Tree Planting Guidelines

When choosing a tree to plant in your yard there are several issues that must be considered. One of the most important is the location of power lines. Other considerations include insect and disease resistance, distance from other trees and gardens, and low branching structure or drooping branches that may obstruct sidewalks or block views. Before planting a tree it is important to research several aspects of the tree and pay attention to the location that it will be planted to ensure that the tree will be able to thrive and will not cause damage to any of its surroundings.

In the city, power lines are a common obstacle to be avoided. The trees and wires can harm each other either directly or indirectly. When a tree grows through or around a utility line it allows squirrels easy access to the wires which they may then chew on, damaging the wires. Also if a limb falls from the tree in a storm it may get caught in the wires or even pull the wires down creating a power outage and a safety hazard. Because of these potential problems, utility companies often cut trees back away from the wires with little regard to the health and aesthetic value of the trees. Without proper attention, it is easy for an infection to attack the open cuts left on the tree. In addition, lopsided trees may become more prone to storm damage. Therefore, it is wise to plant new trees a sufficient distance from the utility lines to prevent these potential problems once it reaches its full height.

  • Small trees (under 30 ft. at maturity) should be planted at least 15 ft. from utility lines.
  • Medium trees (30-60 ft. at maturity) must be kept at least 35 ft. from utility lines.
  • Large trees (over 60 ft. at maturity) should be planted a minimum of 45 ft. from the utility lines.

Trees should also be kept away from building foundations since their roots are very strong and can cause structural damage over time. Another concern relating to the roots of your new tree is the presence of other trees, because trees that have to compete with each other for nutrients in the soil will not be as healthy and may have stunted growth. Other problems with planting trees too close together include insufficient sunlight and crossing branches. Some trees can tolerate shade or partial shade, but most trees require full sun exposure. Pay attention to the amount of sun the tree you pick requires and the pattern of light throughout the day in your planting site. When the branches of trees planted close together cross they may cut off nutrient flow to those limbs and result in dead branches. To prevent this, pay attention to the mature size and shape of your new tree.

Different species of trees and different varieties or cultivars within a species are often susceptible to different pests and diseases that may disfigure or kill the tree. Many insects eat the leaves of trees without causing harm, however there are some species that multiple quickly when they find a food source and devour the whole tree and kill it. There are also fungi and bacteria that can kill trees. Pesticides are available to prevent or stop many of these attacks, but the remedies are often expensive and toxic and require knowledge and vigilance to know when they are needed. It is much simpler to find a tree that is resistant to begin with. Many tree guides will comment on the possible problems that each tree type may develop.

This website may be used to help decide what tree is best for you as well as to learn about different tree species. For more information, please search our Arboretum Tree Listing Database for photos and details about trees that interest you.