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5 Messy Trees to Avoid Planting in Your Yard


There are many benefits to having big, beautiful trees included in your landscape. Not only do they bring much-needed shade during the warm summer months, but they can also provide a windbreak during fall and winter, increase the curb appeal of your home, and add to the overall value of your property. Unfortunately, these large, majestic plants also come with a significant amount of upkeep. While some trees can require a little less maintenance, there are definitely some messy trees to avoid.

All trees will require some upkeep. They need water and nutrients to grow big and strong, just like we do, but not all of them require the same amount of care and attention. Evergreens, for example, don’t shed their leaves each year like deciduous trees. This means less raking in the fall. Evergreens can require their own upkeep, but each homeowner has to pick their preference for the level of care requirements.

The trees we consider messy and that require more attention tend to have more than just falling leaves. They may also have acorns, pinecones, or fruits and berries that stain your clothes and rot in the yard if not cleaned up regularly. At Vernon Imel, we’re all about saving you from extra work and regretful tree choices, so we want to give you some insight on five messy trees to avoid adding to your landscape.

Ginkgo Tree

The ginkgo tree has a lot of positive qualities. They develop strong root systems, are resistant to wind and snow damage, and are generally aesthetically appealing. In the fall, the ginkgo’s leaves turn a lovely shade of yellow before falling. If you can get a male ginkgo tree, the messiest part will be fallen leaves and some small pollen cones covering your yard.

The female ginkgo, on the other hand, produces seeds that contain a yellow-brown, fleshy outer layer that’s soft and fruit-like. These seeds are what make this one of the most undesirably messy trees to avoid planting in your yard. While visually attractive, when these seeds fall from the tree, they have a strong rancid smell, like vomit, due to the butyric acid they contain. Mix these fallen, fruit-like seeds in with the leaves and you’ll have a difficult and unpleasant mess to clean up from your yard each year.

Mulberry Tree

If you’re a homeowner who likes fruit-bearing trees, you may be considering a mulberry tree. While mulberries may be a nice snack to pick from the tree or add into a dessert at home, the trees have a few downsides you may want to think about before adding one of them to your yard. Besides the fact that they have an aggressive root system that can damage sidewalks, drains, and foundations, the fruit also stains everything.

Mulberry trees bear a lot of fruit, usually more than you can harvest and eat. This means all those extra berries are dropping onto the grass, the sidewalk, and the driveway. They can stain the cement, clothes, and shoes, which then track the remnants into your house. As birds also enjoy the tasty berries, they’re going to frequent your yard adding their droppings into the mix. As these droppings will likely contain recently consumed mulberry seeds, be prepared to add some extra weeding to your list of chores as well.


Cottonwood trees are often sought out for their general aesthetical appeal, low maintenance, and fast-growing nature. Like all trees on this list, though, cottonwoods have their own set of problems. These trees have shallow root systems, leading to instability during high winds and strong storms. In general, their branches and bark are brittle and will litter the area around them throughout the year.

Also, as you may have deduced from their name, these trees shed seeds that are fuzzy and look similar to cotton during the springtime. These fluffy seeds will end up all over the yard and stuck inside window screens. They are unpleasant to clean up, and while the seeds are spreading, they fill the air like a summer snow, getting in your face and mouth.

Magnolia Trees

The pink and white flowers of a magnolia tree—along with its general architecture—can make many homeowners tempted to add this tree to their landscape. As pretty as these flowers are, however, they present a challenging mess as they fall. The flower petals are strong, wet, and leathery. The leaves are also waxy and difficult to rake up. A lawnmower, however, isn’t necessarily the answer to cleaning up the mess they make. The leaves and petals are likely to build up between the blades and clog your mower.

Don’t forget about the magnolia tree cones shedding throughout the year and hiding under those fallen leaves and petals. They are a hazard to your lawnmowers, pets, and feet.

Oak Trees

These large, imposing trees are often regarded as elegant and have an air of sophistication about them due to the oak’s reoccurring symbolism of strength and wisdom. Although very popular and a highly sought-after tree to add to many landscapes, oak trees come with a large mess to clean up each year. As any deciduous tree, they shed their leaves annually. Their greatest challenge, however, is the many acorns that accompany them. Like the cones from magnolia trees, the firm little acorns pose a hazard that’s not easily raked up and cleared away.

If You Want a Messy Tree Anyways

While these five are typically messy trees to avoid, we know there are homeowners who want to take on the challenge of care and upkeep to enjoy the beauty and other benefits these trees can provide. If you’re one of these homeowners, we recommend doing your research. Consider the maintenance these trees will require and plant them out of highly trafficked areas in your yard. If you need help planning for the care of one of these, or any tree for that matter, feel free to reach out and talk to one of our trained arborists who are always here to help.