14 Dirtiest & Messiest Trees To Not Plant In Your Yard

Yellow and brown foliage is collected in several black plastic garbage bags and scattered on the green grass stands under a tree in a city park.

Chances are, you do not enjoy raking your yard (who does?) So when planning your landscaping, research trees that produce a lower mess. Trees that produce less mess are important for you as you will not be raking, cleaning pollen off your car, or cleaning your gutters often.

In truth, the dirtiest and messiest trees for your yard are sweet gum, ash, bradford pear, pecan, northern catalpa, cottonwood, hackberry, silver maple, weeping willow, southern magnolia, loquat, gingko and red oak trees. These trees either drop leaves, debris, pollen, and fruits in your yard.

Below is a list of trees that someone looking for a low-maintenance yard should not plant. These trees each have unique qualities and needs for care. While these trees aren’t bad to plant in your yard, they can be quite dirty and messy over time.

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How Clean Are Sweet Gum Trees?

Sweetgum seeds on tree

Although this tree is exquisite to look at, it comes with a price. This tree produces a massive mess for you to clean up.

The seed pods of the Sweet Gum tree are tiny spiky balls. Native to Kentucky, this tree can grow to over 70 feet tall in full adulthood, meaning you will have a ton of tiny spiky balls haunting your yard.

These balls will not only cause you issues, but your neighbors may experience them as well. Sweet gum tree balls also hurt to step on if you walk outside barefoot.

The good news about this tree? There is a non-fruiting variety. This is great for you if you love the look but hate the clean-up!

Weeping Willow Trees Leave a Big Mess

A large green crown of a weeping willow against a blue cloudless sky on a clear sunny summer day

This tree is single-handedly the worst possible tree to plant. Don’t get me wrong, the tree is beautiful, but it is a pain to maintain.

Willows are constantly shedding twigs, branches, and other debris. You will regularly have to clean up after a weeping willow. The main issue is the willow tree leaves. As they grow older, weeping willow trees shed more and more leaves, causing a bigger mess.

Another issue with the weeping willow is their love for the water. These trees will seek water out by any means possible and can compete with other trees nearby for resources.

They will rip up driveways, sidewalks, and anything in their path on their hunt for water. Their roots will tear up pipes and be overall destructive.

So overall yes, willows can be a dirty or messy tree if not maintained properly.

If you’ve ever wondered, you can learn more about the difference between willow and weeping willow trees here.

Are Ash Trees Dirty?

Single ash tree

Ash trees are deciduous trees, meaning they shed their leaves in the fall. They grow to be well over 50 feet tall. That is a lot of leaves to fall! 

Not only do ash trees drop their leaves everywhere, but their seeds, often called samaras, are also a mess! Their winged seeds float in the air and land nearby the tree, causing a mess on your ground.

So, in all, ash trees are a somewhat dirty tree to just have out in the middle of your yard.

The good thing about Ash? You can make the wood into wonderful furniture. If you are an avid woodworker, definitely consider this tree!

Why Bradford Pear Trees Are Messy For Your Yard

Bradford pear trees

Do you like pears? Do you want to grow pears? Well, this tree is not for you. The fruit it produces is inedible. 

These trees flower every year. Some say the flowers even stink. Those flowers turn into tiny fruit; however, you cannot eat them. Bradford pear trees also have extremely weak branches. So, you’ll have inedible fruit and a plethora of branches in your yard if you plant a bradford pear tree.

The bradford pear tree is an invasive tree and can wreak havoc with its roots in your pipelines. Your space is better taken up by a beneficial tree rather than this ornamental mess.

Their invasive nature makes them a real problem for landowners. These trees can cross-pollinate and when birds and other wildlife eat the fruit, they spread the seeds. Those trees invade land and cost money and time to remove.

Are Pecan Trees Messy/Dirty For Your Yard?

Pecan nuts in the organic garden plant

Who doesn’t love a good pecan pie? Well, maybe some of those who grow pecans. 

Pecan trees can be messy trees to cultivate. This is because of the nuts that fall every year in the fall. When they drop these nuts, they can leave your yard in shambles.

When pecans fall off the tree, their casing comes off the nut first. If it is still green, it releases a brown dye and stains everything. Squirrels may also leave nutshells all over the yard. 

The wood is a top choice for smoking meat. Often the tree drops branches and leaves everywhere. For some, these branches are great. If you have no use for them, they can be a real pain. 

Northern Catalpas Are Messy Trees

Catalpa speciosa white flowers and foliage.

This tree is a beautiful addition to any yard. It flowers yearly, giving your yard beautiful fragrant white flowers. It also grows to be 40 to 50 feet tall. 

This sounds like the best tree, right? Well, the catch is, northern catalpa trees are a mess. Those flowers and seed pods fall yearly, creating a lot of clutter you will have to clean up. These flower petals can be slippery when decaying as well. 

Another issue with this tree is its wood. The wood can be very brittle, meaning if you live anywhere with storms and most of us do, cleaning up fallen limbs will be necessary.

Why Are Cottonwood Trees Bad?

