13 Trees That Grow in Rocky Soil (Including Fruit Trees!)

pinyon tree joshua tree national park

It’s lovely living in a home perched on the side of a mountain! One of the only downsides is researching the best trees that grow in rocky soil – especially if your soil is dry or compacted.

Smaller plants (and weeds) gently nestle and grow amongst the rocks. But, how do you successfully plant trees in rocky, stony, or compacted soil – and which trees do we recommend?

In this guide, we’re showcasing the perfect trees with reputations for growing in rocky, sandy, or shallow soils. Some of these trees may even grow in downright deplorable soil conditions. (See our notes below!)

If you’re looking for some trees to plant in your uninviting stony soil, take a look at the selection we have lined up!

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13 Trees That Grow in Rocky Soil

These are the 13 best trees for rocky soil that we could find. Enjoy the list!

1. Pinyon Pines

pinyon tree utah national park
Here’s an iconic (and beautiful) Pinyon pine tree from Zion National Park. Pinyon pine trees are popular in New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, and other southwestern US states.

Pinyon pine trees are drought-hardy trees that are relatively small compared to other pine trees with a maximum height of 20 feet (6 meters). They commonly grow in dry hilly areas of the southwestern USA.

The yellowish-green pine needles are about two inches in length, and the cones resemble brown rosettes. Pinyon pines are slow-growing trees and can live for over six hundred years!

Read More – How Far Apart Should You Plant Fruit Trees? – Read Our Fruit Tree Spacing Tips!

2. Jack Pine Trees

jack pine tree blue skies park
Jack pines are elegant North American pines that grow from the icy landscapes of Central Canada – all the way to Minnesota and Southern New England.

Jack pine trees are survivors, managing climates that are arid or frigid and icy. They grow best on sandy and rocky soil in full sun but do not enjoy growing in humid environments.

Their trunks twist to the point where sometimes, they grow sideways. They have short rigid olive-green needles and curved cones.

Hare and deer eat Jack pine saplings. Porcupines love to chew on the bark, which contributes to the twisting of the trunk. A variety of small animal and bird species eat their seeds.

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3. Eastern Red Cedar

monarch butterflies visiting red cedar tree
It’s easy to fall in love with eastern red cedar trees. Expect to attract a host of friendly pollinators – including butterflies. Eastern red cedars also make the best outdoor Christmas trees!

The eastern red cedar is a fir tree that prefers poor quality soil and copes easily with rocky soil. The bark is reddish-brown in a young tree and gradually turns gray with age.

There is a seasonal leaf color change. Leaves are deep green in spring, bluish-green in summer, and light green or yellow in winter.

The eastern red cedar reaches heights of 30 – 70 feet ( 10 – 23 meters). It’s ideal for rocky regions as it has a shallow spreading root system. It’s a beneficial tree to plant in support of wildlife as it feeds a multitude of insects, birds, and deer. (Especially butterflies!)

Did you know?

Contrary to popular belief, and despite its name, red cedar is a juniper! Not a cedar. Red cedar produces breathtaking foliage and also has a reputation for resilience and for growing in nearly any soil – even in dry soil conditions.

Red cedar trees are cold-hardy and also tremendously low-maintenance. As a testament to the resilience of red cedars, consider that they have invaded and taken old fields! (Too many fields to count, I suspect.)

4. Quaking Aspen

autumn birch forest background 2021 10 26 16 09 15 utc
Quaking aspen is a hardy deciduous tree that grows in the colder parts of the US. The widespread popularity of quaking aspen has led to a wide array of nicknames! Quaking aspens are also called golden aspen, trembling aspen, American aspen, mountain aspen, and more.

Quaking aspens are deciduous trees that do well in rocky soils. They generally grow to heights of 20 – 80 feet (6 – 24 meters) and live between 150 to 200 years. Aspens have bark that varies in color from white to green, greenish-yellow, and gray.

The leaves are green in summer and change to yellow, gold, or orange in the fall. The leaves have a flattened stem which results in the leaves quaking or rustling with every breeze.

Read More – Top 9 Best Fruit Trees for Zone 4 Gardens!

5. Dwarf Birch

dwarf birch yellow flowers
The dwarf birch is an eloquent Betulaceae known for surviving icy cold temperatures. The dwarf birch blossoms produce some of the deepest shades of yellow that I’ve ever seen. Beautiful!

The dwarf birch prefers to grow in cool temperate or arctic regions. It grows best in rocky or sandy soil that is poor in nutrients. It’s a shrubby type of tree with a maximum height of approximately 3 feet.

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6. Paper Bark Birch Tree

paper birch tree foliage
Paper birch trees grow in abundance in the northern parts of the US and Canada. They get their name from the tree’s strangely-thin bark – which seemingly peels away like paper.

The paperbark birch is a tree that is native to the northern USA, Alaska, and Canada. It’s adaptable to soil conditions and grows on rocky outcrops. The bark is white and peels in thin strips. In fall, the leaves change to brilliant yellow.

