How to pick the right tree

How to Select the Right Tree for Your Yard


Home 4 Seasons How to Select the Right Tree for Your Yard

Trees provide many things from protection to food on the table. (davelogan/Getty Images Signature)

Trees provide a lifetime of beauty, clean air, shade, and shelter. If you’re shopping for trees for a new landscape or to enhance your existing one, you may be overwhelmed by the hundreds of species and varieties of trees available.

One of the best ways to narrow down your choices is to determine the purpose of the trees in your landscape design, so you can choose varieties with the right characteristics. Here are some of the primary uses and types of trees in home landscapes.

Ash Trees are perfect for hiding under from that hot summer sun. (epsy3008/Getty Images)

Shade Trees

Who doesn’t love the shade of a tree on a hot summer’s day? If planted in the right spot, these trees can also shade your home and significantly lower your cooling bills.

Shade trees are usually:

  • Dense with broad leaves. As air passes through the tree, it will be cooled by the leaves. For lighter shade, choose trees with finer foliage.
  • Tall and rounded or vase-shaped, with room to walk underneath the branches.
  • Deciduous trees that lose their leaves in the fall. In winter the bare branches allow sunlight through to heat your home. For maximum energy efficiency, plant deciduous trees on the southwest corner of a house (northwest in the southern hemisphere).
  • Ornamental varieties that offer both beauty and function through flowers, fruits, or fall foliage.

Popular shade trees include:

  • Ash
  • Beech
  • Elm
  • Forest Eucalyptus
  • Linden
  • Maple
  • Sourwood
  • Sycamore

Dogwoods are perfect for that ornamental, decorative look in your yard. (NajaShots/Getty Images)

Specimen or Ornamental Trees

Specimen trees are planted by themselves, mainly for ornamental purposes. They are often used in lawn settings, as markers for entrances, or to provide shade for footpaths and seating areas. Since they’re intended as focal points, you shouldn’t have too many of them.

Specimen trees should have appeal for as many seasons as possible, so look for trees with attractive flowers, fall foliage, berries, unusual shapes, or interesting bark.

Specimen trees include:

  • Crabapple
  • Dogwood
  • Flowering cherry
  • Japanese maple
  • Magnolia
  • Redbud
  • Willow

Crape Myrtles not only can provide shade, but they make for good borderline plants to keep your privacy. (skpavlick/Getty Images)

Street Trees

Trees planted along the street must be tough to withstand the stresses of traffic, pavement, heat, and poor soil. They also may need to be short enough to fit under power lines and compact enough to grow in a narrow strip of earth. They shouldn’t drop large fruits, nuts, or branches that could interfere with car or foot traffic.

Common street trees include:

  • Crape Myrtle
  • Elm
  • Fringe tree
  • Golden rain tree
  • Holly
  • Ironwood
  • Oak
  • Thornless honey locust

Trees such as Holly or Fir grow tall and narrow, like columns providing you with the perfect amount of wind protection and noise cancellation. (Neal McNeil/Getty Images)

Windbreaks and Screening Trees

Windbreak trees are planted to provide a buffer against prevailing winds and storms. The best windbreak trees are dense evergreens which provide year round protection.

Windbreaks are also useful in the creation of microclimates in your yard, by providing extra shelter from frost and harsh weather. Windbreaks are best planted on the north side of your property (south side in the southern hemisphere), or as a buffer for prevailing winds.

Screening trees are a beautiful, economical way to provide privacy and reduce noise. For an effective screen, choose trees that are columnar in shape, with branches that start near the ground. They can be planted in a row or grouped more casually.

Some good windbreak and screening trees include:

  • Arborvitae
  • Fir
  • Holly
  • Leyland cypress

Fruit trees are great decoratively and to enjoy the delicious food they provide. (JianGang Wang/Getty Images Signature)

Fruit Trees

Fruit trees make excellent specimen trees while offering edible fruits for your table. Fruit trees usually need more pruning, pest control, and attention than other types of trees, but they reward you with lovely springtime blossoms and seasonal fruits to enjoy.

