Select the right place to plant your tree: tips to avoid tree-planter’s remorse

Always plant the right tree in the right place. It’s less maintenance and will produce benefits for years.

Is your yard a bit bare and lacking character? Trees to the rescue!

Early spring is a good time to plant new trees, and now is a good time to plan for them.

Whether you decide to plant a tree for aesthetics, to increase your property value, to save energy through shading, or to provide food and shelter for the birds, it is important to plan for your planting.

The first step is to think critically about where you’d like to plant your tree, The conditions of your desired planting site can help you determine what type of tree might be the most successful in that location, that is assuming your desired location can actually support a tree.

Considerations when evaluating 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.

It might help to take photos and record notes about your site, including distances to buildings, sidewalks, driveways, and utilities. This information will help the staff at your local nursery point you toward a few tree choices that are well-matched to your planting site.

Check out Trees are Good for excellent tree planting tips.

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