Read More – Salad Grows on Trees! Five Trees With Edible Leaves You Can Easily Grow Yourself!

7. Cherry Trees

cherry trees landscape farm
Both sweet and sour cherry trees require a period of cold temperatures to produce fruit! California, Wisconsin, Michigan, Oregon, and Washington are popular hubs for cherry trees in the US.

Cherry trees are fruit trees that you could plant with confidence in a rocky region. They need cold winters to produce a good fruit yield. Cherry trees do best in well-drained soil as their roots become rotten in moist or clay soil.

Their soil preference makes fruit trees ideal for rocky, well-drained soil.

8. Citrus Trees

orange tree orchard farm grove
Your orange tree can withstand relatively rocky soil and rewards your gardening efforts with delicious fruits for your homestead! Expect anywhere from 100 oranges up to several hundred oranges per year.

Citrus trees have a shallow root system, making them a possible choice for rocky ground. They do need copious amounts of water to bear fruit! So, take this into account if you choose to plant lemon, orange, grapefruit, or tangerine trees.

Read More – 7 DIY Strawberry Planter Ideas and Plans for the Best Strawberries!

9. Apricot Trees

delicious apricots in tree
Apricot trees, also known as Prunus armeniaca, produces pink and white flowers in full blossom. Apricot trees also grow an unbelievably-flavorful edible fruit with an orange or yellowish complexion!

Apricot trees are small, neat trees that can grow successfully amongst rocks. They have rounded leaves and are attractive. They’re also prized for their deliciously and abundant fruit!

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10. Olive Trees

olive tree growing in field
Olive trees are evergreens that produce tiny white flowers. There are hundreds of cultivars of olive trees – each with unique sizes, colors, and characteristics. Most olives reach around one-half-inch to 1-inch when ripe.

Olive trees will adapt to grow in rocky soils as long as there is good drainage. They easily live to be 500 years old! They can also reach heights of 50 feet if unpruned. (Though, they are usually around 30 – 35 feet.)

There are hundreds of olive tree cultivars, and visiting a nursery will allow you to pick the right one for your climate.

Did you know?

Olive trees have grown throughout the Mediterranean, Africa, and Asia for thousands of years! They prefer sandy soils with adequate drainage. Olive trees can survive some cold weather – but abhor deep freezing temperatures.

The pollination of olive trees varies wildly from cultivar to cultivar. Some olive trees self-pollinate and are self-fertile. Others are not. Also – some olive trees may produce a higher olive yield with cross-pollination from a different olive cultivar. Mother Nature keeps everyone guessing!

11. Bur Oak

bur oak tree beautiful sunrise
Bur oak trees have a reputation for adaptability – which makes them an excellent choice for rocky soils. Bur oaks have thick limbs – perfect for shade – or swingsets!

Bur oaks are large, beautiful trees famous for their strong, limbering branches and thick trunks. Spanning from Texas to Canada – these trees also have robust versatility and can grow in rocky soils.

Bur oak trees tolerate a wide range of soil conditions, though they’re most famous throughout the Eastern US and especially the Great Plains.

12. Northern Red Oak

red oak alone in the field
Red oaks are magnificently strong trees! But, watch out! Their roots stretch out laterally beyond upwards of 50 feet or more, depending upon the age – and size – of the tree.

North red oaks are majestic and towering trees that reach up to 90 feet tall and grow in the mountainous regions of North Carolina.

Northern red oaks offer plenty of acorns for your local wildlife, and they look perfect for nearly any rural setting. Red oaks also have stunning orange and red foliage in the fall that will make you look twice!

13. Maple Trees

lone maple tree in nature
Maple trees have shallow root systems – and they’re beautiful trees! But, you should know about the dreaded Asian Long-Horned Beetle before planting one. The Asian Long-Horned Beetle is invading many parts of the US – and one of their favorite targets is maple trees!

Maple trees are popular in urban settings, though they also look beautiful posted on your rural farm, homestead, or backyard!

There are over 130 maple tree species to consider! Red maple is one of the most common maple varieties that also handles rocky soil. Red maples can reach up to 70 feet tall, and they have lovely red foliage.

Growing Trees in Rocky Soil FAQs!

Growing Trees in Rocky Soil FAQs!

If you spend much time speculating which fruit trees (or oak trees) to grow in your yard, you’re sure to encounter questions!

Luckily, we’ve spent oodles of time brainstorming the best trees for growing in rocky soil.

Hopefully, these answers serve your tree-planting endeavors well!

Do Trees Grow in Rocky Soil? Our Final Answer!

You can plant trees in rocky soil, but you must choose shallowly rooted trees appropriate for the climate. It’s also essential to supply adequate water as some trees will tolerate rocky soil but may need more water to compensate for the amount of drainage in the rocky dirt.

It’s almost impossible to plant trees on bedrock as they cannot establish a root system capable of supporting their nutrient needs and anchoring them sufficiently in the soil.

Thank you for reading – and please let us know if you have more questions about planting trees in rocky soil!

Read More – Food Forest Introduction – The Seven Layers of the Forest Garden!

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