Best Windbreak Trees and Shrubs

Eastern Redbud tree in front of Pinus Parviflora. Commercial or residential landscaping by Perimeter Landscape OKC.

The modern inventions that have spoiled us over the years are too numerous to name. Even those of us who never set foot onto a wheat field or cotton field could certainly agree that farming looks different today than it did nearly 100 years ago. Residential and commercial landscaping solutions have evolved, too. From the modern combine and electric tillers to electricity for rural areas, the changes are mind-boggling.

One thing that hasn’t changed over the years is “where the wind comes sweeping down the plains.” We’re talking about Oklahoma, home of Brad Pitt, Reba McEntire, and Carrie Underwood.

The Sooner State suffered untold hardship in the 1930s when the “black blizzards,” better known as the Dust Bowl storms, came calling and stayed for a decade. These were devastating times for hundreds of thousands who ran out of hope and fled to more forgiving soil. With no roots to anchor the soil, the wind kicked up the plowed farmland, filling the air with so much dirt that the farmers were at a loss. In desperation to feed their families, they uprooted and sought livelihoods elsewhere.

In response, President Franklin D. Roosevelt decided to plant a 1,000-mile line of trees dubbed the National Shelterbelt that stretched from Canada to the Brazos River in Texas. The experiment was to shield the crops from the wind. It was a brilliant endeavor.

By lining the highway with “windbreak” trees, the south winds were no longer a threat, and life was eventually restored, but not before 7,000 people lost their lives to dust pneumonia.

Oklahoma, a Great Plains state, is well-known for its wind; therefore, crops, livestock, structures, and farmland are vulnerable. Windbreaks are often planted along roads, farmsteads, and in urban areas. As well as defending against the wind and erosion, windbreaks are also useful for offering privacy and curtailing noise from traffic.

There are numerous considerations when planting windbreaks, including which trees grow best where, which trees provide shade and sun control (thereby reducing summer heat), which ones provide canopies, and which ones cling to trellises as well as directly to the walls. Don’t have a trellis? Perhaps a wire fence or arbor might be the way to go, as they can protect without the foliage directly sticking to the side of a house, thereby causing possible damage to the wood.

Concerned about snow? You will certainly want to investigate trees that provide insulation against the winter winds.

Your local extension agency, as well as your landscaping company, can be of monumental assistance and you should bow to their expertise when making selections. It is one thing to beautify the landscape, it is quite another to beautify and then regret.

While there are plenty of windbreaker trees and shrubs, several things must be taken into consideration for the survival of your project:

  • Temperature as well as rainfall
  • Type of soil
  • Amount of exposure to sun or shade
  • Height and density
  • How close the trees/shrubs should be planted in proximity to others
  • Whether or not other trees/shrubs should be planted to offset diseases/infestations

Oklahoma City, located in central Oklahoma, is classified as zones 6b or 7a. Make sure to check the hardiness zone for the best results so that they thrive. Depending on environmental conditions, here are a few ideas to get you started:

Best Trees for Wind Protection:

  • Oklahoma Redbud – strong with deep roots, these are a lovely addition to the garden, making a perfect complement for sipping iced tea on the veranda. Since they are wind-resilient, they might even keep your hat from blowing away.
  • Euonymus, Pink Lady – deciduous and considered a windbreak, these trees have lovely buds.
  • Eastern Red Cedar – excellent as screen trees to protect from wind and noise.
  • Red Pine – untidy and known for shedding dead branches around the yard and not picking up after themselves, these fine pines are quick growing and make excellent windbreakers.
  • Superior Hybrid Poplar Tree – these trees can grow up to 8 feet in a year, thus providing shade quickly. They are also cold-climate friendly, able to survive up to -30 degrees.
  • Shumard Oak Tree – strong, resilient, and able to withstand strong winds. Perfect for urban landscapes, this is the one you want to park yourself under on a sweltering summer day. It’s a big tree, so make sure to invite your family and friends.
  • Autumn Blaze Red Maple Tree – this red-headed beauty boasts low- maintenance and show-stopping drive-by rubbernecking. It’s proof that nature has its very own paintbrush.

Best Shrubs for Wind Protection:

  • Elderberry bushes – the wildly popular Elderberry bush has several varieties, and bears fruit that is used in juices, jams, and wine, as well as lip-smacking pie. Often grouped together, these bushes provide screening and are visually appealing.
  • Hazelnut – this shrubbery boasts edible nuts bursting with flavor – just ask the squirrels. Look just about anywhere and you’ll find hazelnut-flavored coffee, creamer, muffins, dressing, and salads. Hazelnut is definitely worth considering if you enjoy dual-purpose planting.
  • Lilac – when the frost is gone, the blooms come out. This flowering bush is not only fragrant; it’s pleasing to the eye.

If the Dust Bowl of the 1930s wasn’t convincing enough for windbreak additions to your landscape, then you were born too late.

Stand in the kitchen on a June evening in Oklahoma, and you might think you hear ocean waves crashing against the shore. But you know that’s not possible, because you are nowhere near the coast and there’s not a sandcastle in sight. And if you happen to have a dog or cat that likes to run, you might want to be sure the door is secured because it gets windy enough to open the door without your help. If that sounds extreme, it’s not – it’s just descriptive.

Such are some valid reasons for planting windbreakers. Not sure which options to choose? That’s okay – at Perimeter Landscape, our seasoned professionals will partner with you to plan a landscape that will provide you with years of enjoyment and protection from the elements. Our extensive knowledge is unparalleled, and our service is second to none.

 Give us a call today. We promise you will be blown away.