Considering Tree Species to Plant when Designing Your Landscape
The right tree in the right spot can make a monumental difference in both curb appeal and adding utility to your property such as shade, privacy, or blocking out the elements. As Certified arborists, our goal is to help give your new tree the right conditions to thrive, which means considering a number of factors before you place your newest friend in the ground. A well planned out landscape will incorporate the following when looking to add tree species:
1. What infrastructure exists on/around my property?
The first step is to outline which areas are off limits off the bat. Always check with your utility company or Diggers Hotline for cable, water, or gas lines that may inhibit tree planting. Do a visual check for electric lines and understand that trees that like to grow tall will conflict with these lines during adulthood. Instead, consider shorter flowering trees or dwarf varieties if you’re in love with a spot underneath powerlines.
2. What hardiness zone do I live in?
This piece of information is vital in selecting your next tree species. If you are set on an orange tree for your yard, you met be let down by the amount of fruit it bears in a Wisconsin summer compared to Florida. When browsing for a new tree, zone information will almost always be provided. Simply match the hardiness zone specified on the tag with that of your area. For a detailed map of Wisconsin, check out the UW Extension map below:
3. What pests can I expect in my area?
Many Wisconsin residents have already developed arch villians with particular pests in the area. If you already know what common pests cause trouble for trees in your area, lean towards a tree more resistant to these insects to keep it happy and healthy. If you’re not sure what to look out for, ask a neighbor or ask the Wisconsin tree experts with a quick message here.
4. How diverse is the current plant life on my property?
Similar to the above, when too many trees of the same species inhabit a tight area, the spread of pests and disease is much more common. You’ve likely run into a problem like this in your gardens when cabbage moths or aphids get ahold of one crop in particular. Tree diversity adds both aesthetic beauties and helps to protect your plant life from the spread of a particular disease or pest.
5. What kind of soil am I planting into?
Have you ever planted multiple trees or shrubs at the same time and noticed one variety of flourishing while the other has no progress? There are numerous factors that could be affecting your plant health, including soil. It’s not uncommon to overlook soil care while planting if you’re new to the green scene. We become so caught up with tree care above ground that we forget what’s happening below is just as important. Since trees grow from the ground up, it’s essential to understand their relationship with soil and the role soil plays on tree health. Using the wrong type of soil, or neglecting to use healthy soil altogether, can be detrimental and cost you your trees.
1. What is the primary function of my new tree species?
This is one of the biggest questions that you have likely already answered. Why do you want a new tree species? Are you trying to spice up your yard’s looks, add shade for a row of hostas, block wind gusts, or grow more fruit for smoothies? The answer to these questions will directly influence tree placement. Fruit trees may be placed a bit more liberally, although usually placed closer to the garden, while shade trees are usually placed in specific places in relation to your house.
2. What side of the property are you on?
For most trees, you need to be aware of what side of the property they are on as well as what will be stationed around them. Plant larger trees on the south-east, south-west, or western side to provide cooling shade in the summer without obstructing the sun’s warm rays during the winter. Also, consider where you are most vulnerable to wind and consider a line of evergreens to block your property from harsh gusts.
3. How tall and wide will my tree grow as an adult?
The full-grown size of your tree is a major consideration. This affects how far away your tree should be planted from structures and other trees as the width/canopy may become a problem if a branch was to fall. While general rules of thumb are helpful, once you start to narrow down species you like, make sure to research their full mature height before purchasing.
4. What shape will my tree take?
The Arbor Day Foundation has a helpful graphic to showcase common tree shapes. Make sure to take this information into account when planting trees in proximity to another tree or structure. Columnar trees can be placed closer together while Round or Pyramidal shaped trees will need more space between plantings.
5. What are my tree’s sun and moisture requirements?
Another staple of plant care, make sure your tree will get the sun and watering it needs to thrive. During the first couple of growing seasons, newer trees are hard at work establishing a root structure. Extreme temperature swings may take a larger toll on these trees so if your area is bordering on drought, make sure to give your young tree steady drinks. Make sure you’re up for watering a thirstier tree if you live in a drier area. You can find sun and water requirements on the tag when tree shopping.
6. Is the tree species deciduous or evergreen?
Will my new tree lose its leaves during the winter? This may affect your neighbor’s property or public walkways, potentially creating more yard work each fall when raking is required.
7. What is my tree’s expected growth rate?
Planning your landscape for a tree is a medium to long-term play. Factoring in growth rate is important if you have other goals in mind. To start, slow growing species typically live longer than those with faster growth rates. If you know an older tree is dying and needs to be taken down safely in the next 5 years, you don’t want to plant a fast-growing tree next to it, making removal of the dying tree harder. Maybe you’re simply wondering if you’ll be able to enjoy a tree at its maturity in your lifetime. All are valid factors that should be considered when selecting a tree.
8. What does my tree drop and when? Fruit? Seedlings?
A more obvious factor, but make sure if you’re placing a tree that likes to drop a lot of seedlings or berries close to the sidewalk or road that you’re ready to tidy up when that point in the season rolls around. While a flowering tree may look pretty from your front window, make sure the rotting berries it’s dropping on the sidewalk aren’t a nuisance for those walking by.
If there’s one thing to take away from this article: take the time and plan the right tree for the right spot. Come armed with answers to the above questions and browse confidently for your next tree. Feel free to contact one of our arborists for additional information or professional assistance regarding tree planting and ongoing care.