Trees: Questions to Ask Before Planting

by blackspanielgallery

Planting a tree can help the ecology, provide shade, and even have other positive affects. But there are questions to be answered before planting.

Trees serve purposes, and there are many good reasons to plant trees, but there are things that must be avoided. As with most things, there is no simple answer for all occasions.

The first thing one must consider is what type of tree is to be considered. Next, one must decide if it is the right time of year to plant the tree in your area, or if it should be planted in your area at all. Then comes what reason there is for planting the tree in the first place. It could be for shade, or to help mitigate global warming. Finally, consider those things that could be detrimental to having the tree in the future. Can it do damage? And will the eventual removal of the tree be inconsistent with the original goal.

Some of these are obvious, we should plant trees that will thrive in an area at the right time for planting. Others can be easily overlooked.

Choose a Place to Plant

Where Will You Plant?

Think ahead.  I often see nice, small trees close to homes, some even having been planted under the eves.  When that tree grows it must have vertical room available to grow, and horizontal space to expand.  Planting a tree is different than planting an annual.  The tree is a long-term commitment. 


Another issue is planting where roots can do damage.  Oaks, in particular, have the ability to damage walks, foundations, and underground pipes.  And cutting some trees down is not a good option.  Once a tree like an oak is cut down the roots rot, and ground collapse becomes another problem.


Another thought should be will there be any possibility of damage if a storm fells the tree?  Look around and see if there is a structure onto which the tree can fall.


Avoid future problems before planting by knowledge and thought.


Will You Have a Problem Living with the Tree?

Some trees drop leaves in abundance.  There are those who abhor raking leaves.  Choose a type of tree you can live with.


Flowering trees drop old flowers.  Crape myrtles are beautiful, but old flowers are not beautiful on a driveway or walk.

Will Removal Defeat the Purpose of Planting?

So, if you find you must remove a tree will you lose the original benefit? 


A tree planted to help the ecology does this by removing carbon dioxide from the air.  The carbon is stored in the tree, and the oxygen is released to the atmosphere.  Trees help mitigate a carbon footprint. 


If a tree is removed, it is either burned or allowed to decompose.  Either way, the carbon is released back into the atmosphere, often in the form of carbon dioxide.  So, all the good the tree had done over years is rapidly undone.  The benefit becomes temporary.


Many of the questions one need pose are in this article.  They should be asked before your shovel strikes the ground.  Plant trees, but plant the right trees for your purpose and where they can thrive without interference.


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Updated: 10/29/2020, blackspanielgallery
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blackspanielgallery on 10/29/2020

That is a typo, it should be shovel.

DerdriuMarriner on 10/29/2020

blackspanielgallery, Thank you for the practicalities and products. The tree-filled vintage poster looks particularly educationally entertaining and entertainingly educational.
Virginia Tech, through its advanced master gardening programs in land, tree and water stewardship, indicates that root spread tends to be twice the height of trees such as white pines that are taller than they are wide and to be thrice the width of trees such as box elders that are wider than they are tall. It ideally locates trees no closer to residences than distances equivalent to beyond their mature heights.
Is there a tree that does all that pines do without becoming so terrifying in severe weather?
In your conclusion, you mention a tree as a "shover." Would that be a longstanding or recent or regional moniker that I've somehow missed for a tree?

blackspanielgallery on 10/29/2020

Here pines look nice when small, and provide good shade when fully grown, but after a hurricane such as the one yesterday it seems they are often the trees that hit houses when they fall due to wind or are split by lightning. Thirty feet looks far enough from structures when they are young, but they reach so high they can hit things years later when they have grown.

In Hurricane Katrina in 2005 I would have had damage from a pecan tree if it had not been caught by a fig tree,

One nuisance tree that came with the house when I moved here was a wax myrtle that was too close to the building, and even after it was removed continued to sprout from the roots years later.

frankbeswick on 10/29/2020

A good article.

A garden near my previous house had a large eucalyptus which had to be felled. Eucalyptus have evolved to suck in much water, so it was drying the ground and potentially undermining the house.

Also, soil must be considered. Soils can be acid, neutral or alkaline, and some trees prefer one or the other. For example, rowan [mountain ash] likes acid soils, whereas there are no field maples in my area as they prefer alkaline soils, whereas round here they are slightly acid. Aspen, alder and willow like watery places.

Soil nutrients sometimes put constraints on what can be grown. During the potato famine of the 1840s a priest in Connemara managed to get funding to provide work by planting a forest on a barren hillside. Despite his good intentions every tree weakened and died. The reason was that the soil was deficient in trace elements needed by trees. This is a rare case. but it reveals problems that can occur.

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