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Why does a Yard Tree Have to be so Big?

By David Wall, Mount Pleasant Master Gardener

As urban areas grow and new housing development become established, yard sizes decrease and various rules become word of mouth or absolute rules for home owners’ associations HOA.  One of the dumber rules (my opinion!) is that each new house gets two front yard shade trees.  The rule itself isn’t so dumb, but how it is imposed leaves much to be desired.

HOAs generally have no concept of what tree species should come with the house, generally leaving such decisions to tree nurseries of similar organizations.  Regrettably what we see planted are small trees that will grow to super-size.  The number one tree chosen appears to be live oaks which can have a limb spread 50’+ on all sides, and they’re planted 15-25’ away from the house.  The only question is how many years (probably 8-10) before serious tree trimming begins.  First, keep the limbs away from the side of the house.  Then, in a few more years, trimming to prevent shingle and other roof damage begins.

I mentioned live oaks, but there are numerous red oaks, elms, pistachios, and others that become huge.  With large trees, you get plenty of shade, but you also get so much of it grass will have difficulty surviving.

There are numerous smaller trees, some of which have perfect shape that will do well in your yard.  Little Gem southern magnolias are simply a smaller version of the southern magnolia.  It will grow to a maximum of 25-30’ tall with a slightly less wing spread.  Then, there’s my favorite non-commercial tree, the golden raintree. It is a fast-growing tree reaching 25’ up and out.  The flowers (yellow) are unique as are the seed pods which resemble Japanese lanterns.

These are just two of many mid-sized trees available.  Why not Google mid-sized trees for yards.

Author: Ethan Klein

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