How to choose an urban tree

Choosing the right urban tree for your needs can be difficult, there are many factors to consider that can affect what urban tree you can grow, when you can grow it and where it can be planted.

At Boughton we understand that it can be easy to overlook some of these factors when choosing an urban tree to plant, so we have put together the following list.

There are three main factors to consider when choosing an urban tree to plant, these are as follows:

1. Environmental factors

  1. Temperature – minimum and maximum year round climatic
  2. Precipitation and Moisture – climatic
  3. Altitude – especially pertinent in tropical areas
  4. Soil conditions
  5. Pests and susceptibility to local diseases
  6. Air Pollution – urban areas
Tree factor chart

 2. Tree factors

  1. Ultimate mature size
  2. Canopy and root zone requirements
  3. Pruning maintenance program
  4. Debris-seed, fruit, leaf drop
  5. Deciduous or evergreen
  6. Growth habit, form, crown and shape
  7. Shade and cooling – temperature moderation factors
  8. Aesthetics – flowering trees, aesthetic shade value, vista and view value

3. Place factors

  1. Highways and byways-sight triangle, steetscapes, medians
  2. Buildings – proximity to, framing and screening
  3. Overhead and underground utilities – electrical, water, sewer, TV, telephone
  4. Along walkways, courtyards and small urban parks
  5. Limited root zone area
  6. Encroachments on to adjacent properties
  7. Parking lots and parking islands

When choosing an urban tree to plant it is important to determine the types of urban tree appropriate for your environment and needs. You must consider that different urban trees flourish in different climate and soil conditions, for example, a willow that requires lots of water would struggle to grow in a desert, but would thrive at a riverside. The following are a list of important factors to help you choose the right tree, also view our tree soil requirements page to help you plant your tree:


Additional considerations


A key element in the urban tree selection process is matching the urban tree to the size of the site on which the urban tree will be planted. Consider how big the urban tree will be when fully grown and how this will affect the surrounding area and whether the desired affect can be met. A large expansive area would support larger trees better than a small front garden/ lawn.


It is absolutely crucial to consider the urban trees proximity to buildings, driveways, sidewalks, streets, overhead and buried utility lines and septic systems. Consider the impact that the urban trees roots and branches will have, and any damage they may cause if poorly situated near foundations, asphalt/ concrete structures or drainage structures.


The climate in which an urban tree will be located will affect its ability to thrive, but urban tree placement and types can affect the climate control for an area. Deciduous urban trees planted along south, east and west perimeters can provide shade during summer but obscure sunlight in winter when it is scarce. Evergreens can act as windbreaks and reduce heating costs in winter if they are planted on north and west sides of a property.


Urban trees thrive when planted in good quality and well drained loamy soil, while struggling to grow in heavy clays poorly-drained soils. Poor drainage can lead to ‘root rot’ when pools of water lay stagnant around roots and cause a lack of oxygen. Test the area you would like to plant an urban tree by digging a hole and pouring water into it, if this has not drained in a few hours then drainage is a problem. Counteract any issues by adding topsoil with improved drainage.

Soil Quality

Your in situ soil may have been contaminated during the construction on the premises, often with construction materials, rubble, chemicals and petroleum spills altering the pH levels of the soil. Soil can be tested for contaminants and in the case that the soil is severely contaminated, then quality topsoil can be added to replace the required amount.

Personal taste

What kind of urban tree are you wanting from an aesthetical perspective, and how will it affect the value of your property. Consider how the urban tree will look year round and what maintenance is required to keep the tree looking pristine. Do you want a flowering urban tree or one that bares fruit?

Get in touch to discuss any requirements