Tree Planting

Within this section, you can find a wealth of information on tree planting, from identifying trees to pruning tips for shrubs and bushes. On this page, you will find information on:

Information on Tree Planting

With ecological awareness on the rise, tree planting has seen its popularity soar. It is an effective way to battle deforestation, create cleaner, healthier air and ensure there will be vibrant landscape designs for future generations to enjoy.

Whether you're participating in an ecological initiative or you just want to add some greenery to your property, effective tree planting relies on proper planning. While all trees need room to grow, plenty of sunlight and nutrient-rich soil, different tree species also have specific needs. They have varying abilities to withstand temperature extremes and shifting soil conditions; some trees can thrive just about anywhere, while others are much more finicky. A good place to begin is by gaining a working understanding of the most common tree species and knowing which species can grow under which growing conditions.

Tree Identification

Broadly speaking, there are two main types of trees: coniferous and deciduous. While all trees can be grouped in one of these two categories, you sho that you can include in your gardening plans also be aware of the rates at which different tree species grow.

Coniferous Trees

Biologically speaking, coniferous trees are cone-bearing plants with soft wood. There are over 600 species of coniferous trees, the vast majority of which do not shed in the winter. For this reason, they are informally referred to as "evergreen trees".

Defining characteristics of coniferous trees include:
  • They grow needles instead of leaves.
  • Their needles are wax-coated and resin-soaked. The wax helps the needles retain water, and the resin prevents them from freezing during the winter.
  • Their trunks tend to be thinner.
  • They are able to grow and thrive within close proximity to other trees. This characteristic is believed to have evolved as a means of resisting cold and wind.
  • They tend to be triangular in shape, with a peak at the top of the tree. This enables snow to fall off the branches, which typically slant downwards, preventing the accumulation of snow weight.

Deciduous Trees

The defining feature of deciduous trees is known as abscission, which simply means that they shed their leaves for part of the year (typically during late fall, winter and early spring; the leaves then grow back when the weather warms). They typically flower during the abscission period, making the pollination process more efficient—the lack of leaves makes it easier for wind to capture the pollen and spread it over a greater distance.

Some of the defining characteristics of deciduous trees include:
  • They usually have loose leaves. Deciduous trees never have needles. Some species have broader leaves than others, but nearly all deciduous leaves are flat in shape.
  • The tree extracts all the carbon and nitrogen nutrients out of the leaves before they fall off, in anticipation of possible food shortages during the cold weather.
  • Deciduous trees lose their leaves in the autumn.
  • They have long lives, typically living for a century or more.
Fast Growing Trees

Because some tree species can take decades to reach their prime size, some people prefer to plant fast- growing trees. In ecological initiatives, this helps repopulate cleared-out forests more quickly. At home, it gives your yard a more mature look in less time, similar to planting perennial flowers.

The top 10 fastest-growing trees and their annual growth rates are:
  • Empress trees, which grow 10 to 15 feet per year
  • Willow hybrids, which grow 6 to 12 feet per year
  • Lombardy poplars, which grow 8 to 10 feet per year
  • Hybrid poplars, which grow 8 to 10 feet per year
  • Nuttall oak trees, which grow 7 to 8 feet per year
  • Eucalyptus trees, which grow 6 to 8 feet per year
  • Weeping willows, which grow 4 to 8 feet per year
  • American sycamore trees, which grow up to 6 feet per year
  • Tulip poplars, which grow up to 6 feet per year
  • Red mulberry trees, which grow 4 to 6 feet per year

Pruning Trees

If you're a homeowner growing trees on your property, pruning is a task you're likely to undertake sooner or later. Pruning is performed for a variety of reasons: you can do it to thin out the tree's crown branches, facilitating renewed growth and superior air circulation. You can also undertake tree pruning to get rid of damaged, diseased or low-hanging branches or for purely cosmetic purposes.

While exact pruning techniques may vary slightly, depending on the tree species, there are a few general techniques you need to be aware of. A sound approach to pruning protects the tree's trunk and stem while eliminating unwanted branches. The stem of a branch is separated from the body of the branch by a structure known as a stem collar. The stem collar is located at the base of the branch (where it connects to the trunk or its parent branch). Always prune on the branch side of the stem collar, and use the following three-step process:

  1. Start on the underside of the branch you want to prune and make a small cut in the shape of a wedge. Make sure the wedge is deep enough to break the bark, but shallow enough to avoid tearing the stem collar.
  2. Move a little further down the branch and, starting at the top, make a cut that goes all the way through the branch. You will be left with a branch stub.
  3. Reduce the size of the stub as much as possible by cutting the remainder of the branch off, starting from the top, on the branch side of the stem collar. The wedge you made in step one will weaken the stub and ensure it breaks off cleanly.

While dead branches can be pruned whenever it's necessary, the best time to pull out the landscaping equipment and prune deciduous trees is when their leaves have fallen off. A dry late autumn day is ideal, since you might inadvertently disturb the growth of new leaves is you put it off until spring. Another advantage of pruning after abscission is that the tree will lose a minimal amount of sap, which helps its overall health. Also, pests like insects and fungi are far less of a risk during the dormant season. There is a greatly reduced chance they will affect recently pruned branches and jeopardize the health of the tree.

Types of Trees

It's important that you have at least a basic understanding of the different types of trees which reforestation advocates and home gardeners are most likely to work with.

Palm Trees

Typically associated with sunny climes and balmy temperatures, palm trees have been called "the princes of the plant kingdom." Relatively speaking, they aren't all that hardy, though some types of palm trees can resist the cold better than others. If they won't survive the winter where you live, remember that you can also grow smaller palm plants indoors.

Types of Palm Trees

There are three broad categories used to classify palm trees: palmate, pinnate and costapalmate. These terms describe differences in the tree's leaf structure. Palmate trees have leaf lobes that radiate or fan out from a common point of origin. Pinnate palm trees, by contrast, have individual leaves that start from a common point of origin but grow in opposite directions. Costapalmate trees are created by crossing a palmate tree with a pinnate tree.

Examples of palmate trees include lady palm trees, Puerto Rican thatch palm trees and silver saw palmetto palm trees. Of these, the silver saw palmetto palm tree has the greatest ability to resist cold weather and can survive in temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit (or -7 degrees Celsius).

The family of pinnate trees includes mountain cabbage palm trees, date palm trees and queen palm trees, with date and queen palm trees both boasting the ability to survive in temperatures of 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Growing Palm Trees

Any garden center staffer will tell you that all plants require the right balance of light, warmth, moisture and soil conditions. These variables must all fall within an acceptable range for the plant to be healthy, and palm trees are noted for being one of the pickiest plants out there.

Even so, they can still thrive in a variety of conditions. Use these general guidelines as well as specific instructions from the nursery where you buy your trees to ensure success:

  • Most palm trees grow best in climates where the overnight low temperature rarely falls below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius). These growing conditions are usually found in the southern parts of North America, making palm trees one of the many benefits on a Los Angeles vacation.
  • Do not disturb your palm tree once it is planted if at all possible. Their root systems are shallow and very sensitive.
  • Palm trees do not like being saturated in water; they require effective soil drainage systems. In fact, they prefer sandy, drier soil. Therefore it is important to ensure that in your landscaping plan you include a dry area, or at least a well drained area, to grow your palm trees.
  • While good sunlight exposure is key for any plant, palm trees are able to thrive in relatively shady areas.

Also, you should recognize that yellowish or brownish fronds signal a potassium deficiency. You can correct this by feeding the tree some palm fertilizer.

If you want to grow palm plants or trees indoors, experts say the best varieties to choose include the bamboo palm tree, the kentia palm tree and the lady palm tree.

Fruit Trees

Fruit trees are practical as well as attractive, providing food while brightening up your yard. Whether you're running a commercial orchard or simply want to nurse a single tree from sapling to adulthood, there's plenty you need to learn about fruit trees to meet with your desired results.

A Guide to Buying Fruit Trees

When choosing the type of fruit trees you want to buy, you must closely consider each tree type's hardiness. As whenever one is buying plants, we first determine which hardiness zone you live in. The professionals at your local nursery can help you determine this.

Then, use this rough guide to aid your fruit tree selection:
  • Zone 2: pear, apple, plum (American)
  • Zone 3: apricot, sour cherry, pear, apple, plum (American and European)
  • Zone 4: apricot, sweet cherry, pear, apple, plum (American, European and Japanese)
  • Zone 5A: sweet cherry, pear, apple, plum (European)
  • Zone 5B: nectarine, peach

No fruit-bearing trees grow in Zone 1, as the average annual minimum temperature is -50 degrees Fahrenheit (-45 degrees Celsius), and only very hardy trees, such as Alaska cedars, alpine firs and quaking aspens grow there.

