7 Reasons for Planting A Small Shade Tree in the Fall |
Anne Roberts Gardens shade-tree

7 Reasons for Planting A Small Shade Tree in the Fall

With the sweltering summer temperatures of Chicago still fresh in mind, right now is a good time to choose that too-sunny spot in your landscape that was just screaming for a shade tree during those hot spells.

And here’s the good news: With fall upon us, your timing is perfect for planting the tree you wished you had this past summer. Why? With just a few exceptions, most trees are best transplanted in the fall.

Shape Up Next Summer’s Landscape Design with a Small Shade Tree this Fall

Let these 7 reasons in favor of planting a smaller-sized shade tree in the fall convince you to take a walk through your property and plan next summer’s shady spot now. Then grab your shovel for a quick, easy and rewarding weekend project that you’ll appreciate for years to come.

 7 Reasons for Planting a Small Shade Tree in the Fall

1) Fall Dormancy

Regardless of size, trees and shrubs start to go dormant in the fall. This dormancy decreases the stress of being removed from the growing space, allowing trees to ‘wake up” naturally from winter dormancy in their new space in the springtime. Transplanting now keeps trees and shrubs in sync with the seasons.

2) The Smaller the Tree, the Less Overall Stress on the Transplant

Anne Roberts Gardens chicago-landscaping-fall-trees-150x150 When you want lots of shade or sun screening as soon as possible, it’s tempting to opt for a larger tree. Keep in mind that the bigger the tree, the more overall stress involved in the transplant. Therefore, the smaller tree is the safer bet.

3) Better Root Recovery and Faster Growth

When that new tree lands in your yard, it has a lot of catching up to do in the root department. In our Chicago climate, this process takes about a year for every caliper inch of trunk (trees are sized by caliper inch – the diameter of the trunk). That new tree is not going to show much top growth until it can recover its root system. The fact is that smaller trees recover their roots more quickly.

Note: A 2.5” caliper tree will recover from transplanting by the end of the third year. A 5” caliper tree will just be catching up by the beginning of its sixth year. This means that the smaller tree will be starting to grow in its new environment 3 years before its larger friend.  In fact, you’ll likely see the smaller tree grow while the larger one just sort of sits there. Even more interesting: It’s not uncommon for these two trees to look just about the same after 5-6 years.

4. Better Shape Recovery

It’s also not unusual for a newly transplanted tree to lose some branches. If the smaller tree loses a branch or two is can recover and still have a good shape. Larger trees can shed a major limb during recovery – one that could make the tree less attractive of a specimen than it was when you bought it.

5) Transplant “Status” Means More “Out of Warranty” Babying

Another consideration is that the larger tree remains a “new transplant” for years. It requires careful watering long after the smaller tree has fully recovered and is able to go it alone. Keep in mind that the typical plant warranty is one year, so your larger tree has a much bigger window for encountering stress problems. The bottom line is that smaller trees have better long-term survival rates.

6) Cost

The bigger the tree, the more expensive it will be. Price can go up exponentially as the size and weight increases. There is a big difference between the root ball of a 24″ wide/400-pound tree that is 2.5′ tall and the 60″ wide/ 3,000-pound tree that is 5′ tall.

7) Transplant and Aftercare Work

Before you go for that bigger tree, remember it will be more work for you. You’ll have to dig a much larger hole for the plant and spend more time watering and caring for the larger tree. If you plan to save money by picking up the tree yourself, you might be surprised at just how big and heavy that larger tree is. Transporting and planting a smaller tree can be much more manageable for the average (truckless) person.

In a nutshell, we’re not saying that planting larger trees is a bad thing, but before you tackle these kinds of landscaping projects, consider the plusses of less cost, care and overall concern when choosing smaller trees for transplant.


About The Author

Karen Morby
Chicago Landscaper, Green Roof Specialist & Certified Arborist at Anne Roberts Gardens

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