Landscape Purposefully: Trees

We’ve all seen “those” homes … you know, the ones which have a giant maple tree or some such arboreal entity looming about 2” from the house.

These trees are far too close to the house.

It may have looked cute when it was a sapling, but in full size, it’s far too close for comfort. And that’s just the part you can see. The part you can’t see, below ground, poses a huge threat to your home’s structural integrity. Let’s learn how to landscape purposefully to avoid such issues as your home ages.

These trees are planted well away from the home's foundation.

Space, the Final Frontier

When you plant trees, you must know exactly how far their roots will spread. Some species, such as willow, maple and aspen, send out roots very aggressively and invasively. These roots, seeking water, can infiltrate your underground pipes, break up your sidewalks and driveway or even damage your home’s foundation. It is wise to be proactive and to allow a great deal of space between your house and your tree plantings. A good rule of thumb is to gauge that the roots will extend to 3 times the tree’s crown’s circumference. So if a mature tree has a 10 foot crown, plant it 30 feet away from any structure it could damage. For willow, maple and aspen, add extra feet onto that. Another factor to consider is the location of power lines and overhead wires. Again, think about the mature size of the tree’s crown in relationship to those things as well. Space is the key. One more extremely important caution: before you dig, ALWAYS check to know where underground pipelines and conduits run. From any US state, call 811 and the local One Call System will mark where such underground hazards cross your property.

Scale

No, we’re not talking about how much your tree weighs. Rather, consider the mature scale of the tree compared to your home and other structures. Too large a tree can make a small house feel miniature. In the same way, a shorter-growing tree can make a two-story home loom and tower. Think proportionally, and always remember that when you first plant, while the distance between your new plantings might look huge, once those trees mature, they will appear much closer to each other.

Keep it Native

While the exotic tree from South America might seem like a cool idea, it’s best to choose trees and shrubs that are native to your area. Not only will they have a better chance of thriving, but also they will be more resistant to local pests and diseases. Another factor is that some non-native species can be invasive when planted where there are no inhibitions to growth. While not technically a tree, bamboo is an example of such a species.

Plant with Purpose

After considering all the above factors, finally, decide what purpose the tree will serve. Is it a shade tree? A fruit tree? A climbing tree for kids? An ornamental tree? The purpose will help determine further which tree to use in a particular place. For example, a shade tree near a patio area would need to only be about 10 feet tall when mature to provide sufficient shade, but a shade tree near a house would need greater height and crown spread to shade the home well. For an ornamental tree, consider growth shape, fall foliage color and maintenance, such as pruning needed.

With careful consideration, you will be able to landscape purposefully and create a stunning, safe and effective yard which compliments your beautiful, new home.