Planting Fruit Trees

Creating proper drainage channels is extremely important when planting fruit trees. Begin by examining the size of your fruit sapling's container, then dig a hole that is about two times as wide and one and a half times as deep. For superior drainage, you can go even deeper.

Then, mix compost with the soil, or use pre-made soil treatments. When you actually lower the tree into the hole, make sure you don't place the roots too deep. In no case should the fruit tree's major roots be submerged beneath more than 4½ inches (10 centimeters) of soil, as all fruit trees rely on the uppermost soil layers for nutrients. If you want to spread mulch around the tree, experts recommend that you not put it any closer than 1 foot (30 centimeters) from the trunk.

Pruning Fruit Trees

When pruning fruit trees, use the basic procedure outlined above and observe the following additional guidelines:
  • Get rid of rapidly growing, upward-oriented branches.
  • Do not let branches interlace.
  • Aim for a minimal structure. Too many fruit-bearing branches is a bad thing.
  • Limit the fruit-bearing branches to those in close proximity to the framing branches.
  • Do not prune new branches (in their first year). This facilitates good balance, prolific fruit production and inhibits rapidly growing, upward-oriented branches.

Bonsai Trees

Information on Bonsai Trees

The art of growing bonsai trees has been around for more than 1,000 years and is still popular in many parts of the world. They come in four sizes: miniature, small, medium and large bonsai trees. Most miniature and small plants are indoor bonsai trees, with their medium- and large-sized counterparts typically better suited to the outdoors.

There are two major bonsai tree styles: the koten or classic style, and the bunjin or comedic style. Classic bonsai trees have trunks with broader bases which narrow as they rise; the comedic bonsai style is the opposite. Each of these two styles has many sub-classes, but in general, the bunjin style is considered harder to master.

Caring for Bonsai Trees

Learning how to care for bonsai trees is an art in and of itself. If you're new to the hobby, it's recommended that you stick to beginner bonsai trees that will be fairly easy to care for, prune and shape.

Typically, bonsai trees are potted or placed in trays; you should always put your bonsai tree in a container that is specially designed to house it. A bonsai tree pot or tray needs holes that promote the drainage of extra water. You should repot the plant annually to facilitate the growth of new, healthier roots.

You've got to be careful when you're watering your bonsai plant, as fungus can invade the tray if you introduce too much moisture. Monitor the moisture levels in your bonsai tree's pot or tray on a daily basis and make whatever adjustments are necessary. Similarly, there is a lot of danger in letting the soil in the tray or pot dry out. Ideally, it should be kept slightly moist (but not too moist) at all times.

As with moisture, bonsai trees need just the right amount of sunlight. Too little and they won't grow right; too much and they'll get damaged. When you purchase your bonsai tree, be sure to ask the retailer at the garden center about the recommended amount of sunlight for your particular plant.

Pruning Bonsai Trees

There are three main objectives of pruning bonsai trees: to remove branches that are interfering with your landscape design goals, to force the tree to fill in underdeveloped areas and to improve the finer points of the tree's aesthetic appeal.

Here are some pruning tips to keep in mind:
  • Get rid of any crossing branches you don't absolutely need.
  • Prune any branches that protrude outward from the main body of the plant.
  • Excise any twigs that angle downward off a branch.

Major branches should never cross each other, and generally speaking, you should try to guide their growth so that the branches become smaller and more closely packed together as you near the top of the plant.

Pine Trees

Found primarily in the Northern hemisphere, there are over 100 different species of pine trees. They are hardy trees that can thrive even in difficult conditions, but they also have strong aesthetic appeal. For these reasons, they are quite popular with home landscapers.

Types of Pine Trees

Some of the most common pine trees you'll encounter include:
  • Black pine trees. Also known as Austrian pine trees, these have thick, deep-green foliage and are popular landscape trees.
  • Bristlecone pine trees. These slow-growing trees have a very long lifespan—the oldest known bristlecone pine tree is over 4,700 years old.
  • Eastern white pine trees. Prized for their blue-green foliage, Eastern white pine trees are popular landscape trees.
  • Lacebark pine trees. Resembling deciduous trees, these slow-growing pines are more colorful than most other species.
  • Norfolk Island pine trees. These miniature pine trees are mainly used as house plants and patio decorations.
  • Red pine trees. These are typically used for their lumber.
  • Scotch pine trees. These are one of the most popular landscape trees and are often used as Christmas trees.
  • Western white pine trees. These are slow-growing trees that prefer deep soil of mid-range acidity.

