Selection Factors to Consider
Soil ConditionsThe condition and quality of soil in your yard can influence planting success. In urban sites, the topsoil often has been disturbed and frequently is shallow, compacted, and subject to drought. Under these conditions, trees can be stressed. For species that are not adapted to these conditions, proper maintenance can reduce stress and is necessary to ensure growth and survival. Many arborists will, for a minor charge, take soil samples from your yard to test for fertility and pH (alkalinity or acidity). The tests will be returned with recommendations to improve poor soil conditions with fertilizers or soil amendments (sand, leaf mulch, etc.) and will also recommend tree species that will do well in the soils found on your site.
ExposureMost woody plants require adequate sunlight for proper growth and flower bloom. Others do well in light shade, but few tree species perform well in dense shade. Exposure to wind is also a consideration. Wind dries out soils, and may accelerate drought conditions. Wind can also damage branches and leaves during storms and can actually uproot newly planted trees that have not had an opportunity to establish root systems. Special maintenance, such as staking or more frequent watering, may be needed to establish young trees on windy sites.
Human ActivityThe top five causes of tree death are often the result of 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 deaths combined.
DrainageTree roots require oxygen to develop and thrive. Poor drainage can lessen oxygen available to the roots from the soil and kill the tree. Before planting, dig some test holes 12 inches wide by 12 inches deep in the areas you are considering planting trees. Fill the holes with water and time how long it takes for the water to drain away. If it takes more than 6 hours, you may have a drainage problem. If so, ask your local garden center for recommendations on how to correct the problem or choose a different site.
Space ConstraintsMany different factors can limit the planting space available to the tree: overhead or underground utilities, pavement, buildings, and other trees. Make sure there is adequate room for the tree you select to grow to maturity on all sides and above and below ground.
HardinessHardiness 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. Before you make your final decision, make sure the plant you have selected is "hardy" in your area.
Pest ProblemsInsects and diseases affect almost every kind of tree and shrub. Every plant has its particular pest problems, and the severity varies geographically. These pests may or may not be life threatening to the plant. You should select plants resistant to pest problems for your area. Check with The Morton Arboretum's Plant Clinic for plant suggestions. Chicagoland Grows has bred and released trees that are more pest-resistant for our area.
Species SelectionMake sure you use the information you have gathered about your site conditions and balance it with your personal preferences.
If you are having difficulty taking these factors into account or making this decision on your own, contact The Morton Arboretum for assistance. The Arboretum's Plant Clinic will help you plant the "right tree in the right place." We can also recommend kinds of trees and shrubs of which you may not be aware.
- Intermediate Sized Evergreens (6-20 feet) 47%
Growing 6-20 feet tall, they retain foliage year-round, and soften structural edges around foundations, under windows, at corners, or against walls. Like mid-sized shrubs, they create structure and depth in mixed plantings, and provide backdrop for...
- Low Growing Evergreens (generally less than 6 feet) 47%
Generally growing less than 6 feet, these shrubs screen unwanted objects and views all year, can be used to stabilize slopes or embankments, and add color to winter landscapes. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from mounded to upright to...
- Intermediate Sized Deciduous Trees (25-40 feet) 46%
Intermediate-sized trees generally grow 25-40 feet tall. Like large trees, intermediate-sized trees provide shade, warming, shelter, and privacy. They absorb noise, dirt, heat, and glare from the pavement and street. Be mindful of the growth needs...
- Plant Health Care Report July 27, 2012 46%
July 27, 2012 Issue 2012.15 Our...
- Northern Red Oak 45%
Botanical Name: Quercus rubra Common Name: Northern Red Oak* Updated 12/2012 Click on an image to enlarge Form Leaf Flowers Fruit Bark Height: 60-80' Spread: 60-75' Habit/Form: Rounded...