Read these 31 Trees - Planting and Care Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Lawn tips and hundreds of other topics.
Spacing is an important consideration when planting trees. Keep in mind that in years to come the tree will be larger and may lose branches in storms. For this reason, oaks and other strong-wooded shade trees should be planted at least 20 ft. away from buildings and utility lines. Place soft-wooded trees such as soft maple at an even greater distance. In relation to one another, large shade trees should be planted about 50 ft. from each other for best results. Medium-sized trees such as red maple or river birch should be spaced about 35 ft apart. Dogwood, redbud, hawthorn, crabapple or other small trees may be planted 15 to 20 ft. apart and at least 8 ft. from buildings.
Horticulture researchers estimate that 75% of the roots may be lost when digging field-grown nursery stock. In the nursery, practices, such as root pruning, irrigation, fertilization, root-ball configuration, and digging techniques, influence the percentage of harvested roots. Water-stress is due to the removal of most of the water-absorbing roots, and this is the primary cause of transplant failure. Most water absorption capability within a transplanted root-ball results from very small diameter roots. These fragile roots are the first to suffer from excess water loss in newly transplanted landscape plants.
Trees are most vulnerable in their first years of life and should be tended with special care. Newly planted trees should be watered deeply and on a regular basis. Try placing a hose to drip at the base of a tree for several hours. This will allow water to soak and encourage deep rooting.
When removing trees from a a property, I would recommend hiring a professional and reputable tree maintenance expert or arborist in your area that can remove your trees in a safe and organized manner. There is more to taking down a sizable tree than hacking away with a chainsaw. Consideration must be given to the structure of the tree, weight and size of limbs, proximity to adjacent structures and power lines, and most important, the safety of everyone involved in or around the operation. Trained personnel can remove a tree to several inches below ground level and not leave an unsightly stump. Some machines systematically reduce stumps to woodchips to a maximum depth of 12" (30 cm) below grade. Stump chips can be hauled away or left in place in a neat pile for later use as a beneficial mulch, or can be placed under trees and shrubs directly, if requested. If done properly, except for the missing trees, you won't even know they were there.
Contrary to popular belief, evergreen foliage does not remain attached indefinitely. In late summer and throughout the fall older, inner needles discolor and drop off after one to several years depending on the species. This is a natural condition. Arborvitaes shed branchlets, which usually turn brown instead of yellow as they age. Pines may show severe fall yellowing if you've had a particularly dry summer. White pines and other needle evergreens will have the oldest needles turn bright yellow before turning brown and falling. Although this can also be a normal occurrence, in dry seasons more needles than normal turn yellow and homeowners often get alarmed. Spruce and fir needles also yellow and drop with age; however, these trees retain their needles for several years, and loss is often gradual and can go unnoticed. As long as the new growth stays green, the plants will survive.
Plants are grown by various production methods, e.g. bare-root, balled and burlapped, fabric container and plastic container. Some large landscape trees are mechanically dug with a tree-spade and placed in wire baskets. Each of these growing and harvesting techniques is acceptable, but each requires a specific method of planting and managing.
In some colder zones, brown evergreens, needle tips and branch tips are seen in winter and early spring caused by drying winds, lack of snow cover, fluctuating temperatures, or low soil moisture. To reduce or prevent winter injury, water the root area of evergreens during dry fall and winter months. When snowmelt and rainfall are inadequate, apply water monthly during warm periods when the soil can absorb it. Apply mulch over the root zone to help conserve soil moisture and reduce loss from desiccation.
When selecting a tree for your landscape be sure to take your area's climate conditions into consideration. Is the tree reliably cold hardy in your area? Can the tree tolerate the heat at the site (does the spot receive hot afternoon sun or is it surrounded by pavement that will reflect heat)? Will the tree tolerate existing sun or shade patterns? Will the tree get enough water after it is established? Is it in an area that gets sufficiently wet when it rains, or will irrigation be needed?
The main disadvantage of ball and burlapped plants is that a large portion of the roots may be severed at harvest time. The amount of roots harvested depends upon soil type, irrigation practices and root pruning during the production period. Ball and burlapped trees are subject to seasonal constraints when they are moved. The most favorable seasons are early spring, fall, or winter or early when transpiration demand is low and root generation potential is high, such as in fall, winter. With the much-reduced root system, water is a very critical element in the successful transplanting of B&B plants.
Always consider the size of a shrub or tree before planting it. Often young plants are planted too close to a house, fence, or each other, overgrowing their allotted space and preventing proper development. If too close to a house they can darken rooms, obscure views, and even make it difficult to wash windows or paint trim.
Keep in mind when planting large trees like a sugar maple that they might outgrow the available space. These trees, providing they remain in good health, can eventually become spreading giants of 75 feet or more in height…with a spread of 25 feet or more on each side! Such a tree should be planted at least 30 feet from the nearest structure. If too close to a house, it can darken the interior, its leaves can clog gutters, and branches may damage upper windows or the roof.
During the first year of owning a new home, it is best to purchase the largest trees affordable and leave plantings for landscape beds and foundations later. Try not to “jump” into landscaping by first purchasing shrubs and flowers to fill the empty spaces surrounding the house and deferring the purchase of trees until the following years. After only a few seasons, the shrubs will mature and the trees that were planted much later will remain small giving an off-balanced look.
It pays in the long run to buy trees of the highest quality, even though they may be more expensive, from a local nursery with a good reputation. Buy only plantings that have healthy foliage, free of any obvious discoloration, damage, pests, or diseases. Trees 8-10 feet tall, either balled and burlapped or container grown, are usually the best buy. If they are sold in balled and burlapped, the burlap should be tightly filled with soil.
