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  Picking The Right Tree

Of course, we at Trees Direct can help you pick the right tree(s) for any situation, however, below are a few points to consider when choosing.

Don't Buy Trees On Impulse!

Choosing the right trees for your southern landscape can make a huge difference.

Tree selection is one of the most important investment decisions a property owner or developer makes when landscaping a home or commercial property. Considering that most trees have the potential to outlive the people who plant them, the impact of this decision is one that can influence a lifetime. Match the tree to the site, and both lives will benefit.

The question most frequently asked of tree care professionals is “Which kind of tree do you think I should plant?” Before this question can be answered, a number of factors need to be considered. Think about the following questions:

  • Why is the tree being planted? Do you want the tree to provide shade, fruit, seasonal color, or act as a windbreak or screen?
  • 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 below-ground wires or utilities in the vicinity?
  • Do you need to consider clearance for sidewalks, patios, or driveways?
  • Are there other trees in the area?
  • Which type of soil conditions exist? Does the soil retain moisture, or is it well-drained and tends to be dry?
  • And finally, do you need a tree that will grow well in sun, or shade?

Asking and answering these questions before selecting a tree will help you choose the “right tree for the right place.”

Form and Size

When making a selection about form, consider mature tree size. Does the site require a narrower growing tree or can it afford a wide growing tree? How tall can the tree get where you are planting it?


Select a form and size that will fit the planting space provided. Above is a diagram of basic tree shapes and height categories. Below is a short list of some of our personal favorite types of trees, selected for their outstanding performance in the South:

  • 8-12' height - Semi-dwarf crape myrtles and tree-form shrubs
  • 12-25' height -Crape myrtles, Japanese Maples, purple leaf plum
  • 25-40' height - Flowering cherry, Trident maple, riverbirch, redbud, dogwood
  • 40-60' height - Maples, elms, bald cypress in dry soil, sourwood
  • 60-80' height - Many oaks, gingko
  • 60-100' height - Bald cypress in wet soil

Depending on your site restrictions, you can choose from among hundreds of combinations of form and size. You might choose a small-spreading tree such as crape myrtle in a location with overhead utility lines. You might choose from a variety of evergreen trees to provide a visual barrier between two homes or buildings. You may choose large, vase-shaped trees such as Drake elm to create an arbor over a driveway or city street.

Site Conditions

Selecting a tree that will thrive in a given set of site conditions is the key to long-term tree survival. The following is a list of the site conditions to consider before selecting a tree for planting:

  • Soil conditions - If the soil at the site is moisture retentive select trees such as riverbirch, weeping willow, bald cypress, or the evergreen weeping yaupon holly. The bald cypress will even grow in standing water! Red maples, Nutalli oaks and southern magnolias also tolerate damp soils. On the other hand, trees such as crape myrtles, redbuds, and dogwoods prefer well-drained soils.
  • Exposure (sun or shade) - If the site receives sun all day long you definitely don't want to plant a tree such as a dogwood. Dogwoods prefer shade or morning sun only. Other trees such as crape myrtles like it sunny, while others, such as magnolias and redbud will tolerate sun or partial shade.
  • Space constraints - You wouldn't want to plant an oak that grows 50' + tall and 40' wide too close to your home or directly under powerlines. Instead, use smaller growing, mid-size trees such as Trident Maple (to 25' tall) or Crape Myrtles (from 10 - 25' tall). Riverbirch is a soft textured tree that can be used to frame a home or building, just plant them 12 to 15' off the corner. Also, make sure not to plant large growing shade trees too close to concrete or asphalt surfaces, swimming pools, foundations, or septic systems and lines. The root systems of weeping willows are highly invasive, so make sure to plant them at least 30' away or more from septic lines and swimming pools.
  • In Summary - Before you make your final decisions, make sure the trees you have selected are “hardy” in your area and that you are planting them in the proper location.


Planting Your Trees

Think of the trees you just purchased as a lifetime investment. How well your trees grow depends on the type of tree and location you select for planting, the care you provide when the tree is planted, and follow-up care the tree receives after planting.

Planting Trees - The ideal time to plant trees and shrubs is during the dormant season - in the fall after leaf drop or early spring before budbreak - however, both field and container grown trees can be planted any time of year.

Tree Planting Tips - Go here to find detailed planting instructions for planting trees.

Tree Care - Go here to find instruction regarding the care of trees.



Personal preferences play a major role in the selection process. Now that your homework is done, you are ready to select a species for the planting site you have chosen. Make sure to use the information you have gathered about your site conditions, and balance it with the aesthetic decisions you make related to your personal preferences.

The species must be:

  • suitable for the geographic region (hardy)
  • tolerant to the moisture and drainage conditions of your soil
  • be resistant to pests and diseases in your area
  • and have the right form and size for the site and function you have envisioned.

Remember, the beautiful picture of a tree you looked at in a magazine or book was taken of a specimen that is growing vigorously because it was planted in the right place. If your site conditions tell you the species you selected will not do well under those conditions, do not be disappointed when the tree does not perform in the same way.

Remember, if you have any questions, Trees Direct is there to help you. It is better to get a professional involved early to help you make the right decision than to call him or her later to ask if you made the wrong decision.

NOTE: If you have planted a tree purchased from Trees Direct, and you think there may be a problem developing with that tree, please be sure to give us a call as quickly as possible. The sooner you call, the sooner we can begin to offer our expert advice.

If you need further assistance, or have any questions call: 678-677-5931. Steven Whatley - Sales Manager

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Since 1984, Wilson Bros Landscape has specialized in residential and commercial landscape design and installation services.
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