Season of flowering poplar fluff on a close-up branch

Cottonwood trees are a member of the deciduous family. They can grow between 50 to 80 feet tall.

The cottonwood tree’s fatal flaw: their cotton-like fibers. During late spring to early summer, these trees drop their cotton fibers. These are the seeds of the tree. These lead to an absolute mess in your yard.

Cottonwood tree seeds get everywhere, and I mean, everywhere! They go miles around the tree. Not only will it plague you with the white fluff, your neighbors will be too.

It is the glitter of the tree world!

Another major problem is these trees’ pollen. If you have hay fever: you will be miserable! 

Why Are Hackberry Trees Bad For Your Yard?

Prunus padus, bird cherry, hackberry, hagberry, mayday tree white flowers

This tree produces fruits that are typically consumed by wildlife (bird cherry.)

The fruits of hackberry trees, when not consumed, will fall to the ground. They litter the area and rot, causing flies and other insects to appear. This leads to a very messy and dirty tree, which can attract unwanted wildlife to your property as well.

If wildlife is not your goal, this tree is not for you. Wild animals can cause problems for you and your family by making messes all over your yard.

Raccoons and bears would be the most prominent issue. Bears can knock over garbage cans, littering your yard with garbage. Not only will bears do this, but they also often break into cars. 

Silver Maple Trees Are Dirty/Messy For Your Yard

Spring view of silver maple trees in a sunny day, green park, london

Silver Maple trees are known for their beauty. They make fantastic additions to landscapes. Their silver bark is a stark contrast to darker barked trees. 

However, Silver Maple trees have a fatal flaw. These trees are so resilient that their roots will tear up everything. They will rip up foundations of homes, sidewalks, and even sewer lines.

Fallen leaves are another concern, but this is common with any tree. You will need to rake often when leaves fall to the ground. These leaves can cause the grass to die and be a hiding spot for various species of wildlife.

On the bright side, silver maple trees can actually be tapped for maple syrup! You can learn more about tapping silver maple trees for maple syrup here.

Are Red Oak Trees Messy?

Old northern red oak tree (quercus rubra) with colorful autumn leaves in a park, seasonal landscape

These trees are in the oak family, and oak trees are, by nature, dirty trees. Everything they do makes a mess. 

First off, oak trees produce acorns. Acorns drop everywhere and squirrels eat them, leaving empty shells around. When squirrels bury the nuts, they sometimes sprout and cause trees to germinate in undesirable places. 

Oak trees produce pollen; this pollen coats everything in a yellow powder. Not only does the pollen get everywhere, the pollen often causes allergies. 

These trees lose their leaves every year. Which means, of course, the leaves fall and coat the ground. Leaves on the ground can kill your grass, so the only option is to rake them up. 

The leaves of a oak trees can actually get pretty big. Thus, you’ll have significantly more clean up to do once the red oak leaves fall.

Leaves, acorns, and pollen will clog your gutters. Not only that, but red oak trees are very large. If branches fall, they can cause major damage to vehicles and homes.

Again, this is the same with all trees. Are all trees dirty? to some extent, but red oak trees are pretty large on their own. You could similarly argue that every other oak tree is just as dirty, as well.

Red oak trees and white oak trees can cause some similar issues.

White Mulberry Tree Berries Can Leave Stains

Mulberry berries

Mulberry trees are renowned for their delicious berries! These dark berries make tasty jams, pies, and other desserts. 

The downfall is these berries fall everywhere and stain everything. This becomes an issue if a mulberry tree is planted near your house or deck. Additionally, what doesn’t fall attracts wildlife. They also create a spreading forest of mulberries.

If you do not want a stained yard or a large population of wildlife, do not plant this tree.

Southern Magnolia Trees Can Be Messy

The magnolia tree. Beautiful blooming white magnolia flower on a tree with green leaves

Magnolias are a southern gem. When you speak to any southerner about these, they will rave about the flowers produced. The flowers smell divine. Southern magnolias are a favorite among tree enthusiasts and a Florida native.

Another thing a southerner will tell you, these trees are messy! Once the flowers die back, they leave these seed pods. These seed pods fall everywhere. Another issue is the leaves, like most trees, which will cover any plants or grass unless raked and removed.

Even though this tree is beautiful, it is a mess. Heed this warning before planting.

Loquat Trees Are A Mess

Vew of a loquat tree filled with fruits in spring season.

Loquat trees originate from China. These trees produce sweet fruit with seeds in the center. The loquat is a fruit loved by many.

Unfortunately, loquat trees are quite messy. The fruit has a thick skin that you must peel to enjoy it. The fruit that is not eaten drops to the ground. These fallen fruits will ferment. This creates a smell that attracts flies. It will make your entire yard smell unpleasant.

These fruits can also attract animals. Animals like raccoons love to make a mess of your yard over these delicious fruits.

Ginkgo Trees Are Very Messy For Your Yard

Large tree ginkgo biloba in autumn

Ginkgo trees originate from Japan. These trees are dioecious, which means they have separate sexes. Most only plant male trees for their yards. 

