Aside from selecting a tree that fits the site, you need to consider soil conditions, climate, desired impacts, diversity, and age class — not to mention maintenance needs and budgets. Check out this guide to site assessment and species selection prepared by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agriculture Science. It’s Florida-specific but it covers every step you’ll need to take.
Soil Volume and Composition
One four-letter word describes the key to growing healthy urban trees: soil.
Scientists and practitioners have studied the impact of soil volume for decades and concluded that typical urban trees struggle to survive in the traditional, confined tree pit. It’s no wonder that many die by the time they’re twelve years old. Now arborists, urban foresters, and many municipalities set rules to assure adequate soil for species appropriate in their region: often a minimum of 500 cubic feet, sometimes much higher.
Types of soil used matters too. Where native soils are dense, compacted, or barely permeable, arborists and foresters have developed so-called engineered soils — where sand, compost, or other materials are blended to foster root growth and improve filtration.
Selecting the Right Tree Species
A tree may grow in Brooklyn, but not just any tree. Your state forestry agency or municipal arborist can identify trees that meet your needs and suit your community’s climate.
Species Identification Guides
Many communities specify native and/or non-invasive trees for public projects, and create incentives (or penalties) to encourage private owners to do the same.
Check out SelecTree, a California-centric tree selection tool that allows users to sort based on site, desired impact, and species preference. Additionally, i-Tree has developed a new tool called i-Tree Species, which allows you to select trees that provide specific levels of environmental benefit.