The Doty Nurseries Notes

Tree and plant care tips, industry insight and business tips from Doty Nurseries

Recommended Shade Trees in the Chicagoland Area

CRAFTED BY Kelly Girup

Finding a homeowner that is generally interested in having a shade tree planted in their yard with a realistic understanding of cost, labor and growth rates is a very rare thing. Many homeowners don't understand the value of planting shade trees and are then surprised by the cost of material and labor. Typically, an installed and guaranteed 3 inch caliper or larger shade tree costs anywhere from $500 - $1,000. And depending on the tree, the homeowner will have to wait many years before their newly planted shade tree actually provides them with some shade.

So why bother? Because every yard needs at least one tree! Trees save energy, increase our home's values and are economically beneficial. According to the Morton Arboretum "a single large tree produces benefits worth more than $3,000 over it's 40-year lifespan." As landscape designers and contractors, it is important to discuss these benefits with the homeowner and recommend suitable trees based on site conditions and budget. Incorporating shade trees is often overlooked during the initial meeting and design, which is the time to really push your recommendation. Besides saving energy and money, trees also provide homeowners with something aesthetically pleasing and sometimes even sentimental.

What should I recommend? You don't need to be an arborist to recommend and install a shade tree; you just need to have some common knowledge on the planting site conditions and match those with a tree that can tolerate them. The good news is a lot of shade trees can tolerate a range of soil conditions. You can also take a look at your client's neighbor's trees. There's a good chance that what is healthy and mature in their yard will do well in your client's yard.


Below are Doty Nurseries Shade Tree Recommendations that can tolerate a range of soil conditions:





Acer x freemanii 'Marmo' / Marmo Freeman Maple (Intolerant of Salt Spray and Soil Salt)

Catalpa speciosa / Northern Catalpa

Celtis occidentalis / Common Hackberry

Gleditsia triacanthos 'Skyline' / Skyline Honeylocust

Gymnocladus dioicus / Kentucky Coffee Tree

Quercus bicolor / Swamp White Oak (Intolerant of Salt Spray)

Ulmus 'Morton Glossy' / Triumph Elm

*all trees are recommended by the Morton Arboretum in their Selecting and Planting Trees Guide


After Installation... Make sure the homeowner is properly educated on maintaining the tree. Proper watering is the most important maintenance responsibility. A good rule of thumb is to water 1 - 2 times per week, at about 10 to 15 gallons of water per watering (or one hour on a slow drip hose) to completely saturate the root ball but not drown it. Fertilization is not recommended at this time. Wait a few years and fertilize with a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer if necessary. Apply mulch evenly over the planted area; 1 - 3 inches deep. Do not allow mulch to touch the trunk of the tree and definitely do not build the mulch up around the trunk.


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