One of the most common questions I get from clients and attendees at speaking engagements is this:
What tree should I plant in my yard?
I always wish I could give a straightforward answer and instantly spit out the names of one or two trees that will thrive in their yards for the next 50+ years.
Unfortunately it is not that easy, as there are many factors to consider. Failure to think through your choice could doom your newly planted tree, or at least limit it in living up to its full potential. Here are a few considerations to help determine what will best meet your needs and the growing requirements of the tree.
So many aspects of tree health are determined by the soil in which it grows. It is much easier to select a tree suited to the soil you have than to try to adjust the soil to a certain species. Is it clay? Sand? Loam? Cement? Bricks? This website gives a good overview of how to determine the texture of your soil. However, you may want to consider sending in a sample to a local lab if you want a detailed analysis.
(Not so) high quality soil is often what urban trees are forced to grow in.
2. Tree goals
Do you want shade? Wildlife attraction? Fruit to eat? Home energy savings?
A good question to ask is: what is missing in my yard that could be at least be partially provided by a mature tree? For a good overview of urban tree benefits, check out the website for the Friends of the Urban Forest, here.
3. Growing space
What is important here is the mature size of the tree. Make sure you consider the tree's crown as well as its base. The online tree selectors, below, all give a good idea of mature tree height and spread.
This tree needs more space than it has been given to grow, and will therefore never live up to its full potential.
And remember to look up. You don't want to plant a tall-growing tree under utility lines.
Some trees will require more water than others. Some have leaves that can be a pain in the fall. Roots of some species are more prone to lift sidewalks or enter basement walls. Do you want to grow grass/shrubs/perennials under the tree but future shade will require heavy pruning?
These are just a few factors that can cause maintenance issues years down the line. Make sure you take these and others into consideration.
Online tree selectors
Once you have determined the above information, you can input everything into an online tree selector. A couple of my favorites are below.