Choosing the right tree or shrub for your area - Tree planting and care

Choosing the right tree or shrub for your area

Answering these key questions can help you choose the right tree or shrub for your area:

1. Coniferous, deciduous or shrub?

photo: White Pine conifer image form forestry imagesConiferous trees keep their needles all year with the exception of tamarack. They are good trees to plant for privacy and wind breaks or shelterbelts

  • Pines include native white, red, and jack. They have long needles.
  • Spruces, black and white, and firs. They have short needles. They are important sources of wood fiber in northern Minnesota, and are excellent choices for windbreaks or shelterbelts.
  • Cedars include white or red. Cedars have scaled needles. Smaller than pines and spruces, cedars can provide wildlife cover and food.

photo: Red Oak image from forestry imagesDeciduous trees lose their leaves in fall or winter. They are good trees to plant on the south side of your home to provide shade in the summer and warmth in the winter when the sun can shine through. Deciduous trees are known for their beautiful leaf color when they drop their leaves each fall.

  • Elms, maples, oaks, walnut, and beech, are some native trees used to provide excellent cover and food for wildlife, maple syrup, nuts, and lumber for furniture building.
  • Aspens, black walnut, butternut, and cherry are examples of native trees that are fast-growing and are often used for windbreaks, fiber, and biomass.

Photo: Grey Dogwood image from Forestry ImagesShrubs are multi-stemmed woody plants that rarely exceed 15 feet in height. Mixing shrubs with tree plantings adds visual diversity, wildlife cover, and food.

  • Shrubs include native dogwoods, hazelnut, crabapple, etc. Shrubs provide excellent year-round cover and food source for wildlife.

2. What size tree or shrub?

Tree species vary in their height and width. For large restoration projects or planting several trees in one area, consider their mature size. (Some of the trees listed are available through Minnesota State Forest Nursery).

Note: Plant trees with a mature height of 18 feet or less within 18 feet planted under overhead utility lines.

Short and skinny trees or shrubs: Grow up to 18 feet tall and about 20 feet wide.

Sample list

  • American hazelnut
  • Common chokecherry
  • Wild plum
  • Crabapple
  • Dogwood
  • Nannyberry

Medium and skinny trees: Grow 25 to 45 feet tall and about 20 feet wide. They are great for areas near fences and smaller places.

Sample list

Tall and wide trees: Grow higher than 45 feet tall and 40 feet wide. They provide the most shade for homes, driveways and other large, hot areas.

Sample List

Tall and skinny trees: Grow higher than 45 feet tall and about 20 feet wide. They provide shade in areas that do not have a lot of room.

Sample List

3. Other tree and shrub factors?

Trees can add more to your home than shade or a wind block. Consider trees for their:

  • Climate change resilience: Choose a tree that is likely to thrive in your part of Minnesota
  • Flowers: Flowers add color to the landscape and attract butterflies, bees, hummingbirds, and other wildlife.
  • Fall color: Red, orange, yellow, and purple are all colors that add beauty in the fall.
  • Fruit/nut: Many varieties of trees and shrubs can provide food for wildlife.
  • Soil moisture/texture: Different tree varieties have different growing soil moisture and types.
  • Shade Tolerance: Different tree varieties have different levels of shade tolerance, from very tolerant to very intolerant.
  • Shape: Trees can be V-shaped, pyramidal, oval, round; all add interest to your landscape.

    image: Drawing of tree shapes

4. Location, location, location

Note: Only short trees that reach a maximum of 18 feet tall can be planted under overhead utility lines. You must stay at least 10 to 15 feet away from the house foundation and at least 5 feet away from fences, patios, and other surface structures.

Minnesota State Forest Nursery offer tree and shrubs seedlings for conservation and restoration purposes to the public. All are native to Minnesota. All are native to Minnesota. Minimum purchase is 500 seedlings.

5. Decision

  • Collect the answers to steps 1–4.
  • Go to your local nursery and pick out the tree and or shrub that will fit into your area.
  • Plant your tree and don't forget to water trees weekly.
  • Fence your tree to prevent animals from browsing.
  • Sit back and watch it grow.

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