Ready to plant a new tree? How to choose the right tree.
February 9, 2015
Did you know that winter is a great time to plant trees here in Texas? Because our soils don’t freeze here in the DFW area, we can plant trees all winter long. With our extremely hot and dry summers, it’s always best to plant new trees well before the onset of summer. The more time you can give your new tree to acclimate and put down some new roots, the better. Now is a great time to get planting.
Due to persistent drought in Texas over the last few years, we’ve lost 500 million trees.
Let’s say that again: 500 million trees! According to the recent Dallas
tree survey study performed by the Texas Trees Foundation, Dallas
residents and builders need to plant 3 million trees to help recover our
But planting a tree isn’t enough: It’s just as important to plant the right types of trees and plant them the right way in order to ensure their long-term health. Many urban tree loses can be attributed to improper planting practices, the wrong tree planted in the wrong place or poor maintenance. Choosing a new tree is like choosing a new family member: It has to be a great fit!
The first step in choosing the right tree is to set a goal: Do you have a sunny front landscape that you need to shade? Do you need to plant a tree that offers shade, but won’t interfere with power lines? Are you looking for spring blooming focal plant or maybe some fall color? No matter what reason you plant a tree, its good to consider the specific reasons why you need and want the tree.
Chinese Pistache is perfect for smaller urban landscapes and offers gorgeous fall color.
Now that you know why you want to plant a tree, you’ll need to consider the space in which you want to plant it. If you need some shade, but don’t have room for a huge live oak, then a Chinese Pistache may be a better fit. This tree tops out at 40-50’ tall and 30’ wide. It’s a good choice for space where there are nearby power lines. Other popular trees, such as red oaks or cedar elms, can reach an impressive 80-feet tall. So if you choose such a specimen, you’d better make sure you have a large, open and clear space. When you plant a tree that will ultimately outgrow its space, over-pruning and ultimately removal are often the result.
Large trees can also interfere with your home’s structural integrity. Planting certain species too close to the house could also encourage roots to grow through plumbing pipes or into the foundation of your home. When selecting your tree, you’ll need to know both the height and the spread it will grow to and then allow for that amount of space for your tree to grow over time. Again, large oak trees, ash, willow and others, are not good choices for planting close to the house. Smaller specimens, such as redbud, Mexican plum or fruit trees can be planted a bit closer to the home.
Tree placement checklist:
Proximity to driveways and sidewalks. Your tree’s roots can grow 2 to 3 times as wide as the canopy. Choosing a large tree to plant a few feet from a driveway could damage the driveway or sidewalk; and the tree roots! Consider the surrounding hardscape surfaces when choosing the type and placement of your tree.
Power lines. Keep in mind that once your tree starts to come in contact with power lines it creates a dangerous situation. Often, the power company will have to drastically prune back your tree in these situations. As much as half of your tree’s canopy could be completely removed! This type of pruning is not only devastating to the health of the tree, but it destroys the look of the tree. Avoid planting trees under or near power lines, especially on city easements.
Light exposure. It’s important to know what kind of light your chosen tree needs in order to thrive. Some trees simply can’t handle our intense Texas summer sun. For example, if you plan to plant a Japanese maple, know that it should be treated as an understory tree, as it will need shade through the afternoon in order to thrive. Most large shade trees appropriate for the DFW area will need sunny conditions to thrive. If your newly planted trees are going to get shaded out most of the day by neighboring buildings or homes, they may have a difficult time getting established.
Irrigation. When planting, its always a good idea to know where your irrigation lines are so as not to damage one during planting. If you’re going to have a new tree planted, be sure to identify and flag your irrigation heads and lines prior to planting.
These bald cypress were planted directly under short power lines. It’s only a matter of time before much of this tree’s canopy will have to be removed
Evergreen or Deciduous?
A large shade tree that stays evergreen can play an important role in keeping a home cool in summer. Plant a large evergreen on a west or south facing side of your home to keep it cooler in summer. Or, plant a deciduous tree (trees that drop their leaves in winter) to let the sun shine on your home in winter to keep it warm. Keep in mind that even when a tree drops its leaves, it can still be a beautiful feature in the landscape. Bald cypress, crapemyrtles and Mexican plum trees are just a few examples trees with beautiful shapes and interesting bark.
Ready to plant a tree? We can help! While many trees can be planted by homeowners, we specialize in helping you choose the right tree for your space and properly plant them when you are unable to. Give us a call this month to plant!