Best Practices on Selecting a Tree - Saves you time and money on tree maintenance and tree care

If you are looking to plant trees around your house in and around Lake Mary, Heathrow, or Orlando area and are looking to know which trees to select to plant near your house or in your community this book is a great read. The below article snippet is taken from the book “Your Florida Landscape” a complete guide to planting and maintenance by Robert J Black and Kathleen Ruppert. if you are looking for articles on gardening and landscaping, Lawn care, tree service, tree trimming tips, and best practices and tree removal tips then this book has wealth of information for anyone to read and practice.


Tree selection begins with choosing a species appropriate to your planting site (see the planting Site). However, site conditions and maintenance capabilities will also dictate other choices, such as the size of tree to plant, its root ball characteristics, the method by which it was grown and the tree’s structure. By examining nursery stock and asking questions of nursery personnel, you will greatly increase you trees chance of surviving and flourishing.

Trees must also be selected for quality. Savings in cost at the expense of quality can result in trees that perform poorly in the landscape.  Quality can be determined through thoughtful inspection.  Quality factors to evaluate include root ball size and structure trunk from and strength, branch structure and evidence of injury, disease or poor cultivation methods.

Choosing the Right Tree Size

Table 3 outlines the important criteria for selecting trees for a planting site.  Following these guidelines will also help you choose the appropriate size of tree.

Water must supply on a regular basis to newly planted tree; smaller trees will require regular irrigation for several months following planting, larger trees for much longer.  If you cannot meet the watering requirements of a given tree, choose it in small size.

Site drainage also affects the size of tree you choose. On poorly drained sites smaller trees with shallower root balls often do better than larger nursery trees.  A nursery tree is considered larger if its trunk is more than 2 inches in diameter. (See Table 5 caption for where to take trunk measurement) The larger root balls of big trees can become submerged in water on a poorly drained site.  This will kill the roots at the base of the root ball and stress the tree, slowing the rate of establishment and thus making it more sensitive to pests, disease and drought injury.  If large trees are absolutely necessary for a poorly drained site, select trees especially grown with a shallow root ball (see next section) or plant in a shallow hole to keep roots above the water level (see Planting a Tree).

Root Ball Characteristics

The shape, depth and size of a tree’s root ball is determined by the way the tree was produced in the nursery.  Trees grown directly in the ground are called field-grown.  The structure of the root ball of a field grown tree depends on the soil type in which it grew, the water and drainage conditions in the field and the method used to dig up or harvest the tree.  Trees may also be grown in containers that are made in sizes, shapes and materials that affect the structure of the root ball.

On many sites, the natural shape of a tree root system will be shallow and wide. This root ball structure duplicated by growing tree in low profile containers, which are short and wide, or under field conditions where the subsoil is compacted or the water table is high. Low-profile root balls (Figure 3 left) are well suited to planting in poorly drained sites or compacted soils.  Where soil is well aerated and well drained, root balls of any shape may be planted.

Methods of Tree Production

When a tree will be planted in a well drained site and receive regular irrigation, the way it was produced is of little consequence.  However, when watering will be infrequent the method by which a tree was grown or harvested will affect its chances of surviving transplant

Field-grown Trees

Field-grown trees that have been properly harvested and hardened off are strong and sturdy.  They are good choices for any kind of site and usually the best choice for sites where watering will be infrequent or irregular.  Compared to trees grown by other methods, the root ball of a harvested field grown tree is larger and capable of more water storage, thus making it slower to dry out.  The root balls of field grown trees are also much heavier than those of container grown trees, making them significantly harder to handle.

Field-grown trees that receive drip irrigation and fertilization near the base of the trunk during the first several years in the nursery’s fields will develop fine root growth near the trunk.  This denser root system contributes to a healthy root ball.

Field-grow trees should be hardened off before going to market.  By dealing with an established, reliable nursery, you minimize the risk of buying a field-grown tree that has not been hardened off. Hardened off trees.

Sighs of Disease and Injury

Examine a tree’s leaves, trunk and branches for evidence of disease, pest infestation or other injury.  Not only do you want to select a tree that is healthy you also want to avoid exposing the other plants in the landscape to a contaminated specimen.

Pests and Disease

Many mites and insect pests are tiny and /or well camouflaged.  Look carefully at both sides of a tree’s leaves, especially if the foliage is speckled or spotted.  Speckling may be the result of a generally harmless that grown beneath the bark.  If, however, the bumps were a scale insect, the twin’s bark will have remained more or less intact and no exposed tissue will be evident.  Scale insect are easier to see when they are on foliage because their color is usually quite different from that of the leaves.  Do not plant trees with scale infestations as the stress of defending against the infestation may prove excessive in the vulnerable period following transplant.

Except in their dormant season nursery tree should have foliage to the ends of all their branches. Dead trips indicate problems that need further investigation.  If the tree is dormant and has no leaves, scrape several of its twigs with your fingernail.  If the tissue revealed is greenish or white, the twig is alive.  Dry brown tissue indicated that the twig or branch is dead from that part out to the tip. This condition is known as die-back.  As a rule, tree with die-back should not be purchased.

Injuries and cultivation damage

Avoid trees with scars and other open wounds along the trunk.  (If there is material covering the trunk, remove this trunk wrap to inspect the trunk, then replace it if needed to help prevent damage during shipment to the planting site).  Open pruning wounds are fine if they are small, but the presence of large open pruning wounds could indicate a poor or unplanned pruning program at the nursery.  Small broken branches should be pruned back to healthy tissue.  Trees with large broken branches should usually be left at the nursery.  Do not purchase tree with bark stripped down the trunk from an improper pruning cut.

Evaluate old pruning cuts as well.  Properly made pruning cuts are round in cross-section while improperly made cuts are often oval.  Properly made pruning cuts indicate that the nursery has high pruning standards and is capable of growing high-quality trees.

Check for injuries to the trunk from stakes rubbing against it, and be sure the tree was not harmed in the nursery by stake ties that were left on for too long. By the time of purchase, a tree should usually be able to stand without stakes.

Leaves should be colored like those of other trees of the same type. If leaves are smaller, lighter colored or yellower then others, the tree may lack vigor and grow poorly.

Major branches should not have bark embedded in the crotch (figure 10, left side). Embedded bark indicates that the branch is not well attached to the trunk and could separate from the tree as it grows older.

Be sure a tree’s root ball is free of weeds before planting. weeds will slow the establishment rate of the tree and may spread out into the surrounding landscape.

Recommended practice is to replace it with good quality soil.) The best additive to the soil is water. According to the best information now available, other additives or amendments of any kind, be they gets polymers, liquids, dust, powders, fertilizers or organic matter. generally, provide no benefit when incorporated only into the planting hole. In most instances, roots grow so fast regardless of amendments that they soon leave the backfill soil and grow into the surrounding undisturbed soil. There is one research report where amendments in sandy soil confined roots to the planting hole for a period of time after planting.

Loosen and break up any clods of soil before backfilling. Clods in the backfill soil will create undesirable air pockets around the root ball and could hinder root growth and establishment. Next, backfill the bottom half of the space around the root ball. Tamp the soil lightly with your foot, but do not tamp so heavily as to compact the soil. Finish filling the hole with loose, unamended soil, and gently tamp again. Settle the soil by pushing a hose with running water in and out of the backfill soil all around the hole. Finally, form a three-inch-high water ring around the perimeter of the root ball. This will help hold irrigation water. Remember that initially the root ball will need to be watered directly as roots haven’t yet spread into the surrounding soil.