Selecting a tree

The right tree for the right place

It's important to select the right tree for your garden. You'll need to consider what will grow well in your chosen location, what is an appropriate size and shape and what you want to get from your tree.

Size and shape

Think about the size of the space you want to plant the tree in. How close is it to your house? How close to other trees? Are there overhead lines nearby? What proportion of the garden are you prepared to give over to your tree?

If you have a small garden it is not sensible to plant a oak tree that will eventually be over 20m tall and 20m wide. Make sure you pick a species of tree with a mature size that will fit comfortably in the space you have.

Autumn colour

Climate

Select a tree that does well in your climate. If you live in a cold area with winter frosts it is no good trying grow trees from much warmer climates.

Soil

Find out what sort of soil you have and select a tree that will grow well in it. Is it free draining or heavy? Is it acid or alkali? Trees have a long life and a large root system - trying to change your soil to match the tree you want is pretty much futile - always choose your tree to fit the conditions you have available.

Function

Ask your self what you want your tree for. For shade? To attract wildlife? Do you want spring blossom, autumn colour or all round interest?

Type of nursery stock

Trees are supplied by nurseries in three basic ways, each with advantages and disadvantages.

Bare root

Bare root trees are field grown trees that are lifted shortly before sale, with the roots being protected from drying out by plastic or similar. Bare root trees tend to be cheaper and usually only relatively small stock is available in this form. They must be planted during the dormant season, shortly after lifting, and care is necessary to avoid letting the roots dry out.

Root balled

The tree has been lifted from the ground in which it grew and a ball of root and soil retained. This is often wrapped in hessian sacking or similar. It may also be placed in a container, and in this case should not be confused with container grown trees.

Root balled trees can be stored for a short time after purchase.

Container grown

Container grown trees are sold in the container in which they have been grown. If you really have to plant a tree other than in the dormant season (try to avoid this) container grown trees are a must. They require more careful watering in the nursery and tend to be more expensive to buy.

Get advice

When you've decided the sort of size and the features of the tree you want, get some advice on what species match your criteria. Reputable suppliers will be happy to help you choose the right tree. You could also try an online plant selector service such as that on the Royal Horticultural Society's website. Take a look at our 'Useful links' on this page.