If you end up with a female ginkgo tree, you are in for a real journey (pun intended.)

The female Ginkgo tree produces seeds. These seeds are covered in flesh and once they mature, they stink. Often this smell is described as having an odor similar to vomit. The cause of this is butanoic acid. Male ginkgo trees can actually turn into female trees on their own and produce seeds regardless!

If you do not want your yard to smell like vomit, avoid this tree at all costs. The ginkgo tree is in-fact one of the dirties/messiest trees for your yard.

How Do You Deal With Tree Droppings?

If you decide you want a tree that drops leaves, seeds, or any other debris, you may wonder how to clean it up. 

A good rake is necessary to pick up after your trees. For leaves, you can just use a leaf blower like the SnapFresh Leaf Blower. You cannot go wrong with the dual speeds, ergonomic design, and cordless capabilities!

However, when blowing leaves do not blow them into the street as it can create a hazard for motorcyclists. 

Another valid option is to hire a lawn care service. Typically, these services charge extra for leaf pickup. Most, however, will run over tree droppings with their mowers.

An option for nuts is a collector like the Large Nut Gatherer, which is easy to operate, ergonomic, and comes with a storage bag for the nuts you pick up. These work great for collecting up any nuts that drop. This tool will even work for pine cones and pine cone-like debris. 

Having animals like goats will help pick up debris off the ground. Goats love oak trees and will eat fallen leaves and acorns.

How Do You Stop A Tree From Dripping Sap?

The truth about trees dripping sap, often, it isn’t even sap. Most trees do not produce sap. If they are dripping something that looks like sap, it is probably honeydew.

Mostly, honeydew is caused by pests. Pests include:

  • Aphids
  • Lace bugs
  • Cicadas
  • Scale

Knowing pests is important in preventing an infestation. The best way to prevent infestations is to get ahead of the bugs.

Diatomaceous earth and Neem oil are fantastic ways to deter insects. Commercial sprays like the Bonide (BND204) – Fruit Tree Spray Concentrate are effective ways of treating infestations. This spray contains insecticides, fungicides, and many other pest repellants. 

What Can I Do With Tree Droppings?

So, what if you already have some of these trees that constantly drop things into your yard? Well, here’s a few simple tips.

Repurpose Fallen Tree Acorns

Sometimes, fallen leaves, nuts, and branches are a blessing in disguise. You can collect these items and use them for various things around the home. 

One use for nuts from your trees is cooking and eating. Some use acorns to produce flour. These flours can be a great alternative used for baking or arts & crafts!

Check out our guide for 9 amazing fallen acorn uses!

Use Fallen Leaves For Compost

Now, instead of blowing away the leaves, there’s another option.

You can use leaves in your compost. This will help provide the brown and green material you put in. Compost is important for everyone as it is useful in multiple ways for your various plants!

Repurpose Fallen Tree Limbs And Branches

Limbs and branches are species-dependent. Some, like oak and pecan trees, work great for smoking meat! You can use others inside garden beds under the soil to help feed your plants. 

Another cool use for branches and other debris is making your own decor. Many crafty people use natural items like pinecones to make crafts. This can be a fun way to upcycle your yard debris!

That’s All For Now!

Personal preference is the crucial deciding factor in all landscaping matters. No two trees are alike, just as no two people are alike. 

The way you think and work should drive the species you choose. It is not a tree’s fault your yard is dirty. Choosing the landscape that optimizes your lifestyle is the best method for you.

Choosing fruit trees based on taste helps eliminate fruit waste and mess. Thorough research is key to not making mistakes when deciding what trees to plant. While many trees are perfect for everyone, these just aren’t.

While a lot of these trees are beautiful, a fatal flaw of many of them is the amount of debris they drop. Understanding yourself is important to landscaping. Choose trees that fit your lifestyle overall. 

Trees are expensive, so planting ones you will ultimately hate is a mistake nobody wants to make. Some of these trees also have unique care properties not fit for those who hate maintenance. 

Landscape according to your time, taste, and goals for your yard. A well-landscaped yard with the proper trees can be your personal oasis. I would hate for you to regret any tree choices!

References 

Gabriel, W. J. (1990). Acer saccharinum L. Silver maple. Silvics of North America2, 70-77.

Martin, P. (1983). Factors influencing globe huckleberry fruit production in northwestern Montana. Bears: Their Biology and Management, 159-165.

Jul 21, Factsheet | HGIC 1032 | Published:, and 2014 | Print. “Ginkgo or Maidenhair Tree.” Home & Garden Information Center | Clemson University, South Carolina, 2014, hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/ginkgo-or-maidenhair-tree/. Accessed 7 Nov. 2021.

“Magnolia Grandiflora (Bull Bay, Large Tree Magnolia, Southern Magnolia) | North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox.” Plants.ces.ncsu.edu, plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/magnolia-grandiflora/.

“Salix Babylonica (Weeping Willow) | North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox.” Plants.ces.ncsu.edu, plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/salix-babylonica/.

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