Guest post by Mary Pendleton from our fantastic partner organization, Western Chapter International Society of Arboriculture

One of the most widely used phrases in arboriculture is “Right Tree, Right Place.”  Do you know what it means?  This post will explain the concept and then give you 5 questions to consider when selecting your new tree and its new home.

In a nutshell, “Right Tree, Right Place” means taking a tree’s location and future growth into account when planting.  “Don’t force what you want in the wrong place, as it will likely just lead to issues down the road,” says arborist Mike Reed.  This includes taking buildings, power lines, other trees, and even underground objects into consideration when selecting a tree species.  Trees flourish best when planted in the right place.  Do your due diligence at the start to make sure the tree you love today will be an asset for years to come.

When planting a tree, certified arborist Analisa Stewart suggests asking yourself these 5 questions:

  1. Is the site conducive to the tree reaching its full size and benefit potential? For example, will there be adequate water over time? Is the sun exposure and soil type compatible with the tree? Most importantly: Is there enough room between trees?
  2. Will the site accommodate the tree at maturity both above and below ground? Consider power lines, soil volume and underground utilities.  The city, your local utility company or a certified arborist can help you identify these potential conflicting structures.
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  3. Will the location accommodate any known tree issues, such as rooting habits or insect pests?  For example, trees that drip and stain concrete or damage car paint aren’t a good fit for parking lots, and a tree prone to surface rooting isn’t a good fit a couple of feet off an intended walking trail.
  4. Will the site be able to accommodate the maintenance needs of the tree?  Some trees and locations are costlier to maintain, so make sure you will be able to cover the long term care costs.
  5. Is the species the best fit for the intended site use? Crape myrtles on the interior of a school campus are a bad idea – they bloom before kids get back to school so no one sees the showiest feature of the plant. They’re also prone to insect, pest and disease problems in our area requiring maintenance and upkeep. Some species that are more likely to cause an allergic reaction or have a foul odor (such as ornamental pear) should not be planted in corridors where there is limited wind movement.

img-20111207-00294The Sacramento Tree Foundation’s Tree Siting Guidelines are a great start when considering planting a tree.  Ms. Stewart recommends them to avoid a tree/infrastructure conflict in the future. You can also contact a certified arborist at the start of your tree research to make sure you are making the best decision for you and your tree for the long run.

Arborist Torrey Young sums up the concept perfectly: “Match the species to the environment.  Attempting to modify conditions to match the tree is an endless and costly effort, and often unsuccessful.”

Thank you to certified arborists Analisa Stewart of Arbor Entities, Mike Reed & Marc Goldberg of Green Horizons Maintenance, and Torrey Young of Dryad, LLC for their input on this post.