Gardening: Planting the proper tree

EILEEN WARD

When deciding to plant trees on your property proper tree selection is very important. You should plant the right tree in the right place.

Always consider the mature size of a tree when planting. Pay particular attention to the location of power lines when selecting a site. A single tree that contacts a power line can interrupt electrical power to many people. Overhanging limbs or trees too close to the electrical lines can break or fall off, especially during storms and high winds.

I have noticed a disturbing trend, on Marco Island, of people planting palms and trees directly under or too close to the power lines. With hurricanes and thunder storms accompanied by high winds a common summer occurrence, power outages from these poorly planted trees could unfortunately also become a common occurrence.

Planting tall growing trees under or near power lines will require pruning them to maintain safe clearance from the wires. This pruning may result in the tree having an unnatural appearance and could lead to a shortened life span. This stress will also leave them more susceptible to insects and diseases. In the case of palm trees it almost certainly will mean death as the heart of the tree grows into the lines. Children or adults climbing these trees can be severely injured or even killed if they come in contact with the wires. Proper selection and placement of trees around overhead utilities can eliminate public safety hazards, reduce expenses for utilities and their customers, and improve the appearance of landscapes.

Other considerations before planting include proximity to your house or other structures. Tree limbs can cause structural damage as well as provide a route for rodents and insects into your home. Also, be sure to plant trees far enough apart so they don’t interfere with each other as they mature. And consider your neighbor when you plant a tree. Will it cover half of his backyard or interfere with his landscape when mature?

The following are lists of some common trees and their height at maturity. Visualize this mature size when selecting a site for your tree.

Small trees, less than 20’ at maturity, and can be planted adjacent to power lines, etcetera: Sweet acacia, dwarf poinciana, bottlebrush, citrus, silver buttonwood, loquat, hibiscus standards, tree ligustrum and frangipani.

Medium trees, 20’ to 30’ height at maturity; should have a 20’ setback from power lines, etcetera: orchid tree, seagrape, dahoon holly, podocarpus, tabebuia, large trees, greater than 30’ at maturity; should have a 30’ setback from power lines, etcetera: red maple, black olive, gumbo limbo, green buttonwood, royal poinciana, ficus, jacaranda, mango, avocado, slash pine and live oak.

Small palms, less than 20’ at maturity; can be planted adjacent to power lines, etcetera: Bamboo palm, bottle palm, pygmy date palm, lady palm, dwarf palmetto, saw palmetto and Christmas palm.

Large palms: Greater than 20’ at maturity; plant at the average frond length plus 2’ for minimum clearance from power lines, etcetera: paurotis palm ( 5’ frond length), Alexandra palm (7’), fishtail palm (8’), coconut palm (15’), date palm (15’), royal palm (15’), cabbage palm (7’), queen palm (12’), and Washingtonia palm (7’).

Trees and palms are a very useful and important part of our landscapes. They provide shade and cool the air, act as wind breaks, screen objectionable views, frame views, soften architecture or act as a backdrop.

Select your trees carefully, plant them in the right place and they will grow into the beautiful, mature trees which nature intended.

Eileen Ward and her husband Peter have owned and operated Greensward of Marco, Inc., a lawn maintenance and landscaping company, since 1981.

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