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5 tips for picking the right tree for your yard

  • 5/19/2020 9:57:00 AM
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If you’re thinking of branching out and adding a new tree to your yard, here are five things to keep in mind:

Start with research

From huge, leafy shade trees to tall, slender evergreens, there’s bound to be a candidate that suits your needs. Some species thrive under different conditions, so it’s always a good idea to study up on which trees would do the best in your yard. 

Keep these five things in mind when adding new trees to your yard or property  |  Iowa DNRThink of your needs

Are you wanting a tree that will stand up to storms? Extra shade in your yard? Is there a small area you’d like to spruce up with a tree? Consider all of these when deciding which species to plant. Different trees have different benefits, such as quick growth and how much shade they’ll give. Check out this guide from the DNR for some helpful information on choosing your new tree.

Know what your yard has to offer

If you have heavy clay soil, you’ll want a tree that can handle wet conditions. A shorter tree is a great option for planting under power lines. For a large shade tree, you want to plant it away from your house, garage or shed so it has plenty of room to grow without interfering with any buildings. You also want to think about how much sunlight the prospective plant zone receives, since some trees tolerate the blazing sun of late afternoons much better than others.

Find the best place to plant

When choosing where to put your tree, consider how it can help with energy efficiency. A tree planted on the northwest side of a property can help block cold winter winds. Planting on the east and west sides can help block the hot summer sun, helping to keep your house cooler. To help figure out where a tree would help in your yard, you can check out i-Tree Design.

Picking the perfect sapling 

Aside from picking the species for your property, picking the sapling is an important step in raising a successful tree. When trying to choose which tree to bring home, pay attention to the appearance - that can tell you a lot about how the tree may grow. Look for a sapling that has a good root system to keep the tree upright without staking. Typically, a tree will have a root-shoot ratio of around 1:5 to 1:6, meaning the top of the tree is five to six times heavier than the roots. This ratio is ideal for the tree to stand on its own without staking. 

Well-spaced main branches are also important, as well as a trunk that isn’t discolored, sunken or swollen. Take a look at the roots to make sure they’re not circling. If the roots appear pot-bound, the best option is trimming the outside quarter-inch of the roots when planting. Also, try to avoid trees with trunk wounds, bark cuts and visible insect damage. 

For more information on choosing the best tree for your space, check out the DNR’s Tree Resources and Links.