One of my favorite sayings is, “If tomorrow were my last day to live, I would still plant an apple tree anyway.” You might find this as an interesting activity on your last day of life, but it truly embodies the importance of not being selfish but rather giving to those who will come after you. Unfortunately, we don’t always consider or understand the long-term ramifications that come from planting or not planting a tree where it is best suited. The best time to plant a tree was 15 years ago, and the next best time to plant is today.

Lance Ellis


Failure to plant a needed or desirable tree can result in decreased property value, increased heating and cooling costs for your home and a less enjoyable yard or landscape. Planting a tree well suited for your location is critical for decades of enjoyment and to prevent expensive issues down the road. Avoid planting trees under power lines as when they get older could pose a potential risk.

Along those same lines, planting trees close to a home or foundation should be avoided to prevent the tree from falling on the house. Also, they can cause damage with their roots to the structural integrity of the building. If you have your own septic system, then it is even more important to avoid planting trees above or near septic lines or drain fields to prevents their roots from invading the pipes and plugging up the system. Choose trees that will be less work for future owners as most people will likely not have the skill to care for them properly. So, for example, choose a linden tree over an apple for shade, since the fruit dropping on lawns can be tiresome to clean up, and pruning can also be a chore.

Another aspect to consider about trees is the length of their natural life spans. To give a true gift with great value to future generations, choose a type of tree that lives a long time. Granted, it takes forever for it to grow, but it also gives back more years than a short-lived tree. There are many medium to longer living trees suited to our area. Whether it’s a commonly found type tree such as a Doug Fir or Blue Spruce, these trees give shade and add to the enjoyment of a landscape far longer than short-lived trees, such as poplars and aspens.

Aspens especially are not suited for our climate and elevation. They are naturally found in the mountains and do not survive and thrive very long in our lower valley elevation living, especially when planted next to hot driveways or the south side of fences. They also send out little suckers that pop up all over in your lawn grass or in the neighbors’ grass and when mowed become like little toothpicks, making your grass undesirable to walk on barefoot. This problem is compounded as there is basically no control methods for all of the little suckering sprouts, except to remove the aspen tree that is sending them up. If you spray the sprouts with a herbicide, you will most likely poison the aspen tree that is sending them up.

Also keep in mind that some types of trees are magnets for insect issues, and unless you are ready to keep them protected through an integrated management plan for the bugs, they should be avoided as well. Birches are prone to getting birch borer infestations in our area, but they are an amazing tree and come in so many colors and types that their landscape value outweighs the small amount of maintenance that they sometimes require. In a nutshell, it is always worthwhile to ask either a certified arborist, horticulture expert or extension educator their opinion about what variety of tree would be best for a particular location in your yard or climate.

Lance Ellis is the University of Idaho Extension educator for Fremont County. He can be reached at 208-624-3102.