University of Illinois Extension


Sharon Yiesla
Unit Educator, Horticulture
Lake Unit

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Selecting Trees

Many homeowners start to think about planting trees as spring arrives. Use this quick checklist as a guide to determine the suitability of any tree for a particular landscape. Once you have a list of trees selected, read more about each plant so you have a full understanding of its needs. There are many horticultural references available at local libraries and bookstores. University of Illinois Extension has a tree selector guide on the web. It can be found at

Factors To Consider When Selecting A Tree

1. Cold Hardiness

Northern Illinois is in USDA hardiness zone 5.
Plants listed as hardy in USDA zones 1 through 5 will grow here.

2. Size and form

What will the height of the plant be at maturity?
What will be the spread (width) of the plant at maturity?
Will the mature plant be in balance with the house or will it dwarf it?
Is there enough room in the landscape to allow the plant to attain its mature size without sacrificing its natural form?

3. Conditions Existing at the Planting Site

Soil pH (Is the soil acid or alkaline?)
Soil moisture and drainage conditions.
What existing plants will be competing with the newly planted tree or shrub?
How much sun or shade does the landscape receive?
Is soil compaction a problem?

4. Maintenance Needs and Limitations of the Plant

Are disease or insect problems common?
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 seed, leading to many seedlings?

5. Ornamental Features of the Plant

Fall color
Shape of the plant

April - May 2004: Foolproof Perennials | Plants, Septic and Failures | Can I Prune Now? | Selecting Trees

Past Issues

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