Popular fruit trees include:

  • Apple
  • Cherry
  • Fig
  • Lemon
  • Orange
  • Peach
  • Plum
  • Pear

Further Reading

  • How to Choose a Tree for Your Yard
  • How to Plant Trees and Shrubs on a Slope
  • Planting Indoor Container Trees

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Backed by his 40-year remodeling career, Danny served as the home improvement expert for CBS’s The Early Show and The Weather Channel for more than a decade. His extensive hands-on experience and understanding of the industry make him the go-to source for all things having to do with the home – from advice on simple repairs, to complete remodels, to helping homeowners prepare their homes for extreme weather and seasons.

Growing Trees: How To Choose A Tree

Trees are the most valuable and hardest-working part of our landscape. They shade our homes and neighborhoods cutting energy costs and increase property values. Trees add beauty, reduce air pollution and prevent soil erosion. It's easy to find a reason for planting a tree. The hard part is choosing the right tree.


Young trees require special attention if you want them to become established landmarks in your landscape. The species you choose needs to be able to adapt to your climate, as well as to your specific planting site based on soil, sun exposure and resistance to area pests. We’re here to help you take the guesswork out of tree selection.



Why Are You Planting?

Before choosing a tree, think about why you're planting it. Reasons vary, but might include:

  • Casting shade
  • Creating a windbreak
  • Adding beauty with flowers
  • Providing wildlife habitat or food source (seeds, fruit)
  • Giving your yard fall color
  • Growing edible fruit
  • Screening a view
  • Building a family legacy

Different trees offer different benefits. Start by planning with a purpose, and you’ll be happier with the results. Don’t be swayed too much by a tree’s ornamental quality. While spring blooms or fall color are appealing, it’s more important to choose a well-adapted tree that will grow into a size and shape you prefer. Be sure and check the USDA Hardiness Zones your tree choice is rated for. A tree not rated for your zone probably won’t survive. For suggestions of what grows best in your area, check with your local nursery or local Cooperative Extension System office.




Deciduous Or Evergreen?

At this stage, also decide what type of tree you want. Deciduous trees drop their leaves in fall or winter. They're the trees that typically boast blazing fall color. Evergreen trees retain their foliage year-round. They add color to winter landscapes and provide a solid backdrop for perennials and ornamental grasses.



Where To Plant

Think carefully about where you plant and how you space your tree. Planting deciduous trees on the south, west or east sides of your home can provide summer shade and allow for warming winter sun. In fact, properly-placed deciduous trees can cut summer air conditioning costs up to 25 percent. Evergreens provide year-round privacy. Try planting them along the north side of your home as a windbreak to help cut winter heating bills. Don't forget to check for buried underground utilities (call 811).



Determine The Growing Conditions

Start with sunlight. Your yard might have full sun, morning sun or shade. Knowing the amount of light your tree will need can help you pick the location it should be planted. Planting in full sun means paying close attention to your tree’s water needs and the value of mulch. Planting in shade could mean root competition from large trees. Sunlight needs, just like hardiness zones, can be found on the plant label.


Then check the soil. Different trees do better in different types. In areas of new construction, soil may be filled with construction debris or heavy clay. Some soils may be rocky or sandy. Some will have a higher pH. The most accurate way to determine your soil type is to do a soil test. Ask a nursery specialist or your local Cooperative Extension System office how to test your soil and, if necessary, how to adjust the pH.


Consider water needs. How much supplemental irrigation your tree will need is an important factor, especially in dry summer areas, like the Southwest, or areas where droughts are common. Native or drought-tolerant trees can survive with minimum of water and make an ideal choice.


Finally, check the drainage of your planting site by digging the planting hole, filling it with water, letting it drain and then refilling it. If the water isn't gone in 6-8 hours, choose a tree that will survive in wet soils or select another planting site.



