University of Illinois Extension

Selecting a Tree

If you’re thinking of planting a tree this spring, it is worth taking some time to select the right one, said a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.

“A little research can result in the right tree for your property and landscape,” said Sharon Yiesla, who is based in Lake County. “A good place to start is University of Illinois Extension’s Tree Selector web site, located at:”

Cold hardiness is an important factor to consider in tree selection, she noted. The size and form of the tree should also be considered.

“Ask yourself three questions,” Yiesla said. “What will the height of the tree be at maturity? What will the spread or width of the tree be at maturity? Will the mature tree be in balance with the house or will it dwarf it? Is there enough room in the landscape to allow the tree to attain its mature size without sacrificing its natural form?”

Conditions existing at the planting site will affect the selection process. The pH of the soil, moisture and drainage conditions, and the amount of sun available in the yard should be taken into consideration. Select a tree that can grow in the conditions available in your yard, she recommended.

“All trees require maintenance. Some have higher needs than others. Think about how much work you intend to put into the maintenance of the tree,” said Yiesla. “When selecting a tree that fits the amount of maintenance you can give consider the following: are disease or insect problems common? Is the wood strong or is it prone to storm damage? Is the tree untidy, producing litter such as fruit, seeds or twigs? Does the tree produce large quantities of seed, leading many seedlings?”

The ornamental features of the tree--flowers, fruit, bark, fall color, attractive summer foliage, and the form of the plant--should also be considered.

“What is important to you?” Yiesla said. “Make a list, but keep it realistic. There are some trees that provide beauty in more than one season, but many do not.”