17 Trees With Heart-Shaped Leaves

If you’re not well-versed in their identification, it can be difficult to distinguish one type of tree from another. There are several ways to figure out the identity of a tree but the simplest is to just look at the leaves.

Tree foliage comes in many shapes and sizes. Some of the most attractive, however, are heart-shaped leaves. 

In this article, I’ve listed some of the most common trees with heart-shaped leaves and shared key info about their care and growth habits. Whether you’re trying to ID something growing in your neighborhood or are in the market for a new shade tree, I’m sure you’ll find what you’re looking for below!

Understanding Heart-Shaped Leaves

In botanical terms, heart-shaped leaves are classified as cordate or cordiform. Cordate is just one of several recognized leaf shapes that are extremely valuable in identifying plant species. 

You can also compare foliage from multiple tree species to make an educated guess on whether they are closely related or not. Just keep in mind that foliage characteristics can vary even within a single genus.

Cordate Vs. Obcordate

A cordate leaf is one with two rounded lobes that come to a point — i.e., forming a geometric heart. In cordate leaves, the leaf stem attaches between the lobes.

An obcordate leaf is also heart-shaped. However, the key difference is that an obcordate leaf attaches to the stem at its point rather than between the lobes. 

Trees With Heart-Shaped Foliage

I’ve gone ahead and compiled some of the most common and notable trees with cordate foliage. My aim is to help you identify or locate the ideal tree for your landscaping needs, whatever those may be.

As you work through this list, keep in mind that every tree has unique environmental and care needs. Make note of things like height, hardiness zones, and general maintenance before deciding on a tree for your own property.

American Linden

1. American Linden

Tilia americana

  • Mature Height: 60-80’
  • Hardiness: 3-8
  • Origin: Eastern Canada, Eastern United States

Also known as American Basswood, this is a native, deciduous species commonly used as an ornamental shade tree. 

American Lindens produces many suckers. These suckers can be routinely pruned back to produce a large, single trunk. If allowed to grow, the suckers will naturally form a dense thicket of several smaller trunks.

One of the reasons Linden trees are popular is because of their fragrant yellow flowers. While the flowers tend to blend into the foliage, the pleasant scent — often described as a mix of honey and citrus — is impossible to ignore.

Balsam Poplar

2. Balsam Poplar

opulus balsamifera

  • Mature Height: 40-80’
  • Hardiness: 3-9
  • Origin: Canada, Northern United States

The Balsam Poplar is a North American tree belonging to the willow family. It has large, pointed, heart-shaped leaves and a distinctive resinous aroma.

Balsam Poplars are dioecious, which means that each tree is either male or female. Male Balsam Poplars produce catkins in early spring. Female trees, on the other hand, produce cotton seed clusters. Both of these structures typically appear before the year’s leaves.

These trees are known for being tough and adaptable. They can grow in a variety of conditions but typically prefer moist, full-sun environments. Balsam Poplars are able to tolerate urban stressors like pollution and road salt.

Eastern Redbud

3. Eastern Redbud

Cercis canadensis

  • Mature Height: 20-30’
  • Hardiness: 4-9
  • Origin: Eastern United States

When it comes to trees with cordate leaves, Redbuds are often some of the first to come to mind. The Eastern Redbud, which is native to the United States, is probably the most popular species within the genus.

Since these trees are part of the legume family, it should come as little surprise that the showy, pink flowers resemble those of pea plants. The Eastern Redbud blossoms in the spring before its leaves emerge and last for 2 to 3 weeks.

Eastern Redbuds are naturally small, understory trees, so they grow in both full sun and partial shade. Keep in mind, however, that full sun tends to produce the best flower display.

The leaves start out reddish before transitioning to dark green in the summertime. While Eastern Redbud foliage is normally heart-shaped, some varieties have rounder leaves.

European Linden - Trees With Heart-Shaped

4. European Linden

Tilia x europaea

  • Mature Height: 50-70’
  • Hardiness: 3-7
  • Origin: Europe

The European Linden, also known as a Common Lime, is a close relative of the American Linden. It’s a hybrid created by crossing the American Linden with the Little-Leaf Linden (Tilia cordata).

This tree can usually be distinguished from its American cousin by its smaller heart-shaped leaves and round canopy. Another difference between the two is that European Lindens tend to bloom earlier in the season. These trees boast the same fragrant, yellow flowers seen on all Tilia species.

European Lindens are preferred in urban environments because they have a better tolerance for pollution and other stressors. For this reason, they’re more plentiful than native Lindens in some parts of the United States.

Foxglove Tree

5. Foxglove Tree

Paulownia tomentosa 

  • Mature Height: 40-50’
  • Hardiness: 5-9
  • Origin: China

This China native goes by many names, including Empress Tree, Wild Bluebell Tree, and Princess Tree. Its most common name — Foxglove Tree — is inspired by the stunning purple flowers that appear in late spring.

