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Spring Tree Planting Selection and Placement

Spring Tree Planting Selection and Placement

Punxsutawney Phil, predicted six more weeks of winter. However, that hasn’t stopped us from getting excited thinking about Spring Planting! In order to have a happy healthy tree it is best to put plenty of thought into tree selection and placement. Our friends over at Tree are Good provide detailed educational brochures to help tree owners understand best management practices and to promote a greater awareness of the benefits that trees provide in our communities. The following article was taken from their tree selection pamplet. You can find it at:

Tree Selection and Placement

Understand important issues in selecting a tree for planting, such as the tree’s intended function, location, common pests, geographic regions and hardiness zones, and considerations for best placement alternatives.

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.

One of the most common tree care questions is: “Which kind of tree should I plant?” Before this question can be answered, a number of factors need to be considered:

• Why is the tree being planted? What functions will it serve?
• Is a small, medium, or large tree best suited for the location and available space? Do overhead or belowground utilities preclude planting a large, growing tree — or any tree at all? What clearance is needed for sidewalks, patios, or driveways?
• What are the soil conditions? Is enough soil available of sufficient quality to support mature tree growth?
• How will necessary maintenance be provided? Will someone water, fertilize, and prune the tree as needed after planting?

Answering these and other questions can help you choose the “right tree for the right place.”

Tree Function

Large, healthy trees increase property values and make outdoor surroundings more pleasant. A deciduous shade tree that loses leaves in fall provides cooling relief from summer’s heat while allowing the winter sun to warm a home. An ornamental tree displays beautiful flowers, leaves, bark, or fruit. Evergreens with dense, persistent foliage can provide a windbreak or a screen for privacy. A tree or shrub that produces fruit can provide food for the owner or wildlife. 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.

Form and Size

A basic principle of modern architecture is “form follows function.” Selecting the right form (shape) to complement the desired function (what you want the tree to do) can significantly reduce maintenance costs and increase the tree’s value in the landscape. In addition, mature tree size determines the level of benefits received. Larger trees typically provide the greatest economic and environmental returns.

Depending on site restrictions, 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

Soil Conditions

In dense urban areas and new subdivisions, soil is often disturbed, shallow, compacted, and subject to drought. Most trees will suffer in these conditions without additional care. An arborist can take soil samples from your yard to test for texture, fertility, salinity, and pH (alkalinity or acidity). These tests can be used to determine which trees are suited for your property and may include recommendations for improving poor soil conditions


The amount of sunlight available will affect tree and shrub species selection for a particular location. Most woody plants require full sunlight for proper growth and flowering. Some do well in, or even prefer, light shade; however, few species perform well in dense shade. Wind exposure is also a consideration. Wind can dry out soils, damage tree crowns, and uproot newly planted trees. Special maintenance, such as staking or more frequent watering, may be necessary to establish young trees on windy sites


Tree roots require oxygen to develop and thrive. Poor drainage limits oxygen availability to the roots and may ultimately kill the tree. If drainage is an issue on your property, ask a local arborist about what can be done to correct the problem.


Hardiness is the plant’s ability to survive in the extreme temperatures of the particular geographic region in which you are planting the tree. Plants can be cold hardy, heat tolerant, or both. Most plant reference books provide a map of hardiness zone ranges. Check with your local garden center for the hardiness information for your region.

Space Constraints

Many different factors can limit the planting space available to the tree: overhead or underground utilities, pavement, buildings, other trees, visibility. The list goes on and on. Make sure there is adequate room for the tree you select to grow to maturity, both above and below ground.

Human Activity

Often an overlooked aspect of tree selection, the reality is that the top five causes of tree death result from things people do. Soil compaction, underwatering, overwatering, vandalism, and the number one cause — planting the wrong tree — account for more tree deaths than all insect- and disease-related tree deaths combined.

Pest Problems

Every plant has its particular pest problems, and the severity varies geographically. These pests may or may not be life threatening to the plant, but selecting trees resistant to pest problems specific to your area is the best choice. Your local ISA Certified Arborist, tree consultant, or extension agent can direct you to information relevant to problem species for your location.

Species Selection

Personal preferences and site constraints play major roles in the selection process. Taking into consideration the factors listed above, you can help ensure the tree you plant grows and functions as desired. Remember, the beautiful, mature specimen trees you see in historic neighborhoods and in landscape photography would never have reached their full potential if planted in improperly matched sites.


©2011 (1998, 2004) International Society of Arboriculture. Developed by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), a non-profit organization supporting tree care research around the world and dedicated to the care and preservation of shade and ornamental trees. For further information, contact: ISA, P.O. Box 3129, Champaign, IL 61826-3129, USA. E-mail inquiries: [email protected]


Tree Planting Around Utilities

Tree planting season is upon us and planning before planting can ensure our trees here in Springfield, MO will thrive for years to come. While we have been busy making our tree planting list, we thought we would help remind our customers of how important it is to plant the right tree in the right place. Basic knowledge of proper tree care helps individual tree owners understand the quality of care necessary for the health of their trees. The following article, from a brochure, provides great tips for tree planting around utilities.

