Choosing the right tree is a big deal. In the right place, trees are shade and beauty, but in the wrong place they are headaches, sore backs and empty pocketbooks.

Follow a few simple guidelines to help you choose trees that accent your life.

The Right Place

Take a few important steps before heading to the nursery. Observe your yard and decide on a planting site before shopping.

  • Utility Lines – Contact Call Before You Dig -- Dial 811 before digging to check for underground utility lines.
  • Light – Observe light patterns in potential planting areas throughout the day. Pay attention to the direction the site is facing and to existing structures or trees that provide shade.
  • Space – trees should be planted 10 – 15 ’ away from the house and 5 ’ away from patios or fences.
  • Privacy – Consider areas where you prefer more privacy and more openness.
  • Existing plantings – If the area where a tree is being planted has existing plantings, the new additions to the bed should share the same water needs. Drought tolerant plants go together – water dependent plants go together.
  • Make Notes & Take Photos! – All of this information is important to the nursery staff who may help in making your tree choice, so gather it together and bring it when you shop.

The Right Tree

There are a number of things to consider when making a tree selection. Answering these questions will help to narrow your choice.

Evergreen or deciduous


Evergreen trees keep their leaves or needles during winter. Conifers are evergreen trees with needles or scales for leaves. Broad–leaf evergreens are trees such as Madrone or Southern Magnolia that keep their leaves year round but don’t have needles.

For help with Conifer Selection, link to our Conifer Guide.

Deciduous trees lose leaves in winter. Many have leaves that turn bright (Stewartia psuedocamellia shown here) colors before they fall off. They are ideal for planting on the south or west side of a house. Light warms the house in winter and the tree shades the house in summer.


Size & Shape

Tree Shape

Trees come in many shapes and sizes. Pyramid, lollipop, column, oval, vase & weeping are the most common shapes.

Flowers, Fall Color & Winter Interest

Flowering trees are wonderful additions to the landscape adding large-scale color during bloom–time.

dogwood bloom

Dogwoods (Cornus), Redbuds (Cercis), Flowering Cherries (Prunus) & Magnolias are all lovely choices.


Maples (Acer) warm the skies in fall with a range of unbeatable glowing colors, as do Crape Myrtles (tree-guide), Redbuds (Cercis) and Ginkgoes. Coral Bark Maple (Acer palmatum ‘Sango Kaku’).

prunus serrulata

Himalayan Birch (Betula jacquemontii) and Birchbark Cherry (Prunus serrulata) have interesting bark in winter. Many trees hold fruit into winter and provide food for wildlife.