GUIDE TO SELECTING TREES
Why plant trees?
There are so many good reasons to plant trees. Trees provide privacy, prop up hammocks, protect rivers and streams and house wildlife; not to mention the undeniable beauty of their spring flowers and glowing fall colors.
Trees are versatile as well, with so many sizes and shapes available. Grow a dwarf Japanese maple in a container, shade the house with a majestic Ginkgo, and feature a weeping Crabapple for spring flowers and tiny apples that feed birds in winter.
Choosing the right tree is a big deal. In the right place, trees are shade and beauty, but in the wrong place they are headaches, sore backs and empty pocketbooks.
Follow a few simple guidelines to help you choose trees that accent your life.
Right Tree Right Place
Take a few important steps before heading to the nursery. Observe your yard and decide on a planting site before shopping.
- Utility Lines – Call the Oregon Utility Notification Center (503) 246–6699 before digging to check for underground utility lines.
- Light – Observe light patterns in potential planting areas throughout the day. Pay attention to the direction the site is facing and to existing structures or trees that provide shade.
- Space – trees should be planted 10 – 15 ’ away from the house and 5 ’ away from patios or fences.
- Privacy – Consider areas where you prefer more privacy and more openness.
- Existing plantings – If the area where a tree is being planted has existing plantings, the new additions to the bed should share the same water needs. Drought tolerant plants go together – water dependent plants go together.
- Make Notes & Take Photos! – All of this information is important to the nurseryman who may help in making your tree choice, so gather it together and bring it when you shop.
There are a number of things to consider when making a tree selection. Answering these questions will help to narrow your choice.
- Evergreen or deciduous –
- Evergreen trees keep their leaves or needles during winter. Conifers are evergreen trees with needles or scales for leaves. Broad–leaf evergreens are trees such as Madrone or Southern Magnolia that keep their leaves year round but don’t have needles. Link to conifer guide:
- Deciduous trees lose leaves in winter. Many have leaves that turn bright colors before they fall off. They are ideal for planting on the south or west side of a house. Light warms the house in winter and the tree shades the house in summer.
- Size & Shape – Trees come in many shapes and sizes. Pyramid, lollipop, column, oval, vase & weeping are the most common shapes.
- Street Trees – Street trees are planted in the area between your sidewalk and the street. Planting the wrong tree in a parking strip can cause big problems, so the City of Portland provides lists of trees that suit the available space and allow for power lines. Measure the distance between the sidewalk & the street, then find the corresponding list:
The tree on the left, while beautiful is much too large for the
planting area. Its roots are bursting, interrupting the sidewalk and street,
and the crown of the tree has required pruning in the center to make it safe
for power lines. The tree on the right (Paperbark Maple, Acer griseum) is the
ideal size for use as a street tree. The root system is small and the tree's
canopy sits just beneath phone lines
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TREES FOR FOOD
Do you want to grow your own fruits or nuts?
Portland’s mild climate allows for many kinds of fruit and nut trees to be grown. Apples, Figs, Plums and Hazelnuts are just a few of the trees Portland Nursery offers every spring. Our Fruit Buyers post their order lists in winter to help you plan your springtime fruit purchases.
Planning for Fruit Trees
Pollination – Some fruit trees are self-fertile. This means that they require only one tree to be planted in order to bear fruit. Many fruit trees are not self-fertile and should be planted with a compatible partner to ensure pollination and fruit. Compatible partners are a different variety of the same type of fruit.
Self-Fertile Fruit Trees
- Citrus (spends winter indoors)
- Olive ‘Arbequina’
- Plum – European
*The varieties we stock are self-fertile. There are other varieties that require pollinators.
Fruit Trees that Require Pollinators
- Olive ‘Leccino’
- Paw Paw
- Plum – Japanese
Size – Most fruit trees are grafted to roots (root stocks) that change the mature size. Apples, for instance are available on miniature, dwarf, semi – dwarf and standard root stocks that result in trees anywhere from 6’ tall to 35’ tall. Size is also influenced by the vigor of specific varieties. Make sure when your are purchasing fruit trees to choose sizes that fit the available space.
Refer to our Fruit Tree Size Diagram
Space – Fruit trees need good air circulation to stay healthy. Choose trees that fit in the space allowed and don’t try to crowd them into areas that are too full.
Disease Control – Many fruit trees are prone to fungal problems in our wet climate. To protect against diseases there are a few simple guidelines to follow.
- Clean up – rake up leaves in autumn and don’t leave fallen fruit on the ground to rot.
- Spray with organic dormant spray at least once a year. Lime Sulfur and Copper sprays are commonly used by organic gardeners.
- Insects can also be problematic. Organic solutions are specific to the type of fruit and the insects in question.
And if that’s not enough… Timing harvests, keeping the birds off and pruning are additional things to learn about when growing fruit trees. Fortunately Portland Nursery offers Fruit Tree Classes every spring.
Are you still determined to grow fruit? Visit our fruit page for more information.