What are the best Ohio trees to plant?

What’s the best fast growing tree in Ohio?

Is it too late to plant a tree?  

What is the best time to plant a tree?

I’m old.  What’s the biggest tree I can plant?

These are a few of the most common questions I get regarding trees.  First of all, regardless what tree you plant, it’s going to take a few years to shade your house.  Not to be a smarty but the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago!  The next best time is today.  No it’s not too late.  The only time you can’t plant is when you can’t dig a hole in the frozen ground.  The only reason to plant a big tree is to impress the neighbors or spend more money.  Transplanting a big tree will shock it and take many years to reestablish roots and resume growing.  The “rule of thumb” is that for every inch of trunk diameter, it takes a year for the roots to recover from the transplanting.  Hence, a small tree will get its roots in the ground sooner and push new growth out vigorously.  Like many things in life, tree choice is a compromise.  Fast growing trees are typically weak wooded and short lived.  Slower growers make better trees in the long run.  Any tree will grow well if it’s well suited to the site.  So pick a tree that meets your size requirements and does well in your particular location.  Don’t plant a tall growing tree under power lines!

An old Chinese proverb says “We don’t plant trees for ourselves, we plant them for our grandchildren”.

The current size and shape of the tree you pick is far less important than the type of tree you plant.  All trees will grow and change over time but the species will remain the same.  Don’t just plant the same thing the neighbor has.  We’ve overplanted certain species to the point that when there is a problem and that species dies, we lose a lot of trees.  Hence, the Ash disaster!  We’ve also created a problem by planting too many ornamental pears.  They are becoming weeds in nature and they are splitting when they get older.  In fact, you won’t be able to buy an ornamental pear in the future because the state of Ohio has outlawed them as a weed species.

There are many fine trees, many of which are native to central Ohio, which are rarely planted because they are not “popular”.  You should consider swamp oak, black gum, hophornbeam, tuliptree, lacebark elm, river birch, serviceberry, etc.

Don’t be discouraged from planting a smaller tree.  That little tree in a container will “take hold” quicker and become a healthy, growing asset to your home in a few short years.  You might want to build a small fence around a smaller tree to protect it.  Of course you can mulch a wide circle around it including the “fence” to keep the mower away.  Many young trees die from “lawn mower disease”.   You could also fertilize and water it to encourage growth.  But in the long run, you’ll be happier with a healthy growing tree that is unique in your neighborhood.

When an old man was seen planting apple tree seedlings, a fellow asked,  “Why are you planting those trees?  You’ll never live to eat the apples from them.”  The old man replied, “Because I’ve been eating apples all my life from trees which I didn’t plant!”