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 Tree Planting- Part I: Choosing Your Tree and Site

Time to Plant Your Trees
Part I of II

Time to plant trees: Choosing your tree and site
Round Rock Leader 
Monday, November 24, 2003
By Emsud Horozovic, City of Round Rock Forestry Manager

Welcome to the first of a two part series on tree planting in central Texas. If you are new to the area, you’ll find that some of the rules you may have followed in the past won’t hold here, not if you want your tree to live more than a few years. Additionally, over the next several months we will cover tree care to include pruning, disease identification, mulching, staking, watering, and other miscellaneous tree-related issues.

October through March is the best time of the year to plant trees in Central Texas. Our temperatures drop and we have more rain to aid the establishment of healthier root systems before the hot, dry summer months.

Site selection
Oftentimes people buy the tree and try to fit it to the site, instead of looking at the site and figuring out which tree will be appropriate for a specific piece of property.

The following factors need to be considered before you buy that tree from the nursery: size of yard, soil type, presence of underground and overhead utilities, location of sidewalks and driveways, and distance from the house. Does your lot size allow for small, medium or large trees? Consider the ultimate size of the tree before you plant one.

Some general guidelines for placement of trees during the site selection process include:

  • Locating trees no closer than 5 feet from sidewalks, driveways, underground utility lines, and fire hydrants;
  • Depending on species, the tree should be 15-25 feet from the building wall or overhead lines to avoid tree branches hitting the walls, roof, cracking foundations, or getting into electrical lines resulting in the unattractive topping of trees;
  • Considering the distance from existing trees and any other shrubs or plants you may want to keep; distance from a watering source;
  • Spacing of trees depends on the ultimate size of the tree, varying from 20 to 40 feet apart from tree to tree.

Considering your soil condition is important in Round Rock because our soils are not uniformly the same. Generally speaking, we have soils that range from rocky and shallow soil that sits on shelves of rock to heavy clay soil with poor drainage. The pH of our soils is alkaline, so that acid loving northern evergreen that you loved at home in the northern states may not grow here. Regardless of soil type, drainage needs to be considered.

Tree selection

In choosing the appropriate species, one needs to consider hardiness for our climate. Keep in mind our trees will need to survive temperatures between freezing and 113 degrees. Trees should be labeled “cold hardy” and “heat tolerant” for our region. Look for trees that grow in hardness zones of 7 or 8.

The next consideration is form and size of the tree. Select a form and size that will fit the site. Look for trees native or naturalized to Central Texas and appropriate for your soil type.

Ask yourself why the tree is being planted. Do you need a large shade tree, fruit tree, seasonal color, windbreak, or screening, or a combination of above? Will the type of use fit into your site?

Location is important. A deciduous shade tree on the east, southwest, and west part of your property provides shade in the summer, cooling your house, and sunlight in the winter, warming your house. A line of alkaline tolerant evergreens provides a windbreak from the north winds, important during the winter.

Also, consider the sunlight demands of your tree. For example, crape myrtles, vitex, and desert willow need full sun to bloom fully. Redbuds and mountain laurels will grow well as understory trees or in the shade. The following tree species should not be planted in rocky soils: Magnolia, Bald cypress, Weeping willow, Sycamores, Pecan and walnut or any other tree that naturally grows by waterways and needs a lots of moisture in the soil.

With oak wilt wiping out large sections of trees in central Texas, it is important to consider varying the types of trees we plant in our community in order to avoid entire sections being destroyed by some future widespread disease or insect infestation. If your neighborhood has primarily pecans, consider adding another appropriate tree in your yard, once more dependent on your soil type. Look closely at your neighborhood. Are there any burr or red shumard oaks flourishing, for example. These tree species might be an option for you. Diversity of tree species is best thing to do when planting.

What quality of tree are you looking for? The trunk of the tree should be free of wounds from improper pruning or other physical damage; insect damage; an adequate sized root ball with enough roots to support healthy growth; bright, healthy bark; straight dominant trunk; branches well distributed around the trunk and nicely spaced; wide angle branches for strength; branches that are not split or broken; healthy buds; moist root ball; roots contained within the container; a full canopy of healthy leaves for trees that have leaves during this time of year; no weeds growing out of the container; and an attractive form. Watch out for crushed or circling roots or a tree with multiple stems squeezing against each other or the trunk of the tree.

Trees are available container-grown or ball and burlapped. During this time of year either type can be planted, however I prefer container-grown trees that have a good distribution of roots, without signs of being root bound.

See the accompanying chart listing the “Recommended tree species for Round Rock”.

Planning before planting guarantees that the right tree is planted in the right location. Proper tree species and placement will enhance your property value and prevent costly maintenance, treatment, and damage to your house, or future removal.

The second part of this series, in the next article, will include a discussion on properly planting and maintaining your new tree. For more information on Round Rock Urban Forestry and trees in general please check the City’s web site at www.ci.round-rock.tx.us.

List of Recomended Trees for The City of Round Rock 

Forestry Manager Emsud Horozovic
Phone: 512-218-5540

City of Round Rock | 221 East Main Street, Round Rock, Texas 78664 | Phone: (512) 218-5400
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