Place the right tree in the right place to maximize landscape TFS utility

November 16, 2022

Put the right tree in the right spot to maximize the benefit to the landscape

You may have heard the saying, often attributed to a Chinese proverb, that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago and the second best time is now.

What is less known is how to choose the best tree and location in your landscape to enjoy for years to come.

Putting the right tree in the right place helps prevent future problems and reinforces the benefits that the tree provides throughout its lifespan. These benefits include providing shade for energy conservation, increasing property value, reducing stormwater runoff, providing habitat for wildlife, and improving the quality of life.

The best time to plant trees in Texas is November through early spring, and a little research before planting will increase your chances of long-term success.

The first thing to do before planting is to look at the area where the tree would grow, taking into account any obstacles as well as the type of soil in the area.

“Before you even decide what tree you want, if you’re thinking about planting a tree, look at your location,” said Mickey Merritt, director of the Texas A&M Forest Service’s urban and community forestry program. “How big is the area? What kind of tree will it bear when it matures? Look for security issues. Where are the utilities located? Are electrical lines above ground or underground?”

The wrong tree or an inappropriate location can affect property value and lead to other problems and even safety issues.

“Planting the wrong tree in the wrong place can cause all sorts of problems, including tree instability, structural failure, damage to sidewalks, driveways, or underground utilities, as well as blocking of ground lines and obstructing signage when planted near a road.” ‘ Merritt said. “The tree must not reach its potential, which in turn stresses and weakens the tree.”

Once you have determined the site, the type of new tree you are adding can be determined by looking at why you are planting it and what it will contribute to the site.

“What is this tree supposed to offer? Want fall colors, flowers, wildlife benefits and energy conservation? Would you like it to frame a view?” said Merritt. “By thinking about the reason for planting, you can decide what type of tree you want.”

Determining the purpose for planting the tree helps consider other factors, including the size and shape of the tree when mature and whether it will fit with the design and layout of your property.

Other things to consider are the amount of sun and water available at the planting site, the type of soil, and the area available for roots. Small trees need about 400 cubic feet of soil, and large trees may need more than 1,200 cubic feet of soil space when mature.

Merritt said trees native to the area are usually the best option.

“They have evolved within the area, they are better able to cope with weather patterns and conditions, they generally live longer and are healthier, are less susceptible to pest infestation and provide more benefits to wildlife,” he said.

Different species of trees thrive in different regions throughout Texas. In the central part of the state, Texas Mountain Laurel, Lacey Oak, and Mexican Sycamore are generally good options. In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, American Smoketree, Bigtooth Maple, and Ginkgo tend to do well. And in East Texas, in addition to pines, eastern hophornbeam, pawpaw, and black walnut trees are popular.

Invasive trees should be avoided as they reduce biodiversity by threatening the survival of native plants and animals.

For help finding the best trees for your state area, visit the Texas Tree Planting Guide at

Texas A&M Forest Service Contacts:
Mickey Merritt, Texas A&M Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program Manager, 713-562-6469, [email protected]
Texas A&M Forest Service Communications Office, 979-458-6066, [email protected]