University of Illinois Extension

Begin Now to Select Trees for Fall Planting

Summer is a good time to start thinking about the trees you want to plant next fall, said a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.

Use this summer to make that selection so you are ready for the fall planting season.

Sharon Yiesla

“Since trees can be expensive, time should be taken to select a tree that is right for the site,” said Sharon Yiesla. “Use this summer to make that selection so you are ready for the fall planting season.”

Several criteria should be used when selecting a tree, she noted. For starters, cold hardiness is vital to any plant in northern Illinois which is in the USDA’s hardiness zone 5.  Plants listed as hardy in the USDA zones 1 through 5 will grow in northern Illinois.

“The size and the form of the tree should also be considered,” she said. “What will the height of the plant be at maturity? What will be the spread or width of the plant at maturity? Will the mature plant be in balance with the house or will it dwarf the structure? Is there enough room in the landscape to allow the plant to attain its mature size without sacrificing its natural form?”

Planting site conditions will also affect the selection process.

“Is the soil pH acid or alkaline? What are the soil moisture and drainage conditions? What existing plants will be competing with the newly-planted tree? How much sun or shade does the landscape receive? Is soil compaction a problem?” Yiesla asked.

Yiesla said that the maintenance needs and limitations of the tree are often overlooked.

“Are disease or insect problems common to the type of tree you are considering? Is the wood strong or is it prone to storm damage? Is the plant untidy, producing litter such as fruit, seeds, or twigs? Does the plant produce large quantities of seeds, leading to many seedlings?” she said.

Homeowners should also consider the ornamental feature of the tree--flowers, fruit, bark, fall color, summer foliage, and shape. “Know which features are important to you in your landscape,” she said.

Once a list of trees has been selected for consideration, read more about each plant in order to gain a full understanding of its needs. Many horticultural references are available at local libraries and bookstores.

Yiesla said U of I Extension has a tree selector guide on the Web to aid in the selection process. It is located at: