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Planting the Right-size Tree in the Right Place

Great strides have been made the last several years in putting the right tree in the right place.  People are beginning to understand putting trees under power lines and beside concrete are bad ideas.  Trees are living ever-changing things that impact the world around them.  Congratulations to the Urban Forest Council, Green Infrastructure Alliance, NCSU and others for their continued work recognizing the challenges of trees in an urban setting. 

There are times when a much larger tree should be installed for aesthetic reasons.  Let’s face it, sometimes a 2” caliper tree just looks out of place in certain circumstances. For instance, when replacing large specimen trees or planting in front of large structures.  We know the immediate visual benefits of installing larger trees and right now there is a good supply of 4-7” trees.  But, when planting larger trees it is a much different process from planting a standard 2” tree.  Survivability and performance all hinges on selection, installation, care and maintenance; everything is different when installing large trees.  But if done properly the large tree can thrive and make an immediate visual impact.


Most important is water management, larger trees require a greater volume of water, but less frequently.  Installers must remember that you are watering to a depth of 48” vs. 24” and just because the tree shows stress does not always indicate a need for more water.  More large trees die from too much water than too little; use a soil probe to check soil moisture and only water when needed.  Supplemental watering may be necessary for two growing seasons. Trees need to be sourced from a nursery that specializes in growing larger trees.  It is important to know that the tree has been cared for each year and is not just a leftover cull. Finally, the staking and guying must be strong enough to support the heaver and broader tree.


If you are willing to put in the extra time and effort you can capitalize on the immediate impact of a large tree.  But you cannot just plant it, water it and walk away.