Research the Tree Before Purchasing

What is tree’s mature height? What is tree’s projected longevity? How fast will this tree grow? What is tree’s mature shape? Is it cold hardy for your area? What are its soil requirements? Does it require a shady or sunny site? Does it require wet or dry site? Is it sensitive to salt? Describe flowers and fruits. What is the autumn/spring color? Is the species unusually susceptible to certain insects or disease, or to storm damage? Note: In a community setting be sure to choose a variety of species. Do not plant large numbers of the same species.

Nursery Checklist

Below is a checklist to help you find the right tree to plant around your home. Print off this page, fill it out and then show it to your local nursery or garden center professional and request a choice of trees appropriate for your site. Ask if the nursery or garden center guarantees its plant material.

Site Selection: Where will you plant your tree?

  • park
  • private land
  • parking lot
  • lawn
  • landfill
  • rooftop
  • by a patio
  • golf course
  • garden
  • school/ playground
  • along streets

Describe the site

  • underground utilities
  • sunny
  • near heavy traffic
  • shady
  • overhead utility wires
  • dry
  • near winter salted roads
  • wet
  • near walkway
  • driveway or sidewalk

 Check all soil conditions

  • severely disturbed/building rubble
  • shallow soil to bedrock
  • clay
  • rocky
  • sandy
  • silt/loam


  • Estimate the space between curb and sidewalk (lot size)
  • Will the tree fit in this site when fully mature?
  • A tree’s mature size and shape must be of the proper scale to fit the site and surrounding buildings.
  • Trees crowded in small street spaces may crack sidewalks and paved areas.
  • Avoid planting under overhead wires and above under-ground utilities.
  • Do not plant trees near building foundations or walls.
  • If you plan to plant near the street or in a parking lot, know the snow removal plans.
  • Do not plant trees that produce nuts or large fruit in pedestrian areas.
  • Determine the necessary root growth space for the species you select. Think of clustering trees in a park setting or a parking lot to provide larger soil volumes for safe root growth. Grouping spaces as contiguous pits to provide shared soil volumes is recommended, rather than digging several individual pits. Groupings create their own small environments and may survive better.
  • Identify legal restrictions for planting for both public and private property.

Remember: Trees have roots. Roots spread beyond the branch area of the tree. Most roots are found in the top 18″ of soil; most absorbing roots are found in the top 6″ of soil.

Purchasing Tips

Carefully inspect the trees to choose the healthiest ones with the best form. Reject trees that have:

  • Double stems or multiple bunches of stems. Look for a straight, single stem.
  • Severe pruning cuts.
  • Dead bark, cankers, or signs of disease or insects on trunk or branches.
  • Paint on wounds or pruning cuts.
  • Tight, vertical branches where bark is squeezed between branches or between trunk and branch. Note: Branches of street trees should be high enough for pedestrians to walk beneath. What Trees Grow in my Zone?


Several methods are used to package tree roots, each influenced by tree species, size, or ease of