Trees are not only beautiful; they also add to the value of your property, aid in energy savings and clean the air. But this is only true if you match the right tree to the right place. Choosing the wrong type or size of tree and planting in a location where it can interfere with or damage structures or infrastructure is a sure way to create a long-term problem. Here’s how to avoid making that mistake.
To choose the right location for your tree, it’s important to consider the size the tree will be at maturity—not just the height but also the spread of the canopy. Will the fully grown tree be too close to your house? If so, it can damage the roof, underground pipes or power lines running to the house or high-voltage lines near your home. While some shading may save you on air conditioning costs, think about whether it will lend too much shade. A smaller tree or one planted further from the house may be a better option.
Check for Utility Lines
Before you start digging, call 811 to have your local utility companies come out to identify and mark where gas, power and other lines are located. If you don’t take this step, you could cause a gas leak by digging in the wrong spot or sever phone, electric, water or sewer lines. Keep in mind that a tree’s roots can grow to the same circumference as the tree’s canopy! Avoid planting trees that will grow to more than 15 feet in height within 25 feet of utility lines to avoid future problems. Some electric voltage lines require more clearance and can accommodate trees of no more than 10 feet in height. Call your local utility to determine clearance requirements in your yard.
Fruit and Leaf Drop
If you’re considering a fruit-bearing tree, think about whether it will be too messy for the location. Fruiting trees planted too close to the house can attract rodents and other pests you wouldn’t want invading your house. Also, some trees, such as olive or plum, are available in both fruiting and non-fruiting varieties—make sure you know which one you’re getting.
Even leaf litter can be problematic if it ends up dropping into ponds or pools or filling up gutters. Debris build-up is also a fire hazard, so again, consider the tree location, the size of the canopy and whether the tree is evergreen or deciduous. Evergreen trees still drop leaves, just a little bit at a time rather than all in one season.
Hardiness Zone and Chill Hours
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has mapped out plant hardiness zones across the country that help you to identify the plants that are suitable for your climate. Check out the USDA’s plant hardiness zone map to identify what zone you’re in and then make sure the tree you select is appropriate for that zone.
For fruiting trees, be sure to check the number of chill hours the tree requires. Chill hours are the hours when the air temperature is below 45°F. This impacts how well the tree is able to set fruit. Find out how many chill hours your region gets at the Fruit & Nut Research & Information Center at the UC Davis Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, then select a tree that has a chill hour requirement lower than that number.