The “right plant, right place” rule is as important as ever when it comes time to make your tree selection. For the most up-to-date information about trees and shrubs, visit the Michigan State University Extension’s online resources.

The “right plant, right place” rule is as important as ever when it comes time to make your tree selection. For the most up-to-date information about trees and shrubs, visit the Michigan State University Extension’s online resources.

File photo by Brian Louwers


Experts say choosing the right tree for the right place is key

By: Brian Louwers | C&G Newspapers | Published March 14, 2018

METRO DETROIT — Late winter and spring are the perfect time to plant trees, but picking one that’s right for your property is about more than just aesthetics. 

Reference materials provided through the Michigan State University Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Program emphasize the quality of life, and environmental and economic advantages of  “woody ornamentals,” which cover a broad class of trees and shrubs. But the text is clear that the “right plant, right place” rule is as important as ever when it comes time to make your tree selection.

The experts uniformly agree. 

“The first thing to really consider is where the tree is going in relationship to other things. Is there going to be enough room for it? That’s really what they have to plan for,” said John Tuffy, the department manager for retail trees and shrubs at Ray Wiegand’s Nursery on Romeo Plank Road in Macomb Township.

Tuffy said some ornamental trees are better suited for shade or sun, and some do better when wind exposure is limited. 

“Once you get those things figured out, then there’s a lot of great trees out there,” Tuffy said.

For a smaller tree, he recommends the Royal Raindrops crabapple.

“It’s really nice. The leaf color is great. It’s very disease-resistant, and the flower is kind of medium pink. It’s beautiful,” Tuffy said.

If you’re looking to add a medium-sized tree, Tuffy recommends an ivory silk lilac. He said it grows to a height of about 25 feet, is available as a single-stem or multi-trunked tree, and features a fragrant June flower with no fruit. 

“As far as a shade tree goes, there are some nice maple varieties out there. Brandywine is probably my personal favorite,” Tuffy said. “That one is in the 30- to 50-foot range for height and width.”

He said the Brandywine maple features green leaves in the summer that transition to beautiful red in the fall, and the tree does not produce the “helicopter” seeds seen in so many other maples. 

Keeping the “right plant, right place” rule in mind, where space is an issue, many property owners can’t go wrong by adding a Japanese maple to their landscape. The trees are cold-hardy and come in a range of sizes, shapes and colors. 

“They have very unique leaves. People really like that,” said Roland Russell, general manager of the Menards store on Van Dyke in Warren. “It’s a decorative tree to put in the yard.”

Another set of topics to consider — again, according to the “right plant, right place” rule — are the soil conditions. 

Most trees and shrubs prefer moist, well-drained soils. Drainage is important to ensure that the roots have access to sufficient oxygen in the soil to thrive. 

According to the MSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Program manual, soil texture (the percentages of sand, silt and clay) influences aeration, water retention, drainage and the capacity to retain nutrients for some plants, including trees, and is therefore a “very important consideration for optimal growth.”

When you’re looking to measure the life span of a newly added tree in decades or even a century or more, doing the research to determine what tree will fit your land best is even more important. 

For the best and most up-to-date, science-based information about trees and shrubs, visit the MSU Extension’s online resource at www.canr.msu.edu/home_trees_shrubs.