Select the right place to plant your tree: Tips to avoid tree-planter’s regret syndrome

This was the wrong tree planted closely to sidewalks. Think ahead before planting a tree that will grow too big for its location.
This was the wrong tree planted too closely to the sidewalk. Think ahead before planting a tree that will grow too big for its location.

Your yard might be a bit bare and lacking character. Trees to the rescue!

Whether you decide to plant a tree for aesthetics, to increase your property value, to save energy by planting shade, or to watch birds while lounging in a hammock, it is important to plan for your planting. Start by thinking about site selection.

Evaluate the site to make sure this is the best possible place for a tree to live and that you have the information to select the best species for that site.

Considerations when selecting your site include:

  • Are there underground utilities? Call 1-800-424-5555 two working days before you dig a hole. A utility location service will mark the pathways of underground utilities on your property, including water, electric, gas and sewer, so you can avoid costly and dangerous line damage.
  • Is there enough space for the tree? Visualize the tree 50 years from now and plant so that it will not interfere with nearby structures, or overhead utilities (see photo). A large-statured, long-lived tree will need more space than one that matures at a small height. Only small-growing trees (less than 30’ at maturity) should be planted under overhead power lines. Consider how wide the base of the tree will be at maturity, and plant to avoid damage to sidewalks, and infrastructure.
  • What are the environmental conditions? Some trees are tolerant of partial or full shade; others need full sunlight to survive. Some trees tolerate well-drained, dry soils while others need and thrive in consistently moist soils.
  • Do you need a permit? Know your community’s regulations regarding tree planting on public and private property.

The U.S. Forest Service has a checklist of points to consider before, during, and after planting your tree.

Visit DNR’s Urban and Community Forestry Program webpage for additional information.

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