In the Mid South, it is best to plant trees and other woody perennials between November and March, giving young trees and shrubs time to establish their root systems before shifting their energy to leaf production in the spring. Native trees provide multiple benefits to people, wildlife and the planet – beautifying yards and neighborhoods, offering shade and countering the urban heat island effect, supporting sometimes hundreds of species of wildlife large and small, storing carbon, protecting soils and watersheds, reducing storm water runoff, and more. Choosing the right tree depends on your goal for the place it will be planted. Do you want a large shade tree to grace a front yard or one that will support the most wildlife species or insects for nesting birds? In all three cases, a native oak tree will work. If space is limited, there are many beautiful and beneficial smaller native trees and shrubs such as the dogwoods (flowering, rough leaf), redbud, buttonbush, and pawpaw. Native evergreens include American holly, eastern red cedar, and cherry laurel; deciduous hollies such as winterberry and possumhaw (pictured above) provide stunning winter color. One tree species to avoid: Bradford pear (aka callery pear). Not only has this tree proved to be an unsatisfactory landscape tree, it is also a terribly invasive exotic species which forms dense thorny thickets and causes ecological harm.
Here in the Southeast, the diversity of tree, shrub and plant species can seem overwhelming. Besides consulting local nurseries and tree experts, check out the online sources of information listed below, and consider visiting a local arboretum, where tree species are labeled, such as the Level One Arboretum at the Wolf River Greenway loop near Shady Grove Rd. in East Memphis.
Natural Highlights: ‘Tis the Season to Plant a Tree In the Mid South, it is best to plant trees and other woody perennials between November and March