To view the PDF in its entirety:


Avoiding Tree Planting & Utility Conflicts

Many factors should be considered prior to planting. Here are some helpful hints for tree planting around utilities.

Determining where to plant a tree is a decision that should not be taken lightly. Many factors should be considered prior to planting. When planning what type of tree to plant, remember to look up and look down to determine where the tree will be located in relation to overhead and underground utility lines.

Often, we take utility services for granted, because they have become a part of our daily lives. To ensure us the benefits of reliable, uninterrupted service, distribution systems are required to bring utilities into our homes. These services arrive at our homes through overhead or underground lines.
Overhead lines carry electricity, data, and communications. Underground utility lines may also carry those mentioned, plus water, sewer, and natural gas.
The location of these lines should have a direct impact on your tree and planting site selection. The ultimate mature height and spread of a tree must fit within the available growing space beneath and alongside the lines. Just as important, the soil area must be large enough to accommodate the particular rooting habits and an ultimate trunk diameter of the tree. Proper tree and site selection can provide trouble-free beauty and pleasure for years to come.

Overhead Lines
Overhead utility lines are easy to spot, yet often overlooked. Although these lines look harmless enough, they can be extremely dangerous. Planting tall-growing trees under or near these lines eventually require your utility provider to prune them to maintain safe clearance from the wires. This pruning may result in the tree having an unnatural appearance. Periodic pruning can also lead to a shortened life span for the tree. Trees that must be pruned away from power lines are under greater stress and are more susceptible to insects and disease. Small, immature trees planted today that have the potential to grow into overhead lines can become problem trees in the future.
Tall-growing trees near overhead lines can cause service interruptions when trees contact wires. Children or adults climbing in these trees can be severely injured or even killed if they come in contact with the wires. Proper selection and placement of trees in and around overhead utilities can eliminate potential public safety hazards, reduce expenses for utilities and their customers, and improve landscape appearance.

Underground Lines
Trees consist of much more than what you see above ground. Many times, the root area below ground is larger than the branch spread. Many of the utility services provided today run below ground. Tree roots and underground lines often coexist without problems.
However, trees planted near underground lines could have their roots damaged if the lines are dug up for repair.
The greatest danger to underground lines occurs during planting. Before you plant, make sure that you are aware of the location of any underground utilities. To be certain that you do not accidentally dig into any lines and risk serious injury or a costly service interruption, call your utility company or utility locator service first. Never assume that these utility lines are buried deeper than you plan to dig. In some cases, utility lines are very close to the surface. Locating underground utilities before digging is often required by law.

Tall Zones
Trees that grow 60 feet (20 meters) or taller can be used in the area marked “Tall Zone.” Plant large trees at least 35 feet (11 meters) away from the house for proper root development and to minimize damage to the building(s). These large-growing trees can be planted on streets without overhead restrictions if planting space is sufficient. Street planting sites should be greater than 8 feet (3 meters) and allow for a large root system, trunk diameter, and trunk flare.
Large trees are also recommended for parks, meadows, or other open areas where their large size, both above and below ground, will not be restricted, cause damage, or become a liability.

Medium Zones
Medium-sized trees that grow up to 40 feet (12 meters) tall are often used to frame or soften the appearance of structures or create a park-like setting. Appropriate soil spaces are wide planting areas or medians [4 to 8 feet (1 to 3 meters) wide], large planting squares [8 feet (3 meters) square or greater], and other open areas of similar size or larger.

Low Zones
This zone extends 15 feet (4.5 meters) on either side of the wires. Trees with a mature height of fewer than 20 feet (6 meters)
may be planted anywhere within this zone, including street tree plantings under utility lines. Such trees are also recommended
where soil volumes are too limited to support tall or medium zone trees.

Some Further Suggestions
Plant evergreen trees in the path of prevailing winter winds to serve as windbreaks. Plantings should be approximately 50 feet (15 meters)
or more from the house.
Plant deciduous trees (those that drop their leaves in the fall) to maximize shading in the summer. In winter, the bare canopies will allow
sunlight to reach the house.

Right Tree–Right Place
Planning before planting can help ensure that the right tree is planted in the right place. Proper tree selection and placement enhance your property value and prevent costly maintenance trimming and damage to your home. For further information on planting and helpful tips
on tree selection, refer to ISA’s brochures on tree selection and new tree planting. If you have any more questions, please contact your local
ISA Certified Arborist or tree care professional, utility company, local nursery, or county extension office.

©2011 (1998, 2004) International Society of Arboriculture.

Developed by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), a non-profit organization supporting tree care research around the world and dedicated to the care and preservation of shade and ornamental trees.

For further information, contact: ISA, P.O. Box 3129, Champaign, IL 61826-3129, USA.

E-mail inquiries: [email protected]

Works Cited:

“Avoiding Tree & Utility Conflicts.” Trees Are Good. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.

While you are planning your tree planting, why don’t you consider planting native Missouri trees! Click here to view a list of wonderful Missouri trees to make your yard look beautiful.