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Arbor Day tree selection tips

April 30, 2021

Happy Arbor Day! Will you be planting something this weekend to celebrate? Adding trees and shrubs to your landscape can help protect soil and water resources, sequester carbon, increase wildlife habitat, and provide edible fruits and nuts. In addition to the wildlife and environmental benefits, properly selected and placed trees and shrubs provide privacy, energy savings, protection from wind or snow, and increased property value. 

Extension offers resources to help you decide what kind of trees to plant in your region, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has a great series of videos on the best native yard trees for Minnesota’s changing climate on their Arbor Month page.

When selecting trees and shrubs for your landscape, always plant a variety of species to help protect against invasive insect pests or disease pathogens infesting and damaging your plantings. Minnesota residents must consider planting shade trees other than ash, since emerald ash borer (EAB) was found in the state in 2009. Visit our emerald ash borer webpage to learn more about EAB and alternative shade trees.

Some of my favorite shade tree species include ginkgo, hackberry, American linden or basswood, sugar maple (Fall Fiesta), Freeman maple (Sienna Glen), red maple (Northwood), and Dutch Elm disease-resistant elms (Discovery, Accolade, St. Croix).  

Looking to add some interest? You can plant trees that produce nuts and pods to add diversity, but be sure to consider debris or maintenance in these areas. Trees that produce nuts include Ohio buckeye (Autumn Splendor), shagbark hickory, bur oak, white oak, and bicolor or swamp white oak. Black walnut is another lovely tree that produces nuts, but it can inhibit some plants from growing near it. Trees that produce pods are northern catalpa, Kentucky coffeetree (podless cultivar Stately Manor), and honey locust (podless cultivars are Northern Acclaim, Shademaster and Sunburst). 

For more assistance with tree and shrub selections contact your local garden and tree nurseries, certified arborists, Tree Care Advisors, Master GardenersDNR Forester or your local Extension office. Soil and Water Conservation District offices in each county sometimes offer cost share programs for conservation plantings and may sell conservation trees and shrubs. And don’t forget to call Gopher State One Call at 800-252-1166 to identify underground utilities before you start planting.

Remember landscape diversity by planting several different species of trees, shrubs and plants. No single species should represent more than 15 percent of your landscape. Make it a family activity to plant trees or shrubs this year. You can pass on the benefits of trees when you explain them to your children.

Gary Wyatt, Extension educator

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