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Don’t Be Over-elm-ed When Planting a Tree

February 29, 2024


Even though the weather is still trying to figure out what it wants, spring is around the corner which means trees will be putting out leaves soon! This means that it is also a good time to start thinking about if you want to plant a tree at your home.

Before you start planting, start looking around your landscape and answer the following questions for yourself:

What size space (above and below ground) do you have for your tree?

Trees have wide, shallow roots that need as much space as the tree’s canopy. When planting, you want to make sure that the canopy won’t conflict with any above ground utilities while also not lifting nearby sidewalks or driveways.

How much sun does your space get?

Unless your home is surrounded by evergreens, you probably have trees without leaves around. While your landscape is currently getting lots of sun, that will change once the trees grow their leaves. Think about how much sun your space will actually have during the summer when trees have leafed out. This will help determine which tree you can plant that will not be stressed. Sun-loving trees want spaces that have 6 or more hours of direct sun, while full shade trees want less than 4 hours of direct sun. Part-sun/part-shade want something in-between.

What does your soil look like?

We recommend that folks do a soil test to see what nutrients are available and if soil amendments might be needed. How do you do this? Well, there are handy soil tests by Ohio State University that give clear, step-by-step instructions on how to collect, process, and send samples. You can also list if you want to plant a certain tree where you collected soil and if that site is appropriate for that species’ needs.

Why are you planting your tree?

For wildlife habitat? For shade? For beauty? When planting a tree in your landscape, having a goal in mind can help limit the countless options that are available at your local nursery. If you want more economic benefits, a large shade tree would be a good choice since more shade equals less money spent on cooling your home. For beauty, trees with showy flowers would be more suited than a tree with smaller, tiny flowers.

From there, you can start determining what tree your landscape can support. Rather than finding any tree and sticking into a home that stresses it out, we want to make sure the trees we plant will be happy in their new spaces. That may mean certain trees would not be recommended (a sun-loving tree in a spot that gets only 2 hours of sun), but the great thing about trees is that there are so many different types that you could plant that would also meet your goal.

This tree will (hopefully) be there for years to come, so we want to make sure that it has a strong start. If you need help determining what tree works best for your space, check out our Tree Selection Guide that goes into more detail about choosing the right tree for the right place. Also check out our Planting a Containerized Tree if you need a reminder on how to plant a tree. Happy planting!

Amanda Wood

Amanda Wood

Urban Community Forester

Amanda Wood advocates awareness of the value of forests and trees in cities. Leading community forestry outreach through workshops and practical field experience, she promotes the social, environmental, and economic values of trees and forests to communities in northeast Ohio. She has 5 years of experience in community forestry in the private and non-profit sector throughout the Midwest.

Learn more about me

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