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Pollution tolerant plants and trees.


We often get customers contacting us about the suitability of certain trees and shrubs for areas that suffer with pollution, and this is a particular issue for many urban areas. This post has been designed with the urban gardener in mind and we’ve selected the best pollution-tolerant plants that can be planted for a range of purposes.

There are obviously many benefits to planting trees and shrubs in your garden, and this especially applies to urban areas that can have high levels of pollution in the air. Trees and shrubs filter the air and can improve the air quality by sequestering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during the photosynthesis process, then releasing oxygen back in to the atmosphere as a by-product. Trees and shrubs also benefit the environment in many other ways, including creating a habitat for wildlife and providing shade

As well as the many positive environmental factors, planting trees or shrubs in your garden also makes your outdoor space look more appealing and can therefore increase your property value. A good specimen tree can provide a focal point and scented shrubs make your garden feel a lot more welcoming. Trees and shrubs are also great for hiding unsightly buildings or creating divides between your garden and neighbouring gardens.


There are a range of shrubs that can tolerate atmospheric pollution, and you should look out for hardy evergreen varieties as many of these can easily cope with pollution.

Lavandula, more commonly known as lavender, are outstanding plants that offer great interest all year round. With lavender being evergreen, the healthy grey-green foliage will add a splash of colour to your garden all year round. The real benefit of planting lavender does of course come from its outstanding flower heads that appear over spring and summer. The highly fragrant flower heads are purple-blue in colour and are tubular in shape; they are perfect for planting in a sensory garden and also add great aesthetic value during the summer season.  

Another great pollution tolerant genus is Euonymus: these delightful shrubs come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, and there are many compact varieties that are suitable for smaller gardens. Most euonymus have variegated leaves so the foliage is highly attractive and many are evergreen so they will give you interest all year round. Some varieties hold brightly-coloured fruits in autumn which adds a further colourful burst during the season. One of our favourites has to be Euonymus Harlequin as this evergreen has striking foliage that is dark green, creamy and pink – an unusual combination that stands out particularly well in a winter garden.


If you have more room in your garden then a tree can become a real garden focal point. There are many pollution tolerant species, but one of the most popular for urban planting has to be the Platanus x acerfolia (London Plane Tree). This is a large tree that is known for its attractive bark; on mature trees, the bark flakes off to create a patchwork of mottled cream, brown and pink shades. The large open branches hold glossy maple-like leaves and in winter spherical fruits hang like baubles. This is a great choice for a feature tree and it will grow to be a real garden statement. Do be aware though that the London Plane does require a lot of space and should not be planted near to buildings.

If you have a smaller outdoor space, crab apple trees are a great choice. One of the most pollution tolerant choices is the Malus ‘Evereste’ as this is a hardy tree which will happily thrive in an urban garden. Not only does this tree offer fruit, it also gives great floral and foliage interest. The crab apples can also cooked up in to a delicious crab apple jelly.

The final recommendation is a particular variety of prunus (flowering cherry trees). The ‘Shirofugen’ is highly pollution tolerant and is a truly beautiful tree. It offers flowering interest from late spring through to early summer and the double white flowers open from pink buds. The foliage is also highly attractive as the leaves have a copper tint when young and put on a delightful autumnal show with bright red and orange shades.

There are of course many more trees and shrubs that are pollution tolerant but these were a selection of our favourites.

by Michael Simpson – August 26, 2015