The heart-shaped leaves can reach 15 to 25 inches across. Many people prune this tree to the ground annually to encourage larger foliage. If left unpruned, however, it will mature into a tall deciduous tree.

While these trees are undeniably attractive, they’ve become invasive throughout much of Eastern North America. Their rapid growth rate and prolific seed distribution mean that Foxglove Trees easily choke out native species.

The Foxglove Tree is not currently categorized as invasive in Great Britain. You can even find hybrid trees that are better adapted to life in the UK.

 Dove Tree

6. Dove Tree

Davidia involucrata

  • Mature Height: 20-40’
  • Hardiness: 6-8
  • Origin: China

The Dove Tree is another species with many common names — you may also know it as a Ghost Tree, Handkerchief Tree, or Laundry Tree.

The Dove Tree’s distinctive white flower petals are actually modified leaves that form around the otherwise inconspicuous blossoms. These modified leaves are also known as bracts.

With its heart-shaped leaves and white, tissuey flowers, this tree definitely turns heads. But according to North Carolina State University, it’s relatively rare in cultivation, even in its native China. 

If you love the Dove Tree’s aesthetic, the good news is that they are slowly becoming more popular as ornamental landscape plants. In the wild, however, these trees are categorized as endangered.

Tilia henryana

7. Henry’s Lime

Tilia henryana

  • Mature Height: 20-30’
  • Hardiness: 6-8
  • Origin: China

Despite the common name, Henry’s Lime is another type of Linden tree native to Asia. (In Great Britain, all Linden trees are commonly called Limes, though they have no relation to the citrus.)

The Henry’s Lime tree is generally slow-growing but will thrive in practically all soil conditions. The canopy is very rounded and attractive, making it a popular shade and ornamental tree.

Like the other Tilia species I’ve mentioned here, Henry’s Lime has heart-shaped foliage. But it’s unique in that its leaves have fringed, spiky margins. It’s impossible to mistake the leaves for those of another Linden variety!

Italian Alder

8. Italian Alder

Alnus cordata

  • Mature Height: 50-80’
  • Hardiness: 5-9
  • Origin: Italy, Corsica

While the Italian Alder is the only notable member of the Alnus genus with heart-shaped leaves, it’s also generally regarded as the best in terms of performance and appearance.

Italian Alders are surprisingly adaptable and will thrive in depleted soils and urban environments. This makes them very popular for use in land reclamation projects. These trees are also more drought-tolerant than many other shade trees, including those within the same genus.

The Italian Alder retains its leaves for much longer than other deciduous trees. As a result, it provides excellent shading and windbreaking when placed correctly.

For the above reasons, the Italian Alder is one of my top recommendations for adding shade to a property with low-quality soil! The only thing to really keep in mind is that this tree needs full sun exposure to grow. 

Quaking Aspen

9. Quaking Aspen

Populus tremuloides

  • Mature Height: 20-80’
  • Hardiness: 1-7
  • Origin: Canada, Northern United States

Quaking Aspens have uniquely flat petioles (leaf stems), which causes the heart-shaped foliage to tremble with even the gentlest breeze. Unsurprisingly, this is how the tree got its common name.

The Quaking Aspen is a member of the willow family with an impressive geographic range encompassing much of North America and originating from Wisconsin. This tree can survive all the way up to USDA Zone 1 — a rare feat!

These deciduous trees are also known for their white bark and yellow-gold fall color. Such traits have earned additional common names like White Aspen and Golden Aspen.

This tree is high-maintenance but probably not for the reasons you assume. While Quaking Aspens are quite hardy, they spread aggressively via offshoots from the root system. (Pando is a famous colony of such offshoots stemming from a single Quaking Aspen that covers over 100 acres.)

Japanese Tree Lilac

10. Japanese Tree Lilac

Syringa reticulata

  • Mature Height: 20-30’
  • Hardiness: 3-7
  • Origin: East Asia

This relative of the Common Lilac can grow as either a large shrub or a small tree. It may have several trunks — forming a small thicket — or a single central trunk.

Of course, the main attraction of the Japanese Tree Lilac is its showy, fragrant flowers. These plants usually bloom a bit later in the spring than traditional shrubs. Japanese Tree Lilacs generally produce white blossoms but I believe there are some colored cultivars out there as well.

The primary reason to plant a Japanese Tree Lilac versus training a Common Lilac into a tree form is that the former requires minimal shaping. You can leave one of these trees to its own devices and it will maintain a tidy canopy and growth habit.

Katsura

11. Katsura

Cercidiphyllum japonicum

  • Mature Height: 40-60’
  • Hardiness: 4-8
  • Origin: Japan

The Katsura tree is an interesting shade tree native to Japan that grows well throughout much of the United States. If you’re located in the Midwest or a similar climate, I strongly suggest adding this tree to your own garden.

This tree has a pyramidal canopy consisting of colorful heart-shaped leaves. Spring foliage starts out purple then turns green in the summer. In that fall, the leaves turn orange or yellow.

