How to Choose and Plant a Tree in Your Central Florida Yard

Arbor Day is observed on the last Friday of April every year. The purpose of this celebration is to raise awareness about the importance of trees to our environment – from preventing soil erosion to producing oxygen. The result of this awareness, hopefully, is to inspire homeowners to plant a tree on their own property – or make a donation to purchase trees for the grounds of a non-profit organization’s common areas.

But you don’t need to wait for Arbor Day to enhance your Central Florida yard with a tree – or two – or more. Thanks to our subtropical climate, there are tree species that can be planted throughout the year! Now that you’re thinking about it, here’s what you need to know about choosing and planting a tree.

The Benefits of Planting a Tree in Your Yard

The beauty that trees add to your house immediately comes to mind as a good reason for planting them. Moreover, trees can increase property value by as much as 15 percent. The good people at Warner Tree Service provide the following additional benefits of adding a tree to your Central Florida yard:

Erosion – In a state prone to flash floods, storm surges and other weather-related disasters, tree coverage plays a crucial role in preventing soil erosion and flooding.

Heat – Shade trees help to keep homes cool during the summer. The dense foliage cast by mature trees creates a “canopy” that shields the ground from direct sunlight. As a result, the air temperature is cooler, allowing us to enjoy more outdoor activities during the summer months.

Air pollution – The dense foliage cast by mature trees also traps dust and other air pollutants inside the canopy, helping to reduce air pollution and creating a healthier environment to breathe.

Wildlife – Florida trees are a fantastic habitat for many different animals and wildlife.

Factors to Consider when Choosing a Tree – Plus Some Suggestions on Trees to Choose From

In your enthusiasm to plant a tree, don’t make the mistake of rushing out to the home improvement store’s gardening center or local nursery to buy the first sapling that catches your fancy. You may have an idea of where you want a tree, but study your property and do research on the tree species you’re considering. When it comes to trees, the trial-and-error method that you might be used to applying to shrubs and flowers doesn’t work as well. By the time you realize it’s in the wrong spot, the tree will be too difficult – and probably expensive – to transplant to a better location in your yard, or remove entirely.

University of Florida IFAS Gardening Solutions provides this helpful guide to factors to consider when choosing a tree:

Choose high-quality trees with good structure – Like any good investment, spending a little extra cash up front on a tree of superior quality will likely pay off in the long run.

Think ahead – Don’t plant trees that grow large beneath power lines, close to your house, or in other potentially hazardous sites. If your home features solar panels, be sure any trees you plant will not block them.

Give trees adequate rooting space, with no obstructions – Sturdy trees have straight main roots. Curbs, foundations, and sidewalks all act as barriers to roots, making them turn and twist. A tree with twisted roots will not be as stable as one with strong, straight roots.

If you can, plant trees in groups – Trees planted in groups are much better protected in high winds. In addition, trees planted in combination with appropriate shrubs and groundcovers form effective windbreaks and wildlife habitat.

Placement matters – Position trees and shrubs strategically to naturally cool or heat your home. Plant deciduous shade trees on the south, east, and west sides of a house to cast shade in summer and allow warming in winter. Tree shade can reduce air conditioning costs significantly – an air-conditioning system’s outdoor compressor/condenser unit uses less energy when it is shaded from direct sun during the day. Just be careful not to block the unit’s airflow with low branches.

So what kind of tree should you consider to grace your yard? If you want relatively easy maintenance and maximum resiliency to Florida’s demanding climate, look at native Florida trees – particularly those that are better able to withstand hurricanes.

University of Florida IFAS Gardening Solutions has the following recommendations for native Florida trees that can be a great addition to your property. Click this link to read the entire article for the complete list of trees.

“Florida has several attractive, hardy species of differing sizes. From small trees like redbuds to the majestic live oak, there’s a Florida native tree for practically any home landscape.

“If you’re looking for small trees, consider the redbud. In Central and North Florida, it puts on an amazing show each spring with a beautiful display of pink flowers. The medium-to-large red maple ushers in spring with red flowers and winged seeds.

