Choosing the Right Trees for Your Landscape

Selecting trees to landscape your home can be a difficult task. Buy them too small and your yard looks skimpy. Buy them too large and you may end up living in a jungle of overgrowth. Here’s an overview of what to consider when selecting and planting trees.

Choose for your soil and climate. Consult your local nursery on what types of trees thrive in your region. Soil type, temperature, and average rainfall are all things to consider.

Fast- or slow-growing. How quickly do you want to see a young tree grow to maturity? While fast-growing trees will provide a mature look more quickly, they also tend to have softer woods and shorter lifespans. And unfortunately, soft-wooded trees are prone to damage in windstorms. They also tend to be more vulnerable to disease. Slower-growing trees tend to be sturdier hardwood varieties that live much longer.

Putting down roots. Before planting any tree, consider its placement in relation to your house and any nearby hardscapes. Tree roots may damage nearby sidewalks, driveways and even your home’s foundation. Trees with shallow roots are more vulnerable to being uprooted in a windstorm.

Watering. Proper watering is essential for any tree, so learn what your tree needs. Too little watering may cause shallow roots since the tree is seeking water near the surface. If you have an irrigation system, it can be adjusted to a particular tree’s needs.

Foliage. Choose what kind of foliage you desire. Do you want large leaves that together provide almost complete shade? Do you want deciduous trees that drop leaves, or evergreens that maintain their foliage year round? Regardless of whether they keep foliage or not, virtually all trees drop seed pods such as acorns or pine cones.

Proportion. Consider the size of a tree at maturity when deciding whether it’s a good fit for your house and the surrounding yard. An oversized tree for a small house and lot may seem to swallow the property, whereas a tree too small for a large house and land will seem diminutive. Homeowners often underestimate a tree’s potential for growth and within 10 years their three-foot saplings have overtaken their yards.

Placement. Several factors determine where you choose to plant trees on a property. Are you primarily interested in shading the house from intense sun, especially in the summertime? Take note of the path the sun follows from daybreak until sunset and place trees accordingly. In hot climates, trees on the west and south sides of a house provide shade during the hottest, most intense sun of late afternoon.

If you want a privacy screen, select trees that provide foliage from the ground up. Evergreen trees, which keep their foliage year-round, provide the best privacy. Measure the space between trees providing just enough room so that the trees will touch at maturity.

As trees grow and mature, be vigilant about trimming branches near your home’s roof to prevent damage in wind, snow or ice storms. Overhanging branches also serve as a direct route for unwanted critters such as squirrels, raccoons, and rodents. These animals may leap from a nearby branch onto the roof and then chew a hole to access the attic.