Choosing The Best Tree for the Intown Landscape

It’s Arbor Day in Georgia and we asked horticulturist and landscape designer, Kathy Henderson to give us some advice on selecting the best tree for intown landscapes.

When you are landscaping your home, either starting from the bare lot, or adding to existing plantings, the most important plant choice you make is the tree you install.  You need to choose the right site, the correct size (mature) and one with few problems.

Site Selection

Never plant close to the house, even if you want shade.   Only small trees can be planted within 20 feet of the house.  At least fifty feet away from house or street for a large tree is best.  A tree planted in the shade of a larger tree, may lean to get sunlight.   A large-trunked tree will detract from your house if planted in the wrong site.

Choose the Mature Size

Size is the most important characteristic for a small lot. Japanese Maple and its cultivars often reach 30 feet or more to make a loose shade.

Evergreen Magnolia ‘Teddy Bear’ reaches 26 feet; various evergreen hollies can be trained as trees: ‘Nellie R Stevens’, ‘Mary Nelle’ and Yaupon cultivars.  Certain Osmanthus (Tea Olive) species can be pruned as trees and reach 20 – 25-feet.

Flowering trees are always good choices for the smaller landscape.  Crape Myrtle – ‘Natchez’ is one that becomes a 30-foot shade tree with lovely bark. Flowering cherry cultivars, deciduous magnolias, are best in full sun while others like Kousa Dogwood (pictured), Red Buckeye, Redbuds, Chionanthus (Fringe Tree) and Flowering Dogwoods will tolerate light shade and still bloom well.

If you need a large shade tree, consider Red Maple cultivars; ‘Red Sunset’, October Glory’ and ‘Autumn Blaze’ are the best for fall color choices.  Oaks such as ‘Nuttallii’, Willow, Water, Red and White are also 40-60 feet in height.


All trees will have some sort of problem, just choose one with the fewest problems or those easiest to solve.  All trees drop leaves, even evergreen ones (just not all at one time).   A rake or blower will solve tree leaf drop problem.  Trees known for messy limb, flower and leaf drop should be planted with careful consideration.

Diseases that are inherent in certain trees are a major problem:  Dieback or canker can cause a limb or an entire tree to die.  Fireblight can be a twig problem on members of the apple family.   Anthracnose leaf spot and other leaf spot diseases as well as Powdery Mildew make the plant unattractive and weaken the tree.  Root rot is a problem where plants do not get enough drainage and have problems forming a strong root system.  The best cure for disease is choice of plant, good site preparation, proper planting, fertilization, air flow and identifying the problem quickly.

Insects that often inhabit our trees are beetles, caterpillars, and aphids. Some come and go with little damage; others can kill the tree.  Some can be controlled with a spray or two, or the application of a systemic to the soil while other must be treated by a commercial applicator.

In short, know your tree selection very well before planting it in your yard.

About our guest blogger: Kathy Henderson has been talking, writing and most importantly, doing gardening for more years that she wants to recall. Graduating with a Masters in Horticulture from Clemson University, she enjoyed working at Fernbank Science Center then moving on to own a Landscape Installation and Maintenance Company for 20 years. After being on radio and writing columns for the AJC and other small newspapers, she has retired to operating a small farm and greenhouse in Locust Grove, GA. Plants are her life, along with peacocks, cows, llamas, chickens and goats. You can find her on Facebook at Kathy’s Plants.

Local Resources:

Trees Atlanta — volunteer opportunities, tree sales, neighborhood tree plantings, educational classes
GardenHood — independent garden center located in Grant Park

posted: Feb 14, 2017 | No Responses

Posted by:  Shannon Sanders

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