Trees to Plant Now (part 2)

By Canopy Team on May 1, 2017

On April 6, 2017, Canopy staff members Michael Hawkins and Elise Willis presented at Gamble Garden about “Trees to Plant Now.” In this post, Part 2, we’ll cover the “who, where, and how” of tree planting, and offer a few more great trees to plant now.

Check out Part 1 for the “what, when, and why” of planting the right tree, plus five species recommendations.

Where to Plant

As US Forest Service Researcher David Nowak said, “if you can only plant one tree, plant it in a city.” Planting trees in cities is essential to the livability of the urban environment, and by extension the health and well-being of all who make their home there. That is why Canopy is committed to growing the urban forest in the Mid-Peninsula and encouraging the community to take an active role in planting trees in their neighborhood.

When planting a tree at your home or in your neighborhood it is important to consider the following:

  • Right Tree, Right Place – is the first step to a successful planting. Canopy’s Tree Library can help you select the appropriate tree for your planting space. There are many things to consider such as size, spread, and leaf production. (For more of an explanation, see Part 1 of this blog post).
  • Evergreens vs. Deciduous – if you want shade over an area throughout the year, plant an evergreen tree. Deciduous trees lose their leaves in the fall through winter.
  • Plant trees where they will have enough space to grow to their mature size. Plant large species where they have open sunny area. Smaller and more upright (screening) trees can be planted closer to structures and hardscape, but be cautious—the closer you plant to a structure, the more likely the tree will require future maintenance to avoid conflicts with the building.
  • Consider planting where you can save energy – plant large deciduous trees on east, west, and northwest sides of homes or buildings, where the tree’s shade provides maximum cooling benefits.
  • Consider screening – tall and narrow trees can be great for screening between yards.
  • Neighbors and trees – a lot of “neighbor tree issues” can be avoided with proper planning. For instance, fruiting trees overhanging a fence could bother neighbors, so plant with enough space between your property and the next. Planting a large evergreen tree right next to the neighbor’s vegetable garden may shade out their plants, so try for a different location or less dense tree species.

Who Can Help

YOU! You can plant a tree to help grow the urban forest and make a direct impact to the health and beauty of your community. But rest assured, there are professionals who can help with your tree planting project:

Consulting arborists and tree care companies can assist you with the planting and maintenance of your current and future trees. Use Canopy’s Arborist List to find local practitioners.

Horticulturalists, gardeners, designers, and landscape architects are all great resources for planting trees. Many can help you select the right trees and plants for your needs, help with installation, and keep up the maintenance.

However, these professionals have varying levels of knowledge and experience with trees, and in many cases less “tree-specific” knowledge than needed! So be sure to find an expert in trees, and if you can, an expert in trees and landscaping—now that’s a keeper!

How to Plant and Care for Your Tree

Find out how to plant a tree with Canopy’s step-by-step planting guide. Or come to a Canopy tree planting event and learn first-hand how to plant a tree! Check out our calendar for upcoming plantings.

Once the tree is planted, the next step is watering. Unfortunately, most people water too little too often, or not at all. To learn how to water your newly planted tree and keep it thriving as it grows, check out Canopy’s Tree Watering Guidelines.

After the tree is planted, use the Rule of 3’s to guide your watering:

  1. Fill the tree basin three times at planting
  2. Another three times three days later
  3. Once a week for three more weeks

After the initial three weeks, move towards watering every other week. The following year water deeply about once a month, and widen the watering basin.

Along with watering, additional care is needed to help your young tree establish and grow strong:

  • Structural pruning: Prune trees often while they are young to establish good structure. Check out Canopy’s Five Steps to Young Tree Pruning
  • Mulching: Maintain a donut-shaped layer of mulch 3-5 inches deep around the base of the tree. Make sure to keep mulch a few inches away from the trunk to avoid risk of trunk rot.
  • Weeding: Nearby plants compete with the tree for water and nutrients, so it’s ideal to clear the base of the tree of any weeds or grass.

Learn more about watering and caring for your young tree here.


Trees to Plant Now

The final 5 in our “top 10” trees to plant now:

Tree #6: Persian Ironwood
Parrotia persica

Category: Medium deciduous

#1 reason to plant: It’s so pretty

Interesting fact: There is a great fully mature example at the SF Arboretum

Pros: Excellent flowers and fall color; Drought tolerant

Cons: Not very well tested locally

Tips: Becoming more available at nurseries

Tree #7: Avocado
Persea Americana

Category: Medium Evergreen fruit tree

#1 reason to plant: Duel purpose

Pros: great investment

Cons: Frost sensitivity

Interesting fact: You can grow it here and not many other places

Tips: Fuerte, Bacon, Jim Bacon among the best; know if you’re getting A type and B type for pollination purposes

Tree #8: Oaks

Engelmann Oak – Quercus engelmannii

Forest Green Oak – Quercus frainetto

Southern Live Oak – Quercus virginiana

Shumard Oak – Quercus shumardii

 Cork Oak – Quercus suber

Category: Various oaks

#1 reason to plant: Many better suited to urban areas

Interesting fact:
600 separate species

Pros: Native mimicking trees and wildlife habitat

Cons: Unclear exactly how well they mimic our native oaks


Tree #9 & 10: Honorable Mentions

Large Deciduous:

Silver Linden – Tilia tomentosa

Chinese Elm – Ulmus parvifolia

Large Evergreen:

Fern Pine – Afrocarpus gracilior

Deodar Cedar – Cedrus deodara

Willow-leaved Pepper – Eucalyptus nicholii

Silver-dollar Gum – Eucalyptus polyanthemos

Canary Island Pine – Pinus canariensis

Medium Deciduous:

Persimmon – Diospyros kaki ‘Fuyu’ & Diospyros kaki ‘Hachiya’

Chinese Pistache – Pistachia chinensis

Medium Evergreen:

Hollywood Juniper – Juniperus chinensis ‘Torulosa’

Bay Laurel – Laurus nobilis

Cajeput – Melaleuca quinquenervia

Yew Pine – Podocarpus macrophyllus

Olive – Olea europaea

Small Deciduous:

Trident Maple – Acer buergerianum

Eastern Redbud – Cercis canadensis 

Western Redbud – Cercis occidentalis

Crape Myrtle – Lagerstroemia hybrids

Small Evergreen:

Loquat – Eriobotrya japonica & Eriobotrya deflexa

Water Gum – Tristaniopsis laurina



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