Trees are the most influential plants in the landscape, and their placement is very important. Placing trees is like developing the skeletal structure of your landscape that other plants reinforce. This structure can help you organize your landscape into areas that support various activities and uses. Deciduous trees have overhead canopies that create “outdoor rooms” we can walk or sit under. Evergreen trees are much more solid and can be used as walls, screens or backdrops in the landscape. When planning tree placement, it’s important to consider several factors.
Consider the sun and the wind. Blocking the prevailing winds from your house can reduce wear and tear and heating bills for the home. Large shade trees placed on the southeast and southwest sides of the house can lower air conditioning bills. Trees can affect the microclimate of your home in a variety of ways. Deciduous trees shade summer sun and let in winter sun, so they work best on the south side of your landscapes.
One rule of thumb is to plant trees a distance equal to at least two-thirds of their mature height from any structure. Large shade trees are usually placed in open areas of the yard and parkways. Try to stay 15-20 feet away from buildings.
Evergreen trees work well on the north side because they block severe winter winds, but they can create hazardous icy areas when planted on the south side of roads, sidewalks and driveways. Do not place evergreen trees up close to the house as they tend to grow very large.
Many fruiting trees are often used because of their beautiful, spring blossoms. But remember, fruit will replace blossoms, and may create a mess and be difficult to walk on.
Ornamental trees can be used anywhere in the yard to provide beauty and color. Use them along property lines for screening; do not put them in the middle of the back or front yard because they will block the view of the rest of the yard. Trees can be used to frame your home creating a picture in the landscape. You can maintain views under the canopy of trees and frame a view of your property.
Keep trees away from power lines and other utility easements so that after investing five or more years in tree maintenance, a utility company won’t come along and disfigure or cut down a much-loved tree.
It’s a good idea not to plant trees in the lawn, because trees usually need infrequent but regular watering. Lawns, on the other hand, typically need frequent watering. Planting trees in a bed or providing a grass-free area around them protects them from lawn-mower damage.
When trees are positioned properly, they fulfill their mission and provide years of delight.
For more information, see the following Colorado State University Extension fact sheet(s).
- Fall and Winter Watering
- Landscaping for Energy Conservation
- Xeriscaping: Trees and Shrubs
- Evergreen Trees
- Trees and Shrubs for Mountain Areas
- Small Deciduous Trees
- Large Deciduous Trees