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John Fulton


John Fulton
Former County Extension Director



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In The Backyard

Horticulture columns and tips done on a timely basis

Tree Selection

Posted by John Fulton -

"Fall is for planting." That's one of the slogans for the fall tree planting campaign. Fall does work well, particularly for potted stock. Make sure you follow the recommended size hole, etc. For freshly dug stock, you've removed about half the root system by digging. One of the biggest chores is to select what to plant.

Mature size, adaptable to the area, adaptable to the site conditions, color, flowering, fruit (or no fruit), and other factors all go into choosing what to plant. Life has become more difficult the last few years for making a selection. The top large trees over the last 25 years have included pin oak, seedless green ash, purple leaf plum, Bradford pear, and red maple. Let's put it this way, there have been problems to some degree with about everything that has become popular.

Pin oaks speak for themselves. They like really acid soil pH levels, otherwise they get a condition called iron chlorosis. Once chlorosis begins, a general decline of the tree sets in. This brings on insect problems from borers. The seedless green ash developed decline and dieback problems in some specimens, while ones in the immediate vicinity did extremely well. Ash trees in general aren't on many planting orders because of the emerald ash borer. Purple leaf plum and Bradford pear took off for a few years, but they have problems with insects and diseases as well. Red maples have been the most widely planted trees for several years now. They aren't perfect either. They are susceptible to verticillium wilt, and many have developed dead trunk areas from damage to the trunk by rodents and other injuries. There have been so many red maples planted, we have probably set ourselves up for large scale problems one of these years. Just remember the American elms. When the same specie of tree is planted less than 50 feet apart all over everywhere, a problem can go from one to another in short order.

When selecting trees or shrubs, check out the characteristics. There are good selection criteria pages off our webpage at www.extension.uiuc.edu/logan . Then go to the horticulture page and select from tree selection or shrub selection. You can get additional information on pests, select by size, and find out other information. Another consideration is the susceptibility to Japanese beetles. You can drive down any street or road, and pick out the linden trees. There are many trees and shrubs seldom attacked by Japanese beetles. These include: boxelder, red maple, silver maple, boxwood, shagbark hickory, flowering dogwood, persimmon, euonymus (all species), white ash, green ash, holly (all species), butternut, tuliptree, American sweetgum, magnolia (all species), red mulberry, white poplar, common pear, white oak, scarlet oak, red oak, black oak, American elder, and common lilac. Of course, this list may not contain many species you feel are desirable.

I have told some to consider a gingko tree, but make sure you get a male. The fruit of the female tree will send you searching for skunks to cover the odor. Gingko trees are prehistoric, so they have had good survival rates. Unfortunately if everyone plants gingkos, we'll probably develop problems with them as well.

The main points are to select well adapted trees for your site, plant them properly, take care of them properly, and try to prevent problems. Good luck in you selection process. Next week I'll go into fall care in more depth.



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