Planting Pine Trees

Specific planting techniques depend on the species of pine tree you're dealing with, so you should always ask the professionals at the nursery about any special considerations you need to make. In general, though, the number-one thing you need to watch for when planting and growing pine trees is proper soil drainage.

To ensure proper draining, do not plant the pine tree in a hole that's any deeper than what's necessary to immerse the tree's root ball. Ensure the base of the hole is not porous or loose, but solid and firm. As a general rule, you should plant your pine tree in a hole with a width that is twice that of the root ball.

Pruning Pine Trees

The general pruning techniques discussed above also apply to pine trees. Most pine trees need minimal pruning, meaning that you will not always need the expert help of a landscaping professional. However, you should always remove dead or diseased branches before they have a chance to affect other parts of the tree.

One specific thing to watch for, though, is the growth of so-called "candles." These tiny branch offshoots typically grow quickly early in the summertime, which is the best time to get rid of them.

Maple Trees

While they enjoy iconic status in North America (especially in Canada), most maple trees are actually native to Asia. They are primarily used for commercial purposes including agriculture, timber and for their maple syrup, but they are also popular with landscapers and reforestation tree planters as well.

Types of Maple Trees

Some of the most frequently encountered maple tree species include:
  • Japanese maple trees. Known for their broad leaves, these spreading trees have colorful foliage and grow best in partial shade and moist, nutrient-rich soil.
  • Red maple trees. These maple trees are so named because their leaves tend to turn red in the fall.
  • Silver maple trees. Hardy and able to thrive even in poor soil conditions, silver maple trees must be carefully maintained since they are prone to disease and can easily be overtaken by insect infestations.
  • Sugar maple trees. These maple trees generally require very little in the way of care or maintenance once they start to grow, making them an excellent choice for reforestation projects.
  • Maple trees tend to have shorter lifespans, and they are not particularly fast-growing, either. Most species only reach full maturity after 50 to 80 years of life, so if you're landscaping and you want to give your yard a mature, grown-in look, maple trees may not be the ideal choice.

Pruning Maple Trees

Although it can get more difficult, the same pruning principles apply: your objective is to control and shape the tree's growth while removing any dead, dying or diseased branches. It would be wise to seek the help of a landscaping professional if you feel the task is too much for you, otherwise you can start the pruning with larger branches, then work your way down to the smaller ones. Make sure that you're allowing plenty of light to get through to as many of the leaves as possible.

However, one unique feature of maple trees that factors into your approach to pruning is the fact that they bleed sap when their branches are cut, hence maple syrup! This can get messy and make your job much more difficult. Thus, it is recommended that you wait until late spring or early summer, when the tree's leaves have completely matured, before you start pruning. Maple trees bleed less sap when their leaves are fully grown.

Oak Trees | Information on Oak Trees

Oak trees are deciduous and generally prefer what's known as podsol or podzol soil. Podsol soil has a high sand content and a great deal of aluminum and organic matter—two compounds oak trees rely on for health. They typically live to be about 200 years old, though some specimens have been known to survive for double that amount of time.

Identifying Oak Trees

Some techniques you can use to differentiate oak trees from other types of trees, including deciduous varieties include:
  • Looking at the leaves. The leaves of an oak tree are very broad and flat, and usually have several lobes which are symmetrical in design.
  • Spotting acorns. Most often, trees with a litter of acorns resting on the ground around the bases of their trunks are oaks.
  • Touch the bark. Oak trees have rough, deeply grooved bark, which usually has a base color of grayish-brown.
  • Checking the tree's height. If you're in a forest, it's helpful to know that oak trees are typically the tallest and broadest deciduous trees you'll find.

Types of Oak Trees

The most common types of oak trees you will find in North America include:
  • Live oak trees. Able to grow in a variety of moisture and soil conditions, live oak trees are very large and provide excellent shade with their broad, dark green leaves.
  • Pin oak trees. Best housed in sandy or clay-based soils, pin oak trees have shiny, waxy dark green leaves which typically bronze or redden during the autumn. They are easily identified by their unique branching patterns: the upper branches grow vertically, the mid-range branches grow horizontally and the lower branches grow downward.
  • Red oak trees. One of the more soil-tolerate types of oak tree, red oaks are majestic and strong, with broad, sturdy trunks and mature heights of up to 60 feet. Its wood is prized and is one of the more valuable types on the market.
  • Sawtooth oak trees. These trees are among the fastest-growing species in the oak family. However, they are expensive, as they produce acorns after a relatively short period of time. They are an excellent choice for home landscaping purposes.
  • White oak trees. Closely resembling the red oak tree, white oak trees are easy to maintain and can grow as tall as 100 feet.
  • Willow oak trees. These trees are a variety of red oak and are native to the eastern part of North America.

