What is the best tree to plant?

There are several factors to consider when deciding what type of tree to plant.  Some obvious things to think about are whether you want a tree that keeps its leaves throughout the year like an evergreen or a deciduous tree that loses its leaves in the winter.
tree
Evergreen or Deciduous?
An evergreen tree provides good screening and year round shade which would be desirable in a hot sunny climate. A deciduous tree is a good choice when you want sunshine in the winter.  Some people choose evergreen trees because they don’t want to deal with a lot of fall leaves to clean up. Remember that evergreen trees also have leaf drop. Broadleaf evergreen trees like magnolias, camphor, mayten, and live oaks lose some leaves throughout the year but leaf drop occurs the most with the flush of new spring foliage.

How large should my tree be?
Mature tree size is an important consideration and making the right choice will save a lot of headaches is future as the tree grows.  A small tree works in most location but is ideal for small patio spaces or where overhead obstructions could be a problem such as power lines or roofs. Large trees are great for providing shade but expansive or invasive roots may be a problem for concrete surfaces.  Tree roots can easily lift sidewalks and driveways because they are normally four inches in depth.  Modern foundations of 18 inches in depth are more difficult for roots to damage and will often grow along the side of the foundation rather than growing below the foundation. Roots can also be a problem for water, utility and septic or sewer lines. Some trees with invasive roots include liquidambar, poplar, mulberry and many larger trees.

Climate considerations.
Referring to a climate zone chart is an important step before picking out your tree.  Sunset’s Western Garden Book is a great resource for climate information or check the USDA plant hardiness chart.  Frost damage will injure or kill warmer zone trees and trees from colder climates may be more prone to insect and disease problems when planted in warmer areas. Climate is also important when choosing what type of fruit trees to plant.  Warm zone trees like oranges and avocadoes will not tolerate freezing while apples and stone fruits such as peaches require a certain number of “chilling days” before they will produce fruit. Certain varieties of fruit trees work better than others depending on the climate zone. Getting advice from a local nursery or local Certified Arborist will help you make an informed choice.

Growth Rate.
Most people want a fast growing tree that will make a statement as soon as possible. Unfortunately, many fast growing trees have problems with branch failures like eucalyptus trees. Fruitless mulberry trees are a commonly planted fast growing trees which are often pollarded or pruned back every year because they grow fast and branches can split as the trees become too large. It may make sense to choose a slower growing tree that is more structurally sound than a fast growing tree that is likely to fail.  Early training of young trees is also a key factor in strong structural development. Consult a Certified Arborist for advice or to prune the tree after planting.  Normally trees are pruned until a year after planting unless there are broken, dead or weakly attached branches that require immediate attention. Keep lower branches on the trunk intact if possible as they contribute to a larger trunk caliper and stronger structure.

Flowering and seed production
Flowering trees can add beauty to your home landscape and there are varieties that can provide color for different seasons of the year. Early spring bloomers include saucer magnolia, redbud and flowering crabapples.

Late blooming trees include crape myrtles, southern magnolias and tulip poplar trees. Tulip poplars have yellow to orange upright flowers while saucer magnolias have pink to purple blooms and are often mistakenly called tulip trees. Flowering trees can be messy near sidewalks as blooms fall.  Some flowering trees produce undersized fruit that can be messy including flowering pears, flowering plums and flowering crabapples. A “flowering” designation indicates a showy blossoming period with smaller fruit but keep in mind they do produce fruit. Olive trees are another popular tree planted in warm climates but the fruit can stain surfaces so planting away from sidewalks or patios is preferable.

In conclusion, plan ahead before planting a tree to make the best choice for your home. Consider speaking with a local nursery that is familiar with trees that grow successfully in your area. Cloverdale tree service, Master Gardeners, your local University Cooperative Extension or your local Certified Arborist can provide you with invaluable advice.

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1 Comment

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