Measure Your Space

Make sure you have enough room for your tree to reach its mature height and spread. In general, place trees 10-15 feet away from your home's foundation and at least 5 feet away from other structures. You don’t want its root system, which grows as the tree does, to damage the foundation or any paths. If you have room, consider planting a few trees together, since some trees like birches work well in groups.


You also shouldn’t automatically favor the fastest-growing tree you can find. For example, a poplar or willow will grow very fast, but will often be short-lived and weak-wooded. Many fast-growing trees boast less than desirable traits, including weak limbs, short life spans or aggressive roots. Slower growers like oaks and ginkgoes will usually be stronger and longer lasting. In other words, going for the quick effect is often not the best choice.



Digging Your Planting Hole

When you’re ready to plant, dig a hole as deep as the tree’s rootball and twice as wide. Refill the hole with the same soil you took out and don’t amend the backfill soil. Research has shown this can slow the tree’s adaptation or establishment to its site. Let the tree sit about 1” above the surrounding soil level.



Don't Forget These Items

  • Litter – Learn if your tree has falling fruit, blooms, leaves or bark that could create a mess on pavement or outdoor living surfaces.
  • Pests – Research to discover if your tree is susceptible to diseases or pests. Purchase resistant varieties if possible.
  • Growth speed – Because they have often been in pots longer, trees from bigger containers are often slower to become established than trees planted from smaller containers.



Check Locally

Choose a tree that's available locally. Visit garden centers and nurseries to review their selections. It's a good idea to do that early in the process as you're narrowing down your choices. You can also frequently find lists of suggested trees for your region from regional gardening books, city offices and your local Cooperative Extension System office.  



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How to choose the right tree for your garden

Someone thinks that his plot is too small to plant a couple of trees there. It's a delusion! Trees do not take up much space in the yard, especially if you cut off their lower branches.

In addition, today there are many types of miniature trees that will not reach the sky and block out the whole world. Such trees are quite suitable for small plots, yards and gardens.

Why trees are needed in the garden

Trees serve several important functions in a garden. Fruit trees produce crops and provide medicinal raw materials. Decorative serve to define the boundaries of the site, create a hedge. With the help of such trees, you can successfully mask any objects of the yard that you would not want to show. Trees are indispensable in the heat - they create shade.

Today in the world there are many types and varieties of trees from which you can choose those that are suitable for a small area. Although even a large tree, if planted correctly and constantly monitored for its development, will not create problems in a small yard. But when planting trees, it is important to remember that they are widely used by birds for shelter, nesting and other purposes. Therefore, most likely, with the appearance of trees, more birds will appear on your site.

Amanogawa serrated cherry (Prunus serrula Amanogawa)

A good option is to choose a small tree for the plot, which in the spring will delight with its lush flowering. One of these is the cultural form of the small-serrated Amanogawa cherry. This tree has a dense columnar crown up to 2 m wide and grows up to 4-7 m high. In spring, beautiful clusters of double, pale pink flowers appear on it. Amanogawa does not bear fruit, so it is unlikely that you will be able to enjoy the fruits of ripe cherries. But on the other hand, she will delight with flowering every spring.

For planting this cherry, a sunny, protected from the cold wind places with fertile, moderately moistened soil are suitable. Amanogawa is afraid of severe frosts, therefore it is recommended for cultivation in regions not north of the sixth climatic zone (from -23 to -18 ° C).

It is also important that this ornamental cherry is beautiful not only in spring during flowering, but also in autumn, when its leaves turn fiery red.


Magnolia soulange

Many people prefer to decorate their garden with magnolias - amazingly beautiful plants with huge showy flowers. The most popular species for cultivation on the plots are Sulange magnolia and lilac magnolia Nigra . Both of these species grow less than 6 m in height.

Sulange Magnolia is found throughout most warm countries. Today, it is successfully grown not only in botanical gardens, but also in household plots, and not only in the south, but even in central Russia.

Lily-flowered magnolia Nigra

Magnolia seedlings Nigra are supplied to the CIS countries from nurseries in Poland and Holland. This variety boasts a more saturated color of the perianth. In addition, it is considered more winter-hardy than species trees.

