Choosing the Right Tree for Your Landscape

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Autumn and winter are the best seasons of the year for planting trees, but the exact timing will depend on the climate where you live.  In some areas, you can even take advantage of bare-root plants that are relatively easy to transport and come in a wider range of varieties than potted or burlap-wrapped trees.  Sap production is slowing down as trees slip into dormancy or semi-dormancy during this time of year, so planting them now will minimize both damage and stress as they snooze through the whole operation.

The question is — before you grab the wrong tree to plant — which tree is right for your landscape?  Trees are big fellows and will continue to grow over time–the last thing you want to do is put one of these big guys where it can cause big problems.  It’s a very labor-intensive and costly project to remove a tree once it’s established.  Before you cart home your favorite tree and pop it into the ground where you’d like it, here are some considerations you might want to keep in mind.

  • Why do you want a tree?  Are you interested in shade, privacy, leaf or flower color, interesting bark, creating a focal point or defining an area?  Is the tree you’ve chosen up to the job?
  • Do you want an evergreen or a deciduous (loses leaves in winter) tree?
  • What are the conditions where you want to plant the tree (soil, light, water, surroundings)?
  • What size tree will fit best — when fully grown — not when you buy it!  This includes room for roots as well as height, width and head size.
  • How will you integrate the tree with the surrounding plants and structures?
  • How much work do you want to put into maintaining the tree (Some trees are messier or more demanding than others.)?
  • Oh yeah, and don’t forget about safety.  If wildfires are common in your area you don’t want to plant a highly flammable tree, like a pine, anywhere near your house.  Additionally, be very careful about planting that cute young tree right up close and personal to the foundation of your home or your swimming pool where it will rip up the concrete as it grows.


After you take a good look at which tree is best suited for the spot you are planting, you may find that the one you had your heart set on is simply not the right tree for your landscape.  But the good news is that there are still many to choose from.   A healthy tree will end up thriving and being far more beautiful than your favorite tree, languishing in misery.  You and your tree will be much happier if you choose the right one.

Photo credits: Jane Gates

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