Tree Planting Guide - Planning

First Steps

Before selecting a tree, decide what you want the tree to do for you

Do you want to reduce energy use by planting a shade tree near your home? Evergreen trees provide year-round shade and color.

While deciduous trees (that drop their leaves in the fall) provide shade to cool your home in the summer and allow sunlight to help lower heating costs in the winter. Plant deciduous trees on the south and/or west side of the house.

Check for laws and regulations

Contact the city arborist, parks department, or public works department of your city or county to see whether there are ordinances or guidelines for selecting and planting trees. Invasive, exotic, or problematic species may be prohibited.

Check for overhead space

Make sure there is ample room for trees to reach their mature height. Look for overhead wires, both phone and electric, as well as desirable vistas you don’t want to block. Will the tree need pruning when it matures?

Inspect the underground area

Can roots develop without damaging walkways, sewers, underground power cables and facilities? Before you dig, or if you're in doubt, Dial 811 before you dig.

With just one phone call, you can arrange to have a free mark-out of all underground utility lines on your property.

Check the soil

Is it poorly drained or compacted? What is the pH? Some trees have specific soil requirements. Hiring an arborist to take soil samples from your yard to test for fertility, salinity, and pH (alkalinity or acidity.)

An arborist can provide recommendations on ways to improve poor soil conditions and help your local nursery or garden center recommend tree species that will do well on your site.

Check for site conditions

Some young trees need protection from wind, direct sunlight, extreme heat or cold. Using the USDA Hardiness Zone Map will help to guard against losing a mature tree to frost and hard freezes.

USDA hardiness zone mapLook around the site for ways mature trees can help to slow winds, block unwanted views, and help prevent soil erosion.