UC Master Gardeners

Before planting a tree, a few questions to answer

UC Master GardenerJanuary 8, 2013 

A tree can be a beautiful and colorful addition to any yard. But before planting, do some research into what type would work best in the area where it will grow. Tree planting should begin with careful planning.

UC REGENTS — Courtesy photo

  • Got a gardening question?

    Contact the University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners: at 781-5939 from 1 to 5 p.m. on Monday and Thursday; at 473-7190 from 10 a.m. to noon on Wednesday in Arroyo Grande; and at 434-4105 from 9 a.m. to noon on Wednesday in Templeton. Visit the UCCE Master Gardeners Web site at http://ucanr.org/sites/mgslo/ or e-mail mgsanluisobispo@ucdavis.edu.

Q: I want to plant a tree to shade my house in the summer. Do you have any suggestions for which type of tree I should plant? — Carol C., Atascadero

A: You are wise to ask what variety of tree you should plant. Tree planting should begin with careful planning. Your goal should be to have a landscape that will cool your home in the summer and shield it from the winter winds.

Think about the height of the tree you want to plant. What is the full-grown height of the tree? Will the tree compromise building overhangs or power lines? Also, what is the canopy spread? How wide will the tree grow? You don’t want your tree to collide with buildings and you want to be a good neighbor, not having your tree grow several feet over their back fence.

Does your city have any ordinances regarding trees or does your neighborhood have any HOVs? Is the tree deciduous or coniferous; in other words, will you be raking leaves in the fall? What is the form or shape of the tree?

A columnar tree will grow in less space and a round and V-shaped species will take up more space but provide the most shade.

What is the growth rate of the tree or how long will it take for your tree to reach its full height? Slow-growing species typically live longer than fast-growing species. Does the tree provide fruit, and will you have time to harvest the fruit?

Also, your neighbors will not appreciate unwanted fruit dropping on their lawns, and who wants overripe fruit dropping on public sidewalks?

What are the soil, sun and moisture requirements of the tree? You need to know your planting zone or hardiness zone. This indicates the temperature extremes in which a tree can be expected to grow. A tree that should be planted in South County most likely will not survive the cold winters of North County.

Finally, think of a tree’s foliage. There are trees that take on the color of sunsets with the changing of the seasons. With a little research, your yard will be beautifully landscaped with healthy, colorful trees.

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