Choosing Your New Tree

You’ve just bought your new house. There are a few updates needed so you paint the walls and change the bathroom sink. Then you look outside and notice your new yard could use some updating as well. Besides flower gardens and fountains, trees play a major role in the functionality and layout of your yard. They can increase the enjoyment you get from your yard substantially.

Every year, my family has a reunion at my grandmother’s house. There’s food, games and swimming, and everyone always places their chairs under the huge tree in the backyard. If that tree wasn’t there, the whole feel of our reunion would change. The shade provided by that tree creates the perfect place for everyone to relax and enjoy the day.

Choosing the correct tree for your location is important for both the trees success and your own satisfaction. There are several factors to consider when looking to plant a new tree. The type of tree your considering needs to work for the location you’re considering placing it in, weather you’ve already chosen the tree and need to decide where to put it or chosen where to put it and now need to choose the tree.

One of the first things to consider before buying your tree is your hardiness zone. A tree that’s meant to grow in conditions you’d find in Florida, won’t survive as well in our cool Wisconsin weather. The hardiness scale is a map that splits the United States into 10 different growing zones. Wisconsin is split into two zones. The northwest half is zone 4, while the southeast half is zone 5. Trees suggested for our zones, are maples, oaks, birches and beeches, and apple among many others.

The big thing to consider is height. How tall will your chosen tree get? Are there any buildings or power lines that may interfere with the trees growth? Also consider the spread. How wide will this tree get? Does the space allow for a maple to get full and round or would a cone shaped pine fit better?

You’ll want to consider the location of other objects in your yard before choosing a spot for your new addition. Do you have a sidewalk or septic/sewer that the roots of your tree may disturb? Will this tree be dropping fruits in an inconvenient place, such as your flower garden or a footpath? Is this a deciduous tree that will drop leaves into a problematic spot, like a pool or pond? You’ll want to look at all these things to ensure you don’t end up with a headache or costly repairs in the future.

The growth rate of your chosen tree is an important factor to consider as well. There are fast growing and slow growing trees. Fast growing trees, like maples, willow or locust, are trees that grow a few feet a year. They’re good for quick shade, privacy or windbreak while your wait to slower growing trees to catch up but they are usually much quicker to die, with a typical lifespan between 20-60 years. These trees generally require extra maintenance and have more damage issues when they’re mature than a slow growing tree, and should be planted away from homes, driveways and powerlines. Slow growing trees, like some oaks and pines, grow less than a foot a year and can live between 100 and 600 years depending on the species.

Also, does this location provide adequate sun, soil and moisture levels for the tree you’re looking at putting in? Most trees have different growing requirements that allow them to thrive and grow. Although Wisconsin isn’t considered drought country, we do have some relatively dry spells throughout the year. Or maybe you’re just terrible at remembering to water things. There are some trees that are drought resistant and may be easier for you to grow. Some oaks and maples are on this list. Along with paper birch, cedar elm and some others.

It you’re unsure about which tree would fit best for your chosen spot, try the arbor day Best Tree Finder: Tree Wizard at This will take you through a series of questions about your given space and tell you which trees would be best for the spot you’ve chosen.

On this site they also have a sizing and shape guide that will tell you how tall your tree can get and typically what shape it’ll be.

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