The roots of this tree in our backyard are as large as a small tree trunk. Photo credit: Terrie Brockmann 2010
Many nurseries offer late Spring and early Fall sales on trees. Most people do not plan carefully when they choose a location for their new plant. There are several factors you must consider when planting trees and large shrubs. Sensible planning can prevent future structural problems, such as roof damage, foundation cracks, siding damage, or other complications. Other problems trees can produce include excessive pollen, debris from seeds and other plant rubbish, and limb breakage during storms.
The homeowner didn’t consider the mature size of the magnolia and its proximity to the house. Photo credit: Terrie Brockmann 2010
Size of Mature Trees
That spindly young maple tree that has a 3-inch trunk when you bring it home from the nursery may have a 70-inch circumference when it is a fully-grown tree. Consult an arborist about the trunk, root, and canopy size before buying your tree. When planting use mature tree specifications and recommendations by expert landscapers.
Large trees can choke out smaller trees, overhang buildings and driveways, and cause other problems. You should plant trees with large trunks an appropriate distance from property lines. Often, planting a tree only one foot from the property line is not adequate to allow for future growth.
It is important to ask about the mature tree’s root size as well as canopy size. As the picture indicates, some species of trees grow extremely large roots. Some trees have extremely long root systems. For example, poplar tree roots may grow two or three times as long as the height of the tree. A poplar tree that stands 80 feet tall can have roots that extend out 160 feet beyond the trunk.
The canopy size of your tree can be a concern if you planted too close to buildings and other plants. Even an immature oak tree may block enough sun to stunt the growth of nearby shrubs. Often, tree branches damage roofs and siding when planted too close to buildings. Even properly placed trees generally need pruning to prevent problems.
Consider Your Climate
When you buy plants locally, they are generally suitable for your climate. However, some people buy plants in other locations and are dismayed when they die or do not thrive in the new location. For example, you cannot import a palm from Florida to your Wisconsin landscape and expect it to survive the frigid winter weather. Research what plants will do well in your climate.
A local nursery can help you choose trees that survive in your area’s soil conditions. For example, the European black elder tree thrives in marshy areas. However, most other trees will die of root rot in soggy conditions. Additional considerations include the temperature extremes, the length of the growing season, the annual rainfall, and more.
Many times, limbs that overhang wires and roofs break in stormy weather and cause problems. Photo credit: Terrie Brockmann 2010
One of the factors that most people forget about is the rubbish that a tree can produce. If you own a maple, you know that the “helicopters” can be prolific and can yield a lot of small seedlings in your lawn. Some trees have brittle branches that break and litter the yard. Poplar trees are notorious for “branch drop.” Crabapples, sweetgum, and other trees can drop bothersome fruit that requires frequent clean up.
Research the problems that your choice might have. Female gingko trees give off an offensive odor. Some tree fruits, such as walnuts, can stain concrete, roof shingles, siding, and more. Walnut trees and some others can inhibit the growth of nearby plants. By researching the type of tree that you want, you can avoid many problems.
Although technically not tree debris, some trees litter your lawn with sprouts from the root system. These saplings can become a nuisance that many homeowners have trouble battling. Often, these small trees are a sign that the parent plant is in poor health and is putting its energy into reproducing. Consult a professional about which trees are prone to this behavior.
Seek Out Professional Help
For personal research on planting trees, you can search the Web or consult your county’s agricultural agent. You can also consult an accredited landscaper or arborist. Some landscapers will give detailed plans if you purchase the plants from that business. Others charge a fee for consulting services.
Remember, a mature maple tree’s trunk can be over 30 inches in diameter. Some species of trees can put out destructive roots or troublesome branches. Planting trees too close to buildings, walkways, or roads can cause trouble in the future. Don’t forget to plan on the tree’s rubbish, such as seedpods, leaves, and broken small branches. For example, the seed debris from the cottonwood tree can fall like snow in the neighborhood during the Spring.
Before writing for Internet sites, Terrie wrote for print magazines, including "Cricket" and several Dell puzzle magazines. Her repertoire covers several subjects, such as camping, writing, and Life's Experiences. As a daughter, wife, mother, and grandmother, she often writes about family issues.