How To Select Trees For Your Landscape

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This article is a guide to selecting the right trees for your landscape.
by Brett · All Zones · Trees · 0 Comments · February 06, 2011 · 4,909 views

Selecting a Tree

Tree selection is one of the most important investment decisions a home owner makes when landscaping a home. Considering that most trees have the potential to outlive the people who plant them, the impact of this decision is one that can influence a lifetime. Match the tree to the site, and both lives will benefit.

The question most frequently asked of tree care professionals is “Which kind of tree do you think I should plant?” Before this question can be answered, a number of factors need to be considered.

Answer the following questions:

  • Why is the tree being planted? Do you want the tree to provide shade, fruit, seasonal color, or act as a windbreak or screen?
  • What is the size and location of the planting site?
  • Does the space lend itself to a large, medium, or small tree?
  • Are there overhead or below-ground wires or utilities in the vicinity?
  • Do you need to consider clearance for sidewalks, patios, or driveways?
  • Are there other trees in the area?
  • Which type of soil conditions exist? Is the well-drained or moisture retentive?
  • And finally, do you need a tree that will grow well in sun, or shade?

Asking and answering these questions before selecting a tree will help you choose the “right tree for the right spot.”

Form and Size

When making a selection about form, consider mature tree size. Does the site require a narrower growing tree or can it afford a wide growing tree? How tall can the tree get where you are planting it? Select a form and size that will fit the planting space provided. Below are basic tree shapes, ranges of height, a few recommended tree types for those who garden in the South:

  • 8-12' ht - Semi-dwarf crape myrtles and tree-form shrubs.
  • 12-25' ht -Crape myrtles, Japanese maples, purple leaf plum, dogwood, redbud, tulip trees, vitex, dwarf southern magnolias
  • 25-40' ht - Flowering cherry, Trident maple, riverbirch, weeping willow, Leyland and Carolina Sapphire Cypress
  • 40-60' ht - Maples, elms, bald cypress (in dry soil), sourwood
  • 60-80' ht - Many oaks, gingko, deodara cedar
  • 60-100' ht - Bald cypress in wet soil

Depending on your site restrictions, you can choose from among hundreds of combinations of form and size. You may choose a small-spreading tree such as crape myrtle in a location with overhead utility lines. You may select evergreen screen trees to provide a visual barrier between two homes or buildings. You may choose large, vase-shaped trees such as Drake elm to create an arbor over a driveway or city street.


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