Selecting Trees

Plant the right tree in the right place


Prioritize your landscaping

When landscaping a new home on a limited budget, trees should be the first things planted -- they provide the 'backbone' to home landscaping. It's more economical (and easier) to plant smaller trees, and it's really surprising how fast smaller trees will establish themselves if properly maintained. Smaller trees don't suffer as much transplant shock as larger ones, so 10 to 15 years down the road they will probably end up being the same size as if you had planted a larger size tree. Some studies have proven this point.      

Avoid planting problem trees

Fast growing trees like Poplars and Silver Maples offer only one benefit -- they grow fast. But invariably, 40 years from now, someone will be faced with a major pruning or removal bill. Many Poplars are short lived, and Silver Maples are infamous for forming weak "V" branch crotches, overpowering nearby buildings, clogging terra cotta pipes with their roots, and creating problem lawn roots. Another tree that starts out great and ends up lousy is the Bradford Pear, since their weak structure is usually ripped apart by wind or ice within 20 years or so.


This Bradford Pear was just reaching its prime when split-out by a wind storm.


Silver Maple that was topped is now out of control again with multiple weak spouts where there used to be one branch.


These fast-growing Lombardy Poplars die-off after 20 years. Also a poor tree choice due to the utility lines above.

The right tree

Look for improved varieties of trees when you shop -- nursery propagation programs are constantly producing 'new and improved' plants. An example would be newly developed varieties of flowering crabapples that have been selected for their better disease resistance -- a great improvement over many older varieties that were prone to leaf disease problems. By planting varieties with improved disease resistance, you will end up with seasons of satisfaction instead of a lifetime of aggravation.


Newer varieties of crabapples are less prone to disease.

The right place

Your first consideration should be how much room a tree has to grow. Are their limitations to how tall the tree can get, like utility lines overhead? If the tree is planted next to your residence, how wide can it get before encroaching on your house?

Keeping these considerations in mind when selecting your tree will avoid problems in later years as the tree matures. Also check to be sure you don't plant trees in rights-of-ways where you don't have complete ownership. Streets are usually wider on paper than they visually appear -- what if the street is widened or a sidewalk is added in the future?


Some trees are planted too close to houses.

Begin tree maintenance early in the life of the tree

Early pruning and maintenance of newly planted trees will improve tree structure and vigor. Prune out damaged or crossing branches, a second leader, and inward growing branches. Keep young trees well watered, and watch for insect problems in their early stages when they are much easier to remedy. Annual fertilization will greatly improve the growth rate and overall health of a young tree.


Early pruning can eliminate these “V” leaders that create structural problems.

Be a good 'scout' watching for tree problems

Keep a close eye on your trees, scouting for anything that doesn't look just right. Most problems are easiest to solve when they are addressed early. Things like discolored or twisted leaves, dead branches, and bee or ant activity can indicate tree problems that need to be treated. Never underestimate the value of being a good scout.


Leaves should not be black!
Scale insect problem.


Deciduous tree photos

Evergreen tree photos

Flowering tree photos

Weeping tree photos