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Tips for Tree Champions


Trees need champions today. Their survival depends on people—people taking action to protect and preserve them. Trees filter our air and water, reduce energy use, furnish wildlife habitats, and create beauty, and they need human help to continue.

That's why The Morton Arboretum is committed to scientifically informed action, both locally and globally. It's why we champion trees through scientific study, conservation, education, and outreach. It's why we protect and plant trees in a 1,700-acre outdoor living museum, in Chicago-area communities, and around the world.


Join us as a champion of trees. Here’s how you can help.


Trees need water. Did you know that rainfall often isn’t enough for trees? That’s especially true for trees in the city, where they don’t have much space to spread out their roots. Here’s how you can help:

  • Water young trees often. Until they have grown for a few years, they don’t have many roots to absorb water.
  • Water even big trees during dry spells. A few buckets of water at the base can help them survive until the rains return.
  • Trees like long, slow drinks. Leave the hose, barely dribbling, at the base of the tree for an hour or more. Or use a soaker hose.


Trees need space. The mix of space, soil, and light is important. Some sites are harder for some trees than others. Here’s how you can help:

  • When you plant a tree, put it where it has plenty of room. A tree’s roots spread just under the surface of the soil and need to reach out two or three times as far as its branches.
  • Choose a kind of tree that is well suited to the location where you plan to plant it.
  • Consult The Morton Arboretum’s Northern Illinois Tree Selector to help find the right tree for your site.


Trees need mulch. Those rings of wood chips around trees are not for decoration. A layer of mulch keeps a tree’s roots cooler in summer and warmer in winter; holds in moisture; protects the bark; and improves the soil. Here’s how you can help:

  • Spread mulch in a wide, even circle over a tree’s roots, about 3 or 4 inches deep.
  • Make the circle as wide as you can. The wide mulch will help keep lawnmowers and string trimmers away, so they don’t damage the tree’s bark.
  • Don’t pile mulch against the trunk of the tree; that can cause rot, disease, or other problems.


Trees need advocates. Can you imagine a world without trees? To make sure that the trees in our lives thrive for a long time and that we plant many more, make your voice heard. Here’s how you can help:

  • Let your local government know that you value trees and that preserving them should be a priority. It’s better to preserve trees than to replace them; a large, shady tree takes decades to grow.
  • Encourage officials to budget funds to care for trees and plant more of them.
  • Learn more about how you can advocate for trees from the Chicago Region Trees Initiative in which the Arboretum is a leading partner.


Trees need love. You and the trees in your community need each other. What would our neighborhoods be without the trees that cast shade, add character, and surround us in beauty? Here’s how you can help:

  • Value all the good that trees contribute to your life and pay them back by caring for them, protecting them, and speaking for them. Learn about the benefits of trees.
  • Attend a lecture or class about trees and the natural world of which they are a part. 
  • Make planting shade trees a priority when you plan your home landscape. Discover how diverse and beautiful your options can be by exploring The Morton Arboretum’s Tree and Plant Finder.  


Make every day Arbor Day. Be a tree champion every day of the year. To survive today, trees need more champions than ever before. Here’s how you can help:

  • Value all trees, not just those on your property but those along your street, in your community’s parks and schoolyards, in natural areas, and around the globe.
  • Visit The Morton Arboretum to see our collections of rare and endangered trees from around the world.
  • Volunteer to help us care for our magnificent trees and natural areas and advance scientific knowledge about trees.
  • Become a member to enjoy all the Arboretum offers and to be part of our important work.
  • Support our work to encourage the planting and conservation of trees and other plants for a greener, healthier, and more beautiful world.