Shrubs and Bushes

Shrubs and bushes are popular plants for home landscaping, and are used to border property and provide privacy in addition to aesthetics. Both shrubs and bushes require close care when they're newly planted, and should be inspected on a daily basis to ensure disease-free growth. Once they reach maturity, though, they are low-maintenance, requiring little more than occasional trimming.

Landscaping Shrubs and Bushes

Types of Shrubs

In broad terms, garden shrubs can be categorized in three ways (depending on the type of leaves they grow): evergreen shrubs, broad-leaf evergreen shrubs and deciduous shrubs. Both evergreen varieties keep their foliage year-round, while deciduous variants shed their leaves in the fall.

Some types to consider are:
  • Boxwood shrubs. Also known as Buxus shrubs or "boxes," boxwood shrubs are commonly used in edging and bordering. They are extremely dense and compact, and as such, they require more care and pruning than other varieties.
  • Fast-growing shrubs. Some varieties that grow quickly include lilac and viburnum shrubs as well as forsythia bushes and azalea, rhododendron and butterfly shrubs.
  • Flowering shrubs. Colorful, easy-to-grow flowering shrub varieties include hibiscus, weigela and hydrangea shrubs. Viburnum, forsythia and lilac shrubs bear flowers as well.
  • Ornamental shrubs. Many varieties of shrubs are well-suited to ornamental applications. Glossy abelia, barberry, fountain butterfly and Japonica shrubs are popular decorative species.

Types of Bushes

There are hundreds of different types of flowering bushes. For landscaping purposes, the most commonly used varieties include:

  • Rose bushes. Prized for their beauty, rose bushes have been used for decorative and ornamental purposes as far back as ancient Rome.
  • Berry bushes. Fruit-bearing varieties include blackberry bushes, blueberry bushes and raspberry bushes. They tend to be looser and less dense than many other bush types.
  • Lilac bushes. These flowering bushes bloom late in the spring and can grow to tree-like heights.

Planting Shrubs and Bushes

When planting bushes and shrubs, make sure you place them at the same depth at which they were grown in the nursery. Otherwise, you run a very real risk of rotting off the bark, which will cause the plant to die. Also, ensure that the hole is wider than it is deep when planting shrubs and bushes, as this will give the roots plenty of room to spread and allow for proper drainage. If you're planting rose bushes, make sure to choose a spot that gets a minimum of six hours of sun every day. Rose bushes need a lot of light to grow and thrive.

Landscaping with Shrubs and Bushes

Your shrubs landscaping plan must take the hardiness zone in which you live into account to ensure the plants you choose will enjoy a healthy life. Make a list of shrubs which can survive in your region, then draw a diagram of your property. Mark the amount of sunshine each area gets, and place your shrubs in places that get a lot of sunlight throughout the day.

In addition, you need to know your soil type to choose the right landscape bushes. Hardier plants can survive just about anywhere, but some of the prettiest shrubs and bushes are very finicky and require specially balanced, nutrient-rich soil. If the natural soil conditions on your property aren't conducive to growing the bushes or shrubs you want, you can purchase fertilizers to ensure your plants get the nutrients they need.

Privacy Shrubs

When looking at various types of privacy plants, one can see that privacy shrubs are dense varieties which grow tall very quickly. They can be used to partially or fully obscure your home from view. Popular types of privacy shrubs include boxwood shrubs, privet hedges, lilac bushes and junipers.

Caring Instructions | Shrubs and Bushes

For most varieties, pruning shrubs and trimming shrubs is very important in the early stages of the plant's life. Given their relative density, pests and diseases can very quickly wreak havoc on the health of the entire plant. When pruning blackberry bushes, lilac hedges or any other type of ornamental shrubs or hedges, you should check regularly to see if there are any diseased, dead or dying branches and get rid of them right away.

Upkeep isn't generally time-consuming or laborious. Care of magnolia shrubs, for example, is fairly routine: simply check for evidence of disease, groom the plant as you desire and ensure it's getting enough water and nutrients. The same can be said when caring for rose bushes.