University of Florida

The Neighborhood Gardener:
Selecting Trees

Achieving a natural, healthy balance in your landscape starts with putting the right plant in the right place. Before planting a tree, you should carefully consider the traits and needs of that species:

  • Is this tree suitable for your area? Some trees will do well throughout the state, while others will only thrive in certain areas.
  • How big will the tree grow? If you have a small landscape, a large tree is probably not the best choice.
  • Is the soil area large enough to accommodate the root system? Large trees such as oaks require a huge amount of soil space to expand their roots.
  • How large will the trunk and roots get? Shade trees should be positioned at least 10 feet from curbs, foundations, pools, and walls so roots won’t cause excessive damage.
  • If you live on the coast, is the tree salt-tolerant? Salt spray, salty soil, and water with a high salt content can all cause irreparable harm to a tree.
  • Will it need a lot of structural pruning? Most trees require pruning to develop strong forms, but you may want to choose one that needs less, such as bald cypress.
  • Does the tree bear fruit? Many trees grow fruit that will fall at certain times of the year, creating what may be considered an undesirable mess.
  • Will it lose its leaves in the winter? Some trees have interesting bark that they can show off during the winter, but you may want a tree that remains green most of the year.
  • Is the tree prone to certain infestations? Consider choosing a tree that resists most diseases and insect pests.
  • Is this the cultivar best suited to your landscape? Many trees come in dwarf and other forms that you may prefer to the most common types.
  • Is this tree sturdy? With Florida hit by tropical storms and hurricanes almost every year, it’s also very important that you choose trees that are less likely to blow over or lose limbs in high winds, such as the cabbage palm and live oak. Check out the Trees & Hurricanes Web site for more information about specific species.
 

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