Matching Tree and Site, Part 2 – Site Considerations

Last week, we discussed matching tree and site with respect to adaptability and acclimation. This week, we’ll talk about site considerations. When matching tree and site, you need to think about more than just the type of tree that you are going to plant. You have to think about more than that, but what?

Tree Function

When planting trees on your property, you should think about whether they are going to enhance property values and make outdoor surroundings more pleasant. For example, a deciduous shade tree that loses leaves in the fall can provide cooling heat from summer heat and allow the winter sun to warm a home. An ornamental tree will display beautiful flowers, leaves, bark or fruit. Evergreens with dense, persistent foliage can create a windbreak or a screen for privacy. A tree that produces fruit can also provide food for wildlife or the home. Street trees can decrease the glare from the pavement, reduce runoff, filter out pollutants, and add oxygen to the air we breathe. Street trees will also improve the overall appearance of the neighborhood.

Form and Size

Selecting the right form (shape) to complement the desired function can significantly reduce maintenance costs and increase the tree’s value in the landscape. Also, a mature tree size can determine the level of benefits you will receive from the tree. Larger trees typically provide the greatest economic and environmental returns.

Depending upon site restrictions, you can chose from hundreds of form and size combinations. It can get dizzying. For example, a low, spreading tree can be planted under overhead utility lines. A narrow, columnar evergreen might provide a screen between two buildings. Large, vase-shaped trees can create an arbor over a driveway or a city street.

Site Conditions

Selecting a tree that will thrive in a given set of site conditions is the key to long-term tree survival and reduced maintenance. You must consider the following when selecting a tree:

  • Soil conditions,
  • Exposure to sun and wind,
  • Drainage,
  • Space constraints,
  • Hardiness zone,
  • Human activity,
  • And insect and disease susceptibility.

Soil Conditions

In dense urban areas and new subdivisions, soil is often disturbed, shallow, compacted and subject to drought. Most trees will suffer in these conditions without additional care. You can get soil samples from your yard tested for texture, fertility, salinity, and pH (alkalinity or acidity). The test results can determine which trees are suited to your property and may include recommendations for improving poor soil conditions.


The amount of sunlight available will affect tree and shrub species selection for a particular location. Most woody plants require full sunlight for proper growth and flowering. Some do well in, or even prefer, light shade. There are even a few species of tree that will do well in dense shade. You should also consider wind exposure. Why? Wind can dry out soil, damage a tree crown, and uproot newly planted trees. Special maintenance such as staking or more frequent watering may be necessary to establish young trees on windy sites.


Tree roots require oxygen to develop and thrive. If the site has poor drainage, then that limits the oxygen to the roots of the tree. This can ultimately kill a tree. If drainage is an issue on your property, you should ask us what can be done to correct the problem. We will have some suggestions for you.


What is hardiness? Well, it’s the tree’s ability to survive the extreme temperatures of the particular geographic region you’re planting the tree. In Texas, your tree will need to withstand extreme heat and windiness. You need a heat tolerant tree for certain. You can check with your local garden center or nursery for information on the hardiness of certain tree species for your area.

Space Constraints

There are many different factors that can limit the planting space available to a tree. These include, but are not limited to: overhead or underground utilities, pavement, buildings, other trees and visibility. The important thing to note is that you make adequate room for the tree you select to grow to maturity, both above and below ground.

Human Activity

People often overlook this factor, but it’s an important one. Why? Well, the top five causes of tree death are done by people to trees. They are soil compaction, under-watering, overwatering, vandalism, and planting the wrong tree (number one). These five factors account for more tree deaths than all insect- and disease-related tree deaths combined.

Pest Problems

Every tree has its pest problems. The severity varies geographically. These pests may or may not be life-threatening to the plant. Regardless, it’s best to select trees that area resistant to pest problems to your specific area. We can help you figure out what those trees are.

Species Selection

We know that personal preferences as well as site considerations play major roles in your species selection, or at least they should. If you take into consideration, all the factors listed above, you can help ensure that you plant trees that will grow and function as you desire.

If you need help with this process, Austin Tree Service is here for you. Give us a call at 512-341-8888. Our certified arborist can give you helpful advice and we can help plant the tree on your site. Contact us today for more information.