The selection of a tree requires understanding the criterias involved such as the tree's intended function, geographic zones, hardiness zones, location, and common pests. Tree selection and placement are two of the most important decisions a homeowner makes when landscaping because many trees have the potential to outlive those who plant them. The decision has a lasting legacy so matching the tree to the site should be carefully considered.
What Kind Of Tree Should I Plant?
These are the factors to consider before making this decision:
Beautiful mature trees increase property values as well as providing many other benefits to the homeowner so deciding on the function of the tree is crucial. A deciduous shade tree that will lose it's leaves in the fall, serves a dual purpose of summer cooling shade but also allow for the sun to warm a home in the winter. An ornamental tree will have beautiful flowers, aesthetics, or fruit. A fruit bearing tree can be a source of food every year for the homeowner. Evergreens are ideal for privacy or windbreaks due to their dense year round foliage. Street trees improve the appearance of the neighborhood, reduce runoff, filter out pollutants, and improve air quality.
Form and Size of the Tree:
A basic tenet in architecture and nature is form follows function. Selecting the right form or shape to match the desired function can significantly increase the tree’s value in the landscape. The size and maturity of a tree is in direct relationship to the return on benefits. Larger trees typically provide the greatest economic and environmental returns so depending on site restrictions will determine your options. If there are overhead utility lines, a low spreading tree can be selected. A narrow, columnar evergreen may provide a screen between two buildings. Large, vase-shaped trees can create an arbor over a driveway or city street.
Selecting a tree that will thrive in a given set of site conditions is the key to long-term tree survival and reduced maintenance.
In dense urban areas and new subdivisions, most trees will not survive because the soil is often disturbed, shallow, compacted, and subject to drought. Soil samples can be taken for fertility, texture, salinity, and pH to determine which trees are best suited and to plan recommendations for improving the soil conditions.
Poor drainage limits oxygen to the tree roots which will ultimately kill the tree. If there are any issues with drainage, this must be corrected otherwise it is a lost cause.
Exposure To Sunlight:
The amount of sunlight available at the location is a primary factor in tree selection because different species have different requirements for light and shade. Most woody plants require full sunlight for proper growth and flowering while others do well in light shade. Wind exposure is also a consideration because it can dry out soils, damage tree crowns, and uproot newly planted trees. Therefore, young trees will require special maintenance, such as more frequent watering, and bracing or cabling on windy sites.
The definition of hardiness is the plant’s ability to survive in the extreme temperatures of the particular geographic region in which you are planting the tree. The categories are cold hardy, heat tolerant, or both. You must match your region with the plant to make sure it will be able to survive the temperature extremes in your area.
Limitations Of The Space:
Many different factors can limit the space available to the tree: overhead or underground utilities, pavement, buildings, other trees, visibility. Selecting the right location to allow the tree to grow to maturity might require some visualization and forward thinking.
Every plant has its particular pest problems which can vary in severity by region. By selecting trees resistant to those pest problems specific to your area, you will give the tree a better chance of survival.
The top 5 causes of tree deaths is from things people do such as soil compaction, over or under watering, vandalism, or the most common which is planting the wrong tree.
By taking into the factors discussed, you can ensure the tree you plant will mature into its full potential. The beautiful, mature specimen trees you see in historic neighborhoods and in landscape photography would never have reached their full potential if planted in improperly matched sites.