Intelligent Yard Design: Putting The Right Trees In The Right Place

6 April 2016
 Categories: , Blog


The difference between a yard full of healthy, vibrant trees and one full of sickly, dying trees often boils downs to proper installation and placement. Each tree species has a unique blend of needs, with varying tolerances for shade, water, and other environmental factors. By considering these needs at the planning stage, you give your trees the best chance of thriving. Additionally, smart tree placement can help reduce the amount of labor necessary to care for your trees.  

Always Place Shade-Intolerant Trees in Sunny Locations

You can alter many things about a growing site – you can amend the soil or provide supplemental water – but you cannot change the amount of sunlight available in most cases. Accordingly, you should always make a tree's shade tolerance the first consideration when selecting a planting location. Planting dogwoods (Cornus florida) in full sun, or Virginia pines (Pinus virginiana) in dense shade condemns them to a life spent struggling to survive.

Group Trees with Similar Water Needs Together

Trees with vastly different water requirements and tolerances are unlikely to thrive in close proximity to each other. For example, by planting trees that require lots of water together, such as river birches (Betula nigra) and black gums (Nyssa sylvatica), you can water the entire area on one schedule. This also makes it easier to water the area with automatic irrigation systems, rather than having to water them by hand.  

Install Trees with High Water Requirements on Low Ground

To take advantage of natural water flow patterns on your property, always take the natural contours of the land into account when adding new trees to your property. Plant upland species, such as white oaks (Quercus alba), sourwoods (Oxydendrum arboreum) and black walnut trees (Juglans nigra), in the highest elevations possible; but plant red maples (Acer rubrum) and cypress trees (Taxodium distichum) at the lowest elevations possible.

Avoid Placing Litter-Causing Trees over Hardscapes

Some trees – sweetgums (Liquidambar styraciflua) and birches surely top the list – produce copious amounts of litter that you will have to clean up. Sometimes the litter comes in the form of seeds or discarded leaves, at other times it takes the form of exfoliating tree bark. Even fruit- and nut-producing trees can be problematic in especially productive years. Excessive litter is not only an aesthetic problem, as litter can create slippery surfaces and other types of trip hazards. High-litter trees still make worthy additions to the landscape, but you should plant them in places in which their litter will not be a problem. 

For more information, talk to a professional land planner like Morris-Depew Associates Inc.