Plan Before You Plant Trees

This 77 inch maple tree trunk shows why you should plan before you plant trees.

This 77 inch maple tree trunk shows why you should plan before you plant trees.


Why should you plan before you plant trees? With many nurseries offering Fall sales on trees, homeowners are tempted to impulse buy trees. Most people do not realize that they need to carefully choose a location for their new tree. There are some concerns you must address when planning where to put trees and large shrubs. Hasty planting can cause future structural problems for your home, including shingle damage, foundation cracks, or other problems. 

Tree Size at Maturity

That weak-looking young maple tree at the nursery may grow into a towering giant with a 36-inch trunk when it is fully-grown. Before impulsively buying that spindly twig, consult an arborist about:

  • trunk size at maturity
  • root size, length, and habits
  • canopy size at maturity
  • pollen levels
  • amount of debris, such as nuts, bark sheddings, and more
  • brittleness of limbs

You may be surprised to see that it is important to ask about the tree’s roots. Some species have very large roots that can crack foundations and do other damage. Others have unbelievably long roots. For example, poplar tree roots often grow up to three times as long as the height of the tree. This means that a tree that stands 80 feet tall may have roots that extend out over 200 feet.

Where Do You Live?

Where you live matters! Don’t plant a Florida-raised palm in the frozen tundra of Green Bay. Very few tropical trees can survive in the northern states. Locally raised plants typically have a better chance of survival than imported plants. For example, one should not buy a plant in Minnesota and plant it in Florida because it may not be able to handle the summer heat.

In my photo, you can see that our maple has grown from having a tiny 1-inch trunk to having a trunk over 75 inches around! With a little planning, you will enjoy your new tree for decades to come. Resist impulse buying and choose trees that suit your landscaping when they are fully mature. If you plan before you plant trees, you can avoid landscaping nightmares.


Photo: Copyright Terrie Brockmann 2015

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  1. Marion Caragounis
    • Terrie Brockmann

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