You can grow Katsura trees in partial shade and a variety of soil conditions. For the best results, though, rich soil containing a lot of organic matter is ideal.

Katsura trees are dioecious — i.e., separate male and female plants — but their flowers and fruit are largely insignificant. These trees are said to smell like caramel or cotton candy in the fall.

Northern Catalpa

12. Northern Catalpa

Catalpa speciosa

  • Mature Height: 40-60’
  • Hardiness: 4-8
  • Origin: Midwest United States

This United States native is extremely unique when it comes to its natural range. While many specimens have escaped cultivation and can be found growing throughout North America today, the Northern Catalpa is originally from a very small section of Illinois.

This tree boasts a tall, twisting trunk and large, heart-shaped leaves. It can adapt to almost all soil conditions and often grows up to 2 feet in a single year.

Northern Catalpas produce showy flowers followed by thin bean pods that dangle from the branches. These pods can grow up to 2 feet long on some trees.

Sacred Fig

13. Sacred Fig

Ficus religiosa

  • Mature Height: 50-100’
  • Hardiness: 10-11
  • Origin: Southeastern Asia

The Sacred Fig, or Bodhi Tree, is a species of ficus with deep ties to Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism. Outside of this religious significance, it is commonly grown as a tropical landscape tree or potted plant.

This tree’s unique leaves are, of course, heart-shaped. They also have wavy margins and distinctively long and narrow tips — almost like a short tail growing from the end of each leaf.

Interestingly, this tree may grow as an epiphyte (i.e., air plant) in the wild. Sacred Fig seeds that are deposited in the branches of other trees will germinate and produce aerial roots.

Silver Linden

14. Silver Linden

Tilia tomentosa

  • Mature Height: 50-70’
  • Hardiness: 4-7
  • Origin: Eastern Europe, Western Asia

The Silver Linden is yet another member of the Tilia genus with heart-shaped foliage. It’s native to Europe and Asia but is incredibly widespread as a shade tree throughout North America.

Silver Lindens look very similar to their brethren but stand out thanks to their namesake. The leaves of this tree are dark green with semi-metallic silver undersides. When the wind blows, the alternating colors produce a shimmering effect.

Silver Lindens are highly recommended as urban street trees because they have a tidy growth habit and tolerate mild air pollution. They can grow in many different soil types and are moderately drought-tolerant.

Southern Catalpa

15. Southern Catalpa

Catalpa bignonioides

  • Mature Height: 30-40’
  • Hardiness: 5-9
  • Origin: Southeastern United States

The Southern Catalpa is a flowering deciduous tree also sometimes known as a Cigar Tree. It grows well in shade and a wide range of soil types, though usually crops up in moist areas in the wild.

Compared to its Northern cousin, this tree tends to be short and stout, with an irregular canopy. Its leaves are heart-shaped and measure up to 12 inches long.

The bell-shaped flowers are usually white, yellow, or purple, depending on the variety. Southern Catalpas have a pleasant fragrance when in bloom but, according to North Carolina State University, let off an unpleasant aroma when their leaves are crushed.

Weeping Silver Linden

16. Weeping Silver Linden

Tilia petiolaris

  • Mature Height: 50-70’
  • Hardiness: 5-9
  • Origin: Eastern Europe, Western Asia

The last member of Tilia I want to highlight is the Weeping Silver Linden. Admittedly, I have a soft spot for this variety because I have one of my own.

In terms of overall appearance, this tree is remarkably similar to its cousin the Silver Linden. The primary distinction between the two — which are completely different species — is that the limbs of a Weeping Silver Linden drape toward the ground. Lower branches that are left intact can easily reach the ground.

As with the standard Silver Linden, this tree has heart-shaped foliage that gives off a silvery sheen from the underside.

White Mulberry

17. White Mulberry

Morus alba

  • Mature Height: 50-70’
  • Hardiness: 5-9
  • Origin: China

White Mulberries are fruit-bearing trees native to Asia. They have also naturalized throughout much of Europe and are considered invasive in parts of North America. It’s common for these trees to outcompete and interbreed with Red Mulberries, which are native to the United States.

A White Mulberry leaf may or may not be heart-shaped. It all depends on the age of the branch it grows on.

Young leaves are usually deeply lobed. Meanwhile, older foliage is distinctly heart- or ovate-shaped with notably serrated margins.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Tree Has Red Heart-Shaped Leaves?

The Burgundy Hearts Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis ‘Greswan’) has heart-shaped leaves that are reddish purple through spring and summer. In the fall, the leaves turn yellow. 

Other Redbud cultivars with red, heart-shaped foliage include ‘Ruby Falls’ and ‘Forest Pansy’.

Citations

Website | + posts

Ben's horticultural interest grew when graduating from Hertfordshire University in 1997. Having contributed to numerous publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Garden Design Magazine, and The English Garden. He is also the author of Propagating Houseplants Made Easy.