You should avoid planting trees in areas with less than 3 feet between paved areas. In areas with 3 to 4 feet between paved areas, plant trees that will grow to a mature height of less than 30 feet. In areas with 5 to 6 feet between paved areas, select trees that mature about 50 feet tall. Reserve trees that mature higher than 50 feet for areas with at least 8 feet between paved areas. This allows adequate space for the tree roots.
When making decisions on planting techniques, you should consider how the plant was grown in the nursery, the plant's drainage requirements, the soil type and drainage characteristics, and the availability of water for the planting. The plant should be specifically appropriate for the site or the site should be amended to specifically fit the plant. Choose a site that is large enough for the tree to grow to maturity
The ideal time to plant trees is during the dormant season, in the fall after the leaves drop or early spring before bud break. The weather is usually cooler allowing roots to establish themselves before spring rains, and the summer heat that follows will stimulate new top growth.
Seasonal needle drop can be confused with needle loss due to spider mite damage. When mites are involved the needles are off color, generally stippled, and gradually turn an off yellow color. A light webbing is associated with heavy mite infestations. Spruce are particularly susceptible to spider mite injury. If mites are suspected, hold a white sheet of paper under a branch and sharply tap the branch. Look for moving specks as an indication of mites.
Most people make the mistake of deciding what kind of tree they want and then they try to fit it into their landscape. A better approach for you is to decide where a tree is needed and what that tree should do in the landscape. After that decision is made, then it is much easier to choose a species to fulfill those requirements.
In late Fall, after leaf drop, when infections are more visible, all tree branches containing cankers, knots, galls, or dead shoots should be “marked” for pruning. In most areas, marked branches should be pruned during late dormancy, usually late February to early March. It is important to remove all infected material before fungi become active in the spring. Pruned branches should be burned, buried, or chipped.
The advantages of planting bare-root plants are mostly economical. Plants are less expensive to produce because of the ease of harvesting, storing and shipping. Many species of trees respond well to bare-root harvesting. Longer roots and a greater portion remain after harvesting, and the roots can be easily inspected at planting time.
Large deciduous trees are excellent choices to plant on the south side of a house, in areas with hot summers and cold winters. These trees can cast shade on the wall and windows in summer which can reduce considerably the amount of airconditioning needed and thus conserve energy. When the leaves are gone, the sun will be able to shine through in the colder months and help keep heating costs down.
If you have planted your new trees in the late fall, be sure to stake the trees until their roots have become thoroughly anchored. The taller the tree, the more important this is, for winter storms can easily blow over young trees before their roots have had a chance to become established. You may also want to wrap or paint young deciduous tree trunks to prevent sunscald until the canopy develops enough shade and the bark enough toughness to withstand the winter sun.
Evergreens should be planted from mid-August through September in most zones. Planting during this period allows the evergreens to become established before the onset of winter. Evergreens planted later on in the fall are susceptible to damage from drying out that can lead to death. However, most broad-leaved evergreens like rhododendron and narrow-leaved evergreens like yew are more safely transplanted in the spring than in autumn. (In mild climates though, it is possible to succeed very well with proper care.)
It is wise to know the ornamental and design characteristics of your chosen tree. For example, if choosing an evergreen or deciduous tree, will it provide attractive fall color or will the tree's winter appearance be attractive for your landscape? You may want a tree with ornamental characteristics, like flowers, fruit, or interesting bark texture. If the tree produces fruit, it may cause maintenance problems by staining walkways, or if it has thorns, it may be undesirable if it requires frequent pruning or is in an area with children or near walkways. Is the tree's “form” appropriate for the space available (low or pendulous branches, columnar, wide spreading, etc.)? Will it provide the shade or form that you desire? Or will its size cast unwanted shade on a vegetable garden?
Bare-root trees should be planted while they are dormant. Damaged or broken roots can be pruned before planting. Be sure to keep the roots of the tree moist at all times. Place the tree in the hole at the same depth that it grew in the nursery. Do not allow roots to curl up or around in the hole. Add soil until the tree can stand by itself. Hold it straight while the hole is being filled and gently push the soil under and between roots with your hands to remove large air pockets. If the tree settles in the hole, gently pull it back to the proper depth. Keep in mind that landscape-sized trees will need staking in the first year or so.
Before deciding on adding any tree to your landscape, consider the soil conditions it will be planted in.
Will the tree tolerate the soil drainage of the site? Have your soil tested to determine the acidity/alkalinity. Will the tree tolerate the soil pH of the site? If the soil is likely to be compacted by people walking or driving on it, can the tree withstand this? Is the tree likely to be damaged by de-icing salts in winter? If you want to plant where this can be a problem, there are a number of trees that are tolerant of salt (some are live oak, red oak, white ash, blue spruce).
If you shop for your tree or shrub in late summer or early fall, there is usually still plenty of time for the root systems to become established providing they are balled and burlapped. Another advantage to fall planting is that many nurseries and garden centers will have discounted their prices on remaining inventory of trees and shrubs. Even though these selections may be limited, these sales are a good opportunity to purchase fruit trees and landscape trees at reduced prices!
A successful plan for a landscape must begin with an understanding of trees—those that already exist and those yet to be planted. Because trees are dominant and because of the shade they cast, they have an influence on everything in their immediate vicinity. They must be selected and planted with a thorough understanding of the size and shape they will eventually grow to.