How To Choose the Right Tree for Your Yard

tree Trees are heroes in the home landscape. They offer an investment that yields returns for many years to come. A tree can save you money by shading your home and cutting cooling costs. It can earn you money, too, because it increases property value. Trees add beauty and also reduce air pollution and prevent soil erosion.

It’s easy to find a reason for planting a tree. The hard part is choosing the right tree. Take the guesswork out of tree selection by using our checklist to guide your decision.

Why Are You Planting?

Think about why you’re planting a tree. Reasons vary but might include:

  • Casting shade
  • Creating a windbreak
  • Adding beauty with flowers
  • Providing wildlife habitat or food source (seeds, fruit)
  • Giving your yard fall color
  • Growing edible fruit
  • Screening a view
  • Building a family legacy

At this stage, also decide whether you want a tree that’s deciduous or evergreen.

Deciduous or Evergreen?

Deciduous trees drop their leaves in fall or winter. They’re the trees that typically boast blazing fall color. Plant deciduous trees on the south, west or east sides of your home for summer shade and warming winter sun.

Evergreen trees retain their foliage year-round. They add color to winter landscapes and provide a solid backdrop for perennials and ornamental grasses. Use evergreen trees to enhance privacy, or plant them along the north side of your home to form a windbreak.

Consider the Growing Conditions

  • Light – Determine the light conditions your yard offers. You might have full sun, morning sun or shade. Learn more about light conditions for plants.
  • Hardiness zone – Check with a local garden center or Extension agent, or search online to discover your USDA hardiness zone. Choose a tree rated to survive in your zone.
  • Soil – Different trees need different types of soil. In areas of new construction, soil may be filled with construction debris or heavy clay. Check the drainage of your planting site by digging the planting hole, filling it with water, letting it drain and then refilling it. If the water isn’t gone in 6-8 hours, choose a tree that will survive in wet soils or select another planting site.

Measure Your Space

Make sure you have enough room for your tree to reach its mature height and spread. In general, place trees 10 to 15 feet away from your home’s foundation and at least 5 feet away from other structures. Don’t forget to check for buried underground utilities.

Don’t Forget These Items

  • Learn if your tree has falling fruit, blooms, leaves or bark that could create a mess on pavement or outdoor living surfaces.
  • Research to discover if your tree is susceptible to diseases or pests. Purchase resistant varieties if possible.
  • Consider growth speed. Many fast-growing trees boast less than desirable traits, including weak limbs, short life spans or aggressive roots. A slower growing tree rewards patience with strong, healthy growth that’s not problematic.
  • If you garden under water restrictions, find a tree that offers drought tolerance.

Check Locally

Choose a tree that’s available locally. Visit garden centers and nurseries to review their selections. It’s a good idea to do that early in the process as you’re narrowing down your choices. You can also frequently find lists of suggested trees for your region from regional gardening books, city offices and your local Cooperative Extension office.