Hawthorn (Crataegus)

Scarlet hawthorn can be found in many gardens. It usually grows to a height of 6 m (very rarely up to 12 m). The popular names of this plant are "glod", "boyarka" or "lady". It has long been appreciated for its unpretentiousness and amazing medicinal fruits.

Due to its small growth, this plant is ideal for small areas. Often, with the help of hawthorn, hedges are arranged: they not only look amazing, but will also become a reliable protection for the site.

Hawthorn begins to bloom in early summer and blooms for 1-2 weeks. Flowers with a diameter of 12-15 mm, connected in lush inflorescences, are painted in golden white. Hawthorn fruits - medium-sized bright red or orange berries with mealy pulp are used in medicine, as well as vitamin supplements for poultry.

Lilac (Siringa vulgaris)

Lilac appeared in Europe in the 16th century and immediately gained popularity. It was she who became the main decoration of gardens in most Russian estates. Lilac, like hawthorn, grows to a height of up to 6 m and looks great in small gardens. With the help of pruning, it can be shaped into a tree or shaped into a bush.

This plant is recommended for growing in nutritious, non-acidic soils. It is not afraid of drought, does not like the wind and prefers a sunny location. The best place for planting a lilac bush will be a place that is illuminated by the sun for 6-7 hours a day.

Canadian Cercis (Cercis Canadensis)

One of the most beautiful spring trees, which does not exceed 8 m in height, is Canadian cercis, or "forest pansies". It is beautiful in early spring, bewitching with its flowering. In the southern regions it grows as a shrub.

Canadian cercis is usually easy to grow and care for outdoors, but choosing the right variety is important. This plant is considered the most frost-resistant of its counterparts, so it is quite famous in the European part of Russia.

Although the places that start north of the Voronezh region are no longer suitable for its cultivation: it will freeze and will not bloom. The climate of the Moscow region is also not suitable for cercis - of course, it will not die, but it will not please with luxurious flowers either.

Ornamental early cherry (Prunus "Accolade")

Cherry "Accolade" is a good solution for the garden, because it will delight both in spring and autumn, when its leaves turn a magnificent orange-red color. This tree grows up to 5-8 m high and 3-5 m wide. Among its distinctive features are a funnel-shaped crown, outstretched, drooping branches. Flowering begins in April, even before the foliage appears. Sometimes an ornamental tree also pleases with fruits (small black cherries). The leaves of the tree are pointed, in the shape of an ellipse. In summer they are light green in color, from October they acquire a yellow-orange hue.

"Accolade" cherry loves the sun and heat, but is quite winter hardy. He feels good in urban environments, but is afraid of the wind. Ornamental cherries can be grown on moist and moist lands, on neutral and alkaline. Fertile sandy-loamy substrates are also suitable.

Japanese maple (Acer japonicum)

Japanese maples are chic and unique at any time of the year, but especially in autumn. Let us clarify that the genus of these trees (Acer) includes about 110 species of deciduous (rarely evergreen) trees. The group of Japanese maples includes only two species: the Japanese maple itself (Acer japonicum) and the palm-shaped maple (Acer palmatum), which is also called mountain maple. This also includes fan maple (Dissectum) - a variety of mountain maple.

How tall a Japanese maple will grow depends on which variety it is. For example, the palmate maple can reach a height of 8 m, while the split-leaved trees prefer to develop more in width than in height, and in most cases their growth does not exceed 2 m.

Today, hundreds of varieties of these trees, which differ in the rich color of the foliage. These maples surprise even in winter - their crowns resemble umbrellas or mushrooms, and numerous thin bare branches are like fans. But still, the heyday of Japanese maples is, without a doubt, autumn. The foliage of these trees takes on delightful, breathtaking colors.

Pink-leaved palmate maple

Japanese maples are fairly hardy. If you grow these trees in the middle lane, in the winter cold it is necessary to provide them with shelter. Fan maples are covered with non-woven material. In regions with milder winters, snow must be carefully brushed off the branches of these trees so that the branches do not break under its weight. For the same reason, you should not touch the Japanese maple when the branches of the tree are covered with ice.

Rowan (Sorbus)

Rowan is another tree that reveals its colors in autumn. Rowan mixed (Sorbus commixta "Embley") is considered one of the best species. It grows up to 6 m in height. Nature endowed this tree with glossy red foliage and yellow berries.

In addition, two more species of this plant are of great interest to many gardeners - Koehne mountain ash (Sorbus koehneana) and Vilmorin mountain ash (Sorbus vilmorinii).

Köhne mountain ash is not particularly tall (in the middle lane it grows a little more than 2 m), next to it the lilac bush looks like a giant. Its fruits are edible, non-bitter, sour. And although she does not give much fruit (in the most fruitful year 1-2 glasses), she pleases with her delightful appearance. The main reason why this tree is planted in the garden is precisely the decorative features.

Köhne Rowan

Köhne rowan is no more difficult to grow than other types of rowan. Like other similar trees, it also loves light, is not very demanding on soil, is not afraid of drought, and tolerates city conditions well. Although in severe frosts it will feel worse than, for example, forest mountain ash. But this should not affect the appearance of the rowan Koehne.

Sorbus vilmorini Schneid is another mysterious representative that came from China. In height, it grows up to 6 m, has a decorative crown and edible white and pink fruits. This mountain ash is not afraid of winter cold, but it is recommended to grow it in sheltered places.

Vilmorin Rowan

Usually this rowan is planted on the border of the garden so that it does not obscure the plot. Most soils are suitable for it, but fertile, moisture-intensive soils are still preferable.

Jacquemont birch (Betula jacquemontii)

Among the small trees there are some that appear at their best in winter. Bright representatives of such plants are gray maple and Jacquemont birch.

Jacquemont birch reaches a height of 7.5-12 m. This tree will perfectly decorate any site. Its pride is a sprawling openwork crown, dark green, glossy, heart-shaped leaves and, most importantly, an unusual decorative bark, which becomes snow-white with age. The leaves turn bright yellow in autumn.

The wood is highly winter hardy. Moist and moderately fertile lands are suitable for its cultivation. For landing, it is better to choose sunny or slightly shaded places.

Gray maple (Acer griseum)

Gray Maple has gained wide popularity due to its unusual chestnut colored peeling bark. This distinctive feature allows the tree in winter - against the backdrop of the winter sky and snow-covered ground - to look much more interesting than in the warm season.

Although in autumn, thanks to its ruby-colored leaves, gray maple looks no less attractive and luxurious. In height, it grows up to 6-10 m, and its crown in diameter can reach 7.5 m. This tree is not afraid of even very severe frosts - it can withstand frost down to -45 ° C. However, if your garden is very modest in size, it is better to refuse planting this plant.

Ornamental trees in pots

If none of the above suits you, but you still want to decorate your yard with trees, you can try growing a tree in a pot. Designers recommend paying attention to dwarf fruit trees. Many of them will grow successfully and delight you for a long time - these are apple trees, nectarines, peaches, pears, and others.

In pots, even Japanese maples and olive trees grow successfully and with proper care remain compact. To make it easier to water your tree, choose the largest pot for it - this will facilitate better penetration of water to the roots and help the tree always stay healthy and not lack moisture.

With the onset of cold weather, potted trees are best removed into a house or other frost-free room.

If you have your own plot, you can always grow a tree there. And not even one. Even a small tree can be a profitable investment in a future large garden. The main thing is not to rush and make the right choice, taking into account all the features of your site.

Plant a tree. How to correctly choose seedlings | Garden | Dacha

Sergey Dzhura

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes


AIF at Dacha No. 19. Pumpkin: secrets of keeping quality 08/10/2015

/ Elena Poplev / AiF

Fruit trees are arranged in such a way that their life begins long before planting. And any garden is born even before the fruits have ripened in it - at the moment when you have decided to plant it and choose seedlings.

Planting dates

The best planting dates for fruit plants have long been well known. And this is not spring at all, as many mistakenly think, but autumn. Planting can begin when the seedlings are ready to move to a new place (they have fully formed apical buds, and the shoots are lignified by at least 3/4 of the length). In Central Russia, this usually happens around September 15–20. From this moment, you can purchase and plant seedlings of apple, pear and berry bushes in a permanent place. They try to finish planting work no later than mid-October, since the plants need time to take root in a new place before the soil freezes. As for berry species, they can be planted until the end of October: firstly, their root system recovery period is somewhat shorter, and secondly, berry roots (especially gooseberries) can continue to grow in slightly frozen soil.

Stone fruits (cherries, sweet cherries, plums) have their own timing requirements. The less hardy specimen you intend to grow, and the more severe the first winter becomes, the more risky autumn planting will be. Therefore, stone fruits are often recommended to be planted in the spring. However, from an organizational point of view, it is quite reasonable to purchase their seedlings in the fall, dig in until spring and plant, waiting for the right moment and not being distracted by the search for planting material. Usually in autumn the assortment of seedlings is much wider than in spring, especially when it comes to scarce varieties.

In many regions of our country, an early spring drought occurs almost every year, when soil and air humidity drops to almost critical limits. The trees planted at this difficult moment are having a very hard time - after all, the blossoming leaves actively consume scarce water, and the roots are damaged. As a result, plants get sick for a long time and take root with great difficulty.

Photo: AiF/ Elena Popleva


The quality of a fruit seedling is determined by two components: health and development. And if it is still possible to “catch up and overtake” in development, then it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to cure a “sick person”. That is why it is very important to choose healthy plants.

It is not necessary to be an expert to distinguish a problem seedling from a full-fledged one. First, carefully inspect the tree. On its trunk and large branches there should not be fresh damage to the bark, reaching the wood. Cracks, scuffs, poorly overgrown old damage (when a dying piece of wood is visible in the wound, the “embryo” of a future hollow) is a good reason to refuse a purchase. Also, the tree should not show dying off or flaking of the bark. Most often, this is a symptom of a fungal infection.

Photo: AiF / Elena Popleva

No need to be afraid of a small surface peeling on the stem. If a healthy bark is visible under the “scales”, this is a variant of the norm.

Young bark on the trunk and large branches should not look lifeless and shriveled. It is better to try not to purchase seedlings with dry branches. Only a slight drying of the tops is acceptable, especially if it happens in the fall and the leaves are not removed from the plant. But in this case, before planting, it is better to hold the tree in a container with water for a couple of hours, having previously “refreshed” (cutting off literally half a centimeter) with a pruner cuts on large roots. The same procedure is needed for seedlings without signs of drying, but stored for several days.

Pay special attention to the roots. They should not have swelling or shapeless growths (usually these are symptoms of bacterial cancer). Of course, the above does not apply to sea buckthorn seedlings, in which such formations are just nodules of nitrogen-fixing bacteria.

Photo: AiF / Elena Popleva

Correct appearance

Inexperienced gardeners usually look for tall, dimensional seedlings and pay almost no attention to the roots. But we will not do this with you - on the contrary, first of all we will consider the underground parts. A well-developed root system should consist of at least 4-5 large roots (preferably "looking" in different directions) with a "beard" of numerous thin roots. The root system should not look like a stump, badly damaged during digging.

There are standards for planting material that regulate its external parameters. For example, a two-year-old apple tree seedling should be at least 1.2 m in height and have a crown with 4–5 side branches. However, these standards were developed mainly for industrial gardening, and for amateur gardeners they can only be evaluated as an approximate guideline. I would recommend choosing seedlings, even if they are a little “not up to standard” in height, but “stocky”, with a more developed root system.

See also:

  • Mala is smaller. Secrets of creating an orchard in a small area →
  • Selection of seedlings. How to determine quality planting material? →
  • Planting material. How to buy quality seedlings →

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