Choosing the Right Trees

Tree Selection Depends on Purpose; Fruit-Bearing, Ornamental, Privacy, or Shade

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith

U.S. Hardiness Zone Map
U.S. Hardiness Zone Map
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This article was updated on 05/23/21.

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Trees in our yards serve many purposes. Some are ornamental, some, like avocado trees, bear fruit, some are for privacy, and some provide shade which reduces energy bills. With that in mind, when choosing the right trees you must ask yourself what purpose they will serve.

How to Choose Fruit Trees

Many people want their own fruit trees and why not? Free food is great. Also, for some of us it’s that nice, fuzzy feeling that comes with the assurance that the fruit is truly organic. I myself fall into that category; I once made the commitment to plant one fruit tree per year. Now, I’ve about run out of real estate.

The mistake many people make is neglecting to research the required chill hours the trees need. I see it all the time; people buying trees at the local big box store. They plant them and wait. No fruit cometh forth. The map at the top of this page will show you the zone you live in and the corresponding temperature range. You might pay more for trees at a nursery but you will know what you are getting.

I’m here in South Texas and I’ve got a peach tree, two fig trees, a plum tree, and an Improved Meyer Lemon tree. I lost two orange trees and a couple of palm trees in the unprecedented freeze of 2021. Still, any kind of citrus tree is a good choice for my family. Another factor when choosing fruit (as well as vegetable garden plants) is vitamin and mineral content.

Republic of Texas Orange Tree
My Republic of Texas Orange Tree

Choosing Shade Trees

Shade trees are very beneficial. They help to maximize your energy efficiency. When they shade your house from the sun, you save money.  Basically, the southern side of your home will receive up to three times more sunlight than the western and eastern facing sides in the wintertime, and just one-third as much during the hot summertime. Deciduous trees are a better choice than evergreens because they lose their leaves in the wintertime when you benefit from the warming sun. Weather plays a big part in your energy consumption.

Planting trees with this in mind is called a passive solar concept. One note of caution–do not plant them too close to the house or you risk root damage to your foundation, which can be especially expensive and intrusive to repair if you have a concrete slab. Large trees should be no closer than thirty feet away and small ones no closer than eight feet away. As a preventative measure, install root barriers.

Choosing Privacy Trees

Privacy trees keep those pesky peeping neighbors at bay and deter crooks from seeing what property you have on your property. Some good candidates are Thuja Green Giant, Leyland Cypress, Emerald Green Arborvitae, and Italian Cypress. Since they are relatively fast growing, the benefits arrive quickly.

A Row of Privacy Trees
A Row of Privacy Trees

Trees are not only helpful; they also add a lot of equity to your home. Select and plant them properly and they’ll take care of you. Remember to care for them with pruning and a fertilization schedule and your investment in your home equity will be protected for years to come.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at Considered Opinions Blog where he muses on many different topics.

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