“As far as large trees go, the bald cypress will do well near water or on drier land throughout the state. The live oak is a majestic native that can also be planted statewide.

“Even if a tree is native, make sure you know its soil, light, and other requirements, to ensure its success in your landscape.”

As for hurricane-resistant trees, research conducted by University of Florida scientists showed that sand live oaks are the most resistant to wind damage. Other good choices include the Southern magnolia, live oak, crape myrtle, bald cypress and sabal palm. These trees are less likely to lose limbs or blow over during hurricanes. Some of the trees with the least wind resistance were sand pine, Chinese elm, water oak, and laurel oak.

You may have noticed that we haven’t yet mentioned our beloved palm trees. Although botanically speaking they’re not really trees (in fact, they are monocots), their flexible trunks bend rather than break in high-speed winds, making palms very good at surviving hurricanes and tropical storms. Our blog post – “Palm Tree Care and Feeding” – covers more about Florida’s iconic tree in greater detail.

Want the Experience of Planting a Tree Yourself? Here’s How to Do It!

Some people want the hands-on experience of digging a hole, planting their tree, filling the hole back and giving the tree its first drink of water on their land. For the tree to successfully establish itself, grow and thrive, this process must be done correctly.

Before digging, however, make sure the tree’s location is away from underground pipes and your septic tank, if applicable. Also ensure that it’s well away from underground utility lines.

University of Florida IFAS Gardening Solutions provides the following instructions:

Look up – Find a new planting site if there is a wire, security light, or building nearby that could interfere with the tree as it grows.

Dig a wide, shallow hole – Dig a hole that is one and one-half to three times the width of the root ball (the roots and soil attached to the plant when you remove it from its pot). You can also dig a hole that is only slightly larger than the root ball and simply loosen the soil around it with a shovel.

Find the point where the uppermost root emerges from the trunk – This point is called the trunk flare, root flare, or root crown and should be even with or slightly above the soil surface. Remove any roots that circle close to the trunk. 

Slide the tree into the planting hole and position it carefully – Place the trunk flare slightly above the surface of the landscape soil and begin to fill the hole with the excavated soil, making sure the tree is straight as you go. As you add the soil, slice a shovel down into it twenty to thirty times, all around the tree. Compress the soil with your foot to stabilize the tree. 

Shave off the outer inch or so of the root ball with a sharp shovel – This removes roots that could strangle the trunk later as it grows in diameter. It also encourages roots to quickly grow into the landscape soil and makes the tree sturdier in winds.

Add plenty of water to the root ball and planting hole – Make sure the root ball and surrounding soil are thoroughly moistened. Add more soil around the root ball if needed.

Cover the backfill soil with mulch – Apply mulch to a minimum 8-foot diameter circle 3 inches deep around the tree, with a gap of 12 inches between the trunk and the mulch.

Stake the tree, if necessary – Staking holds the root ball firmly in the soil. Top-heavy trees might require staking, especially if they’re located in a windy location. Stakes should be removed within one year of planting.

Water trees frequently so roots fully establish – Light, frequent irrigation fosters the quickest establishment for trees. Following the initial few months of frequent irrigation, water weekly until the tree is fully established.

The Take-Home Message

As you’ve learned, choosing the right tree or trees requires a good deal of research and landscape design sense. And you may not be inclined to plant it – or them. Why not call us? Daniel’s Lawn Service & Pressure Washing does it all! We’ll come to your house, walk around your yard with you, and recommend the best tree(s) for your property, and how to incorporate them into your landscape to provide optimum function and curb appeal.

Tell us your ideas! Do you want a backyard for entertaining or recreation? Our landscaping experts can suggest the perfect trees that fit in with your plans! Are you looking for shade trees, or trees that can help reduce the heat your house absorbs? Or trees that create a tropical vibe? The tree – and yard – of your dreams is just a phone call away!

Our full-service company provides landscape design, tree installation, tree trimming, yard maintenance, pressure washing and so much more. Contact us today so we can do the work, and you can do the enjoying! We proudly serve all of Central Florida – including Orlando, Sanford, Longwood and Lake Mary! We look forward to helping you achieve your goals and bring your vision to life!