Proper tree care begins with selecting the right tree and planting it in the right place. Trees are for a lifetime, so it pays to spend time now making sure that your tree will thrive where you want to plant it.
Wrong Trees, Wrong Places
Planting large trees under utility lines can eventually mean mutilated trees as they grow to maturity. Large evergreens close to the house on the south block warming winter sunlight. No trees on the north side of the house can leave it vulnerable to icy winter winds.
Short, flowering trees don’t clash with overhead utility lines. Large deciduous trees on the southeast, southwest, and west provide cooling shade in the summer, but don’t obstruct the low winter sun. An evergreen windbreak on the north blocks cold winds in winter.
Step 1—The Tree’s Purpose: Start by defining the purpose for your new tree. Common purposes include aesthetics, privacy, shade/energy reduction, windbreak, or street tree. Your end goal will impact the suitability of different trees.
Step 2: Next consider your planting site limitations, things to consider include:
• Hardiness Zone: your location and weather have a tremendous impact on what trees will grow.
• Height and Spread of Mature Trees: Example overhead wires will limit the height of mature tree and you will want to select a shorter tree. The chart below is a great representation of the range of heights of tree species.
• Sun Exposure: The sun exposure in your planting area will greatly affect how your tree grows.
• Soil Conditions: Some trees can grow in only specific types of soil, while others can grow in almost any condition the type of soil. Determining what type of soil you have in your yard will help you find the right tree.
Selecting a Healthy Tree
Good tree care starts with a healthy tree. Follow these tips and learn how to buy a tree.
What to Look for on Your New Tree
Inspecting your tree upon delivery or at the nursery will help your tree provide a lifetime of benefits.
• Bare root tree: Abundant root growth, fiberous and numerous small roots, good color; moist
• Balled and burlapped tree (B&B): Firm soil ball, with trunk securely tied. Do not accept a plant with a broken “ball”. Do not accept a tree with circling roots at the base of the trunk. Always carry B&B plants by the soil ball, not the trunk, stems or branches.
• Container-grown tree (containerized and potted): Avoid trees that are “root-bound” in the can. Roots can circle around the edge of the container may become circling roots. (Cut any circling roots when planting.) Because of this, B&B trees are generally preferred for large trees. Always remove can, basket or pot when planting.
Bare Root Seedlings
• Roots should be moist & fibrous.
• Deciduous seedlings should have roots about equal to stem length. Containerized
• Soil plug should be moist and firm.
• Avoid tall, spindly tops. Well-developed roots are more important. Balled &Burlapped
• Root ball should be firm to the touch, especially near the trunk.
• Root ball should be adequate for the tree’s size. Potted
• Pot should not contain large, circling roots.
• Pruned roots cut cleanly, none wider than a finger.
• Soil & roots joined tightly.
Some Extra Things to Consider When Purchasing Mature Trees
When choosing trees for city plantings along streets and in parks, you will want to trees with fairly substantial caliper (trunk diameter).
• Strong, well-developed leader (or leaders in a multi-leader tree).
• Bright, healthy bark.
• Trunk & limbs free of insect or mechanical injury.
• Branches well-distributed around trunk, considerably smaller caliper than trunk.
• Ideal spacing between branches, at least 8–12″ for most species.
• Good trunk taper.
• Wide-angle crotches for strength.
• Low branches—they are temporary, but help develop taper, promote trunk caliper growth, and prevent sun damage.