Lining a driveway with trees, in a long row that flanks both sides, mimics the classic landscape design feature known as an allee. A driveway is smaller and usually shorter in scale than the grand allees of the world, such as the Avenue des Champs d'Elysees in Paris. The best tree or palm species for lining a property's driveway varies by regions, based on climate and soils. However, the most well-suited plants share characteristics.
Measure the area around your driveway to determine how much space you have to plant trees. Based on the planting space on each side of the drive, determine what mature size is appropriate for the scale of your property. Trees that mature 50 feet or more tall require much more growing space. Conversely, small-sized trees that mature only 20 feet tall may be more in scale and look better. For example, a crab apple or foxtail palm is smaller in scale than massive-growing plants such as a burr oak or royal palm.
Habit and Form
Ample clearance is needed on a driveway to permit unimpeded access by pedestrians and vehicles. Not only is the mature size of the tree important, but so is a canopy shape/habit that is more upright — sometimes called fastigiate by horticulturists — and that allows cars and trucks to pass without running into low branches. Narrow, columnar trees or those with upright oval- or vase-shaped silhouettes are best. Examples include cypress, palms, Japanese zelkova, ginkgo and elm. Avoid trees with weeping forms or wide-spreading canopies such as weeping willow or cherry, chestnut or clumping palms.
The best trees to line a driveway do not develop surface roots. You don't walk tree roots infiltrating the driveway's surface to create bumps, snakelike ridges or cracks in the gravel or pavement. Also, choose trees that are strong-wooded. Do not plant trees known to drop limbs or to break in wind gusts or under the weight of heavy snow or ice in winter. Often the strongest trees are slower growing and take years to reach their mature size.
With the list of best potential trees to grow alongside a driveway being quite large and variable from region to region, a local county cooperative extension agent, arborist or botanical garden horticulturist could make specific tree recommendations. These professionals know about trees suitable to the climate and soils of your area, and they can advise which trees are disease-resistant, prohibited by law or ordinance, attractive and available at local plant nurseries. They also can mention subtle characteristics to help you choose the best tree for your property. Some trees drop sap, pollen or flowers that can stain pavement or vehicles. Others may drop seed and twig litter that you may find to be too much maintenance along the driveway.