Wendy's Wanderings

Wendy Wilber

January 11, 2017

Florida's Arbor Day

Florida's Arbor Day is celebrated every year on the third Friday of January. This month it is January 20th, so mark your calendar to plant a tree or to help someone plant a tree. Florida's day is held a little earlier than the national day celebrated in April, because January is a great time to plant a tree in Florida and our soil isn't frozen like many other states.

Hopefully you have room in your landscape for another tree, because trees can be an important part of a Florida-Friendly landscape. As always, you have to put the right plant in the right place, so check the mature height of the tree you are considering. For example, I wish someone had told the former owner of my home that the mature height of a Southern magnolia is 80-100 feet. Also consider how the tree you are selecting will impact your home's safety in a hurricane, and plant your tree a safe distance from your structures.

Here are five great reasons to plant a tree this Arbor Day.

  • To mow less: Turfgrass needs adequate sunlight. By planting trees you create shaded areas that can become non-irrigated, mulched beds. More mulched beds means less irrigated turf and less mowing.
  • To reduce CO2 levels in the atmosphere: Over time, just one 80-foot hardwood tree can have a huge effect. A large tree has been shown to remove daily carbon dioxide amounts equivalent to that produced by two single family homes.
  • To purify the air: Tree foliage can remove nitrogen oxides, ammonia, sulfur dioxide, and ozone from the air (these all add up to smog). An average tree absorbs 10 pounds of pollutants from the air each year.
  • To reduce stormwater runoff: Tree roots penetrate far and wide into the soil. This creates a track for rainwater to percolate through, so more rain water is absorbed on site and less water runs off.
  • To provide for wildlife: Trees provide shelter, create habitat, and provide a food source of seeds, leaves, flowers, and fruits for the wildlife in your area (yes, the squirrels too).

The Gardening Solutions website and the UF/IFAS database EDIS have great fact sheets on planting trees. Another great source is Dr. Edward Gilman's searchable online database, Tree Selection for Urban and Suburban Landscapes. One of my favorite sections is "Uncommon trees in Florida" for USDA hardiness zones 8-9 and 9-11. Dr. Gilman's website also has fact sheets on planting and care.

And remember that the UF/IFAS bookstore has the great tree book called Trees: North and Central Florida, with a new edition for South Florida coming out soon.

Happy Arbor Day.

-- Wendy Wilber

Return to the January 2017 Neighborhood Gardener