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How to Choose the Right Tree for Your Yard

Do you want to plant a tree in your yard? There are several questions to consider before you dig the hole, including:

  • What do I want the tree to do for my yard?

  • Do I want more shade?

  • Do I want more privacy?

  • Do I want a beautiful tree to accent my yard?

These questions will help you narrow down what type of tree will fit your needs and wants. However, there are other, more complicated factors to consider as well. Continue reading to learn what some of these factors are and how they can influence what type of tree will thrive in your yard.


Only a small number of trees will thrive and grow in just about any soil type. Most trees require specific soil types and conditions to grow well and be healthy. If you are unsure of what your soil is like, have it tested to determine its type, pH, and nutrient content. This test can be conducted simply and inexpensively at any local agricultural university.

Knowing what your soil is like will determine what trees you can plant. For example, in southeastern South Dakota, the soil pH is alkaline (7.1 up to 7.8) and is also easily compacted. If you were to plant a pin oak, it would suffer and probably not live for very long. Pin oaks and many other tree species like acidic soils. They also prefer soft, well-drained soils that don’t get over-saturated. Neither of these qualities are found in the soils of the eastern Great Plains very often.n.

This is why it is very important to know what soil you have before you start considering what tree you want. It's like fitting a pair of shoes to your feet; you don't want to wear shoes that look good, but are the wrong size. You’ll end up with blisters, hurt feet, and worn-out shoes!

Cold Hardiness

Every area of the United States has a cold hardiness zone based on what temperature the root system of a plant can withstand over winter. The hardiness of a particular region is determined by average low temperatures. Cold hardiness for your area can easily be found on the USDA website. Most of the Sioux Falls area is in zone 4b.

Before getting your heart set on a new tree, check its cold hardiness. If the tree you want isn't rated for survival in your hardiness zone, you'll need to find a substitute tree that thrives in your zone. Also, we are far enough south that it will be too warm for some species of trees, like black spruce and quaking aspen, to perform well..

Space Needs

You need to carefully consider the space in which your tree will grow. It never works out well to plant a tree and then try to make it fit to your spacing needs; for example, planting a shade tree and trimming it to stay in a small space or using accent trees planted tightly together to create a screen.

Allowing trees to grow into what they are supposed to grow into will incur less problems in the future, plus less work for you. Plant a tree to fit the space in which it will grow. Do not plant trees that will grow underneath or near power lines, as they will only get destroyed when they grow near the wires and have to be trimmed back. Always remember that little trees grow to be big trees!

Tree Care

Finally, you will want to consider how much care you are willing to provide your trees with after planting. Generally, trees that grow faster will require more pruning early on in life and are more susceptible to disease and pests when stressed or mature. On the other hand, slower growing trees will require less pruning when young, and then very little care when mature. Additionally, non-native trees will be much more susceptible to disease and pests than native trees.

If you know you will not have the time to properly care for the structure of a fast growing tree, consider planting a slower growing tree; it could save you a lot of money in the long run. If a fast growing tree does not receive the care it needs when young, it could cause a structural defect which ultimately leads to a fallen branch crashing through your roof. The more care you can provide when the tree is younger and growing, the longer it will live and the less problems it will have.

An Arborist Can Help You Pick the Right Tree

By taking these factors into consideration before you plant, you will end up with a great tree that will thrive in your yard and provide many benefits. If you want help making a decision, you can always contact a consulting arborist to point you in the right direction. Give Aspen Arboriculture Solutions a call today if you want to speak to our trained arborists about what types of trees you can plant in your yard in the Midwest!

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