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Choosing the Right Tree

Trees offer social, environmental, and economic benefits throughout their lifetime. But not all trees are equally well-suited for every planting site or in every climate. Tree selection and placement are two of the most important decisions a homeowner makes when landscaping a new home or replacing a tree. Many trees have the potential to outlive those who plant them, so the impact of this decision can last a lifetime. Matching the tree to the site benefits both the tree and the homeowner.

Learn more about proper tree selection and placement.

Tree Function

Large, healthy trees increase property values and make outdoor surroundings more pleasant. A deciduous shade tree, one that loses its leaves in fall, provides cooling relief from summer’s heat while allowing the winter sun to warm a home. Evergreens with dense, persistent foliage can provide a windbreak or a screen for privacy. Street trees decrease the glare from pavement, reduce runoff, filter out pollutants, and add oxygen to the air we breathe. Street trees also improve the overall appearance and quality of life in a city or neighborhood.

Tree Form and Size

Selecting the right form (shape) to complement the desired function can significantly reduce maintenance costs and increase the tree’s value in the landscape. In addition, mature trees typically provide the greatest economic and environmental returns.

You can choose from hundreds of form and size combinations. A low, spreading tree may be planted under overhead utility lines. A narrow, columnar evergreen may provide a screen between two buildings. Large, vase-shaped trees can create an arbor over a driveway or city street.

Site Conditions

Selecting a tree that will thrive in a given set of site conditions is the key to long-term tree survival and reduced maintenance. Consider the following when selecting a tree:
  • soil conditions
  • exposure (sun and wind)
  • drainage
  • space constraints
  • hardiness zone
  • human activity
  • insect and disease susceptibility

Learn more about these and other factors as they relate to tree selection and placement

Buying High-Quality Trees

A high-quality tree, when planted and cared for correctly, may become a long-lasting asset to your property. In contrast, a low-quality tree may develop costly problems over time, increasing the need for maintenance and reducing the benefits a tree can provide.

Learn more about buying high-quality trees.

Tree Quality Characteristics

A high-quality tree has
  • strong form with well-spaced, firmly attached branches
  • a trunk free of wounds or damage
  • a quality root system to support healthy growth
A low-quality tree has
  • weak form in which multiple stems originate from the same point and branches grow into each other
  • a trunk with wounds from handling or incorrect pruning
  • limited, crushed, or circling roots in an undersized root ball or container

These problems, alone or in combination with each other, can greatly reduce the tree’s prospects for a long, attractive, healthy, and productive life. When buying a tree, inspect it carefully to identify problems related to form, injuries, or roots.

Learn more about these and other things to look for when buying high-quality trees

International Society of Arboriculture
International Society of Arboriculture
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