Four Things To Consider Before Planting A Tree In Your Yard

When you go shopping for a tree, you almost never buy a tree at it's mature height. Whichever tree you buy, it still has plenty of growing to do. It's important to know what you're getting yourself into when you plant a tree, or you might be paying a tree service to remove the same tree just five or ten years down the road. 

1. What are city and state regulations about residential tree size?

You might be surprised to learn most cities have rules about what size of tree you can plant. For example, one city in Oregon is trying to increase greenery in the city through an urban forestry project, and trees planted in new home developments have to have a large mature canopy, depending on how large the space is for planting. 

Other groups, like home owner's associations, may want smaller trees in the front yard, so as the community develops, large trees don't begin to overshadow the homes and boulevards. Check with your home builder and city before planting a tree, just to make sure you aren't investing in a mistake. 

2. Where are your main water and sewage lines?

Part of that wide open green space on your lawn is tree-less because it houses gas lines, water lines, and sewage pipes. Before digging and planting, call a contractor to mark where these lines are in your yard.

You should also check with your tree service to make sure you know the average root depth and mature root spread of the tree you would like to plant. Tree roots can travel several yards away from the mother trunk in search of water and nutrients, leading to cracked pipes and damaged sewer systems. 

3. How storm-resistant is the tree you want?

Some areas of the United States have frequent and violent storms. People who live on the Gulf of Mexico, for example, experience hurricane weather. Those who live in Michigan or North Dakota experience heavy snowfall. The risk of tornados, tropical storms, wind storms, and even frequent thunderstorms should influence your tree decision for the following reasons:

  • Some trees, like willows, are flexible, but have weak branches that are not wind resistant. If you live in an area where high winds are normal, it's better to choose a sturdy, slow growing tree, like an ash or a ginko. If you have a large, weak tree whose branches are in danger of breaking, your house and property will be in danger of extensive damage during a storm. 
  • Most trees can bear the weight of some snow with no trouble. However, coniferous trees like the Colorado Blue Spruce, are much more hardy during winter weather and much less prone to winter storm damage. The conical shape of the coniferous tree allows the snow to slide down from the branches. 

4. Will you have to clean up after your tree?

If you love the look of a Pink Spire crabapple, but you're not into maintenance, then this tree, no matter how beautiful it appears, is not right for you. When you're spending a few hours a week picking dropped crabapples from the ground, you'll be wishing you had chosen a different tree for your yard.

Many trees require a least some form of maintenance, but you'll quickly find some trees are much more demanding than others. If cleaning up fruit, pine needles, or seeds is not really your thing, it's best to avoid:

  • Walnut trees.
  • Pine trees. If you want to go coniferous, choose a tree that has a easier maintenance task: the tamarack. This tree loses it's feathery needles each year, but they are not prickly and won't ruin your grass — you can simply rake them up with the leaves from your deciduous trees. 
  • Decorative cherry trees, including the Schubert and Amur varieties. The fruits from these actually stain concrete sidewalks. 
  • Ohio buckeye trees.
  • Any type of crabapple or decorative plum tree.

Who knew choosing a tree to plant could be so complex? After you've made the right choice, hopefully you won't need to worry about storm damage, extensive maintenance, or ruined plumbing. Check out sites like for further assistance.