I recently received phone calls from an elderly gentleman who had just moved to our area who wanted to plant a shade tree in his yard. When visiting some local plant outlets, he was told to wait till fall; however, he didn’t want to wait, so he called me for advice. I said he could still plant a tree, but it would depend on what kind of tree and what size he wants to plant, the site where the tree will be planted, and the importance of proper planting and aftercare. I also informed him that landscapers plant trees year-round here in Florida.
Because the gentleman was not familiar with many of our trees, I suggested a few trees that I like and I referred him to floridata.com and solutionsforyourlife.com (IFAS) websites so that he could be better informed in making a tree selection.
When asked what size tree he wanted to plant, he replied, “20 feet or so”, to which I responded that unless he had prior experience planting such a large tree or was going to hire a landscape contractor to plant it for him, not to plant a tree that big, especially during our hurricane season. I went on to add that the smaller the tree, the faster it would get established, the greater would be its chance for survival, plus less time and care would be required of him.
Assuming that he would select the right tree, I suggested he choose an open, well drained site where the tree would have sufficient room to grow and that he follow IFAS’s guidelines for proper planting.
Of all the various tasks required in successfully planting a tree, nothing is more important than aftercare – particularly keeping the tree well watered until it is established – something most homeowners fail to do once a tree is planted. Trees must be religiously watered daily (with a minimum of 5 gallons or more depending on the size of the tree), for the first 3 weeks following planting; then every other day for the next 3 weeks; then water as needed thereafter. I also suggested that he check his tree at least 2-3 times per week to make sure that it is doing OK. If yellowing leaves occur, this usually indicates the tree is getting too much water; if brown leaf margins occur, this usually indicates a need for more water
Epilogue – At the conclusion of my fourth phone conversation with this gentleman, he agreed that he needed to do some research before proceeding any further. I didn’t hear back from him for several days. When I did, he told me that he had purchased and successfully planted a 5’ Winged Elm (as I had suggested) and was very pleased with his efforts, and appreciated the advice I had given him.