington DC. Our clients include commercial, office, mixed-use, retail, HOA, condominium, municipality and institution properties.

We’d love to hear from you. Call us at 202-544-0968, or request a free consultation online to keep your commercial property looking great.

Let Us Help Identify The Best Trees For Your Parking Lot

Image source: elm tree, zelkova, crape myrtle, littleleaf linden, red maple tree