Choose new trees and sites carefully

Plant for permanence

By Marilyn McKinley

OSU Master Gardener Volunteer

Trees are wonderful. They provide shade, improve air quality, provide privacy, fruit, flowers, and brilliantly colored leaves in the autumn.

If you are adding trees to your landscape do some research before you plant. Learn about messy trees, problematic trees, which trees are great for pollinators and birds, and what exists in your landscape.

Not all trees are good for all landscapes. You think a tree is beautiful in someone’s yard, but you don’t know that that tree creates a mess on their car when it blooms.

There are a few trees, for various reasons, that you should know more about before planting. All trees require some maintenance. They need to be trimmed, pruned and someone needs to clean up after they shed leaves, flowers, fruit, etc.

Other trees are not desirable because of weak branches, allergies and roots that have potential to put foundations and septic tanks at risk.

There are many messy trees, but you need to decide if they are too messy for your yard, or if they should be planted farther away from the house.

Some species of oaks make the list. Many have large leaves and acorns. Good for wildlife, but not necessarily your roof.

Some oaks are the last tree to lose their leaves in the fall. Some species are messy in the spring, shedding a massive number of catkins (flower cluster).

Because they are so tall, oaks are more likely to be struck by lightning than any other tree.

Eastern white pines have lots of sap.

American sweet gum has seed balls that are kind of neat looking; however, they are hard and spiky and almost impossible to rake, and then there’s sticky sap that you might track into the house, or damage siding and cars.

I have mixed feeling about the beautiful Catalpa tree. The flowers are great for pollinators. But, these trees have large leaves that turn ugly after the first light frost, not to mention the long bean – like seed pods, these are just plain messy.

There’s more – the catalpa is home to the catalpa worm which great for fishing, but massive in numbers every few years.

Other problem trees include the weeping willow. They like moisture and make a mess when the leaves fall. They are better suited for much larger sites.

Magnolia trees produce beautiful flowers when we have a great spring like this year. Other years, the flowers appear and are zapped by cold. When we have a cold spell at bloom time, the blossoms turn brown.

Bradford pears, sometimes call Callery pear is probably at the top of the “do not want” list. This one may be at the top of the do not plant or if you have it, cut it down list. Declared invasive, this short lived, weak branched aggressive nuisance should be avoided.

Thankfully, selling of this tree is banned in Ohio – but we still see them planted at new sites.

Poplar trees are a nice tree in the right place, but a horrible one if too close to your sidewalk or foundation.

Black walnut trees limit your options when planting a garden due to a chemical called juglone.

When planning for a new tree, look up and down and all around. Don’t plant under electric wires. Call the ‘Call Before You Dig’ number before digging a large hole. There may be underground lines or pipes in the ares.

Knowing more about trees you are thinking of adding to your landscape will make the trees in your yard more enjoyable.

For details on choosing the tree site, visit

For details on selecting the right tree, visit

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