"Which kind of tree do you think I should plant?"

That is the question most frequently asked of tree care professionals. Tree selection is one of the most important investment decisions a property owner makes when landscaping a property or replacing a tree. Matching the tree to the site will benefit both the tree and the property owner.

The following questions need to be considered when selecting a tree:

"Why is the tree being planted?"

  • Tree function can help determine the species you select.
  • Do you want the tree to provide shade, fruit, or seasonal colour, or act as a windbreak or screen? Maybe it's a combination of these functions?

"What is the size and location of the planting site?"

  • Does the space lend itself to a large, medium, or small tree?
  • Are there overhead or belowground wires or utilities in the vicinity?
  • Do you need to consider clearance for sidewalks, patios, or driveways?
  • Are there other trees or structures in the area?
  • Are there barriers to future root growth, such as building foundations?
  • Trees grow in a variety of shapes and sizes. Consider the tree size at maturity and select a form and size that will fit the planting space provided.

"What type of soil conditions exist?"

  • Is the soil deep, fertile, and well drained, or is it shallow, compacted, and infertile?
  • Poor soil quality and poor site drainage are common problems in urban areas that have been previously disturbed. In this situation, selecting trees that are tolerant of poor soil and drainage conditions can help reduce tree stress.
  • If necessary, soil samples can be tested for fertility, salinity, and pH (alkalinity or acidity) to determine if fertilizers or soil amendments are recommended.

"What will the tree's exposure be to the sun and wind?"

  • Most trees require full sunlight for proper growth and flower bloom. Some do well in light shade, but few tree species perform well in dense shade.
  • Wind can dry out soils and plant tissue. Special maintenance, such as staking or more frequent watering, may be needed for tree establishment.

"What is the tree's hardiness?"

  • Hardiness is the plant's ability to survive in the extreme (hot or cold) temperatures of your particular geographic region. Most plant reference books provide a map of hardiness zone ranges. Make sure the tree you select is 'hardy' in your area. (Waterloo Region is in zone 5b)

"Is the tree prone to any pest problems?"

  • Insect and disease organisms affect almost every tree species. Every plant has its particular pest problems, and the severity varies geographically. These pests may or may not be life threatening to the plant. You should select trees resistant to pest problems for your area. Local tree consultants can direct you to the relevant information.

The top five causes of tree mortality are the result of human activity: soil compaction, underwatering, overwatering, vandalism, and the number one cause - planting the wrong tree in the wrong location - account for more tree deaths than all insect and disease-related tree deaths combined.

It is essential that all the above questions be addressed prior to selecting "the right tree for the right place".

*Fast Forest wishes to acknowledge the International Society of Arboriculture for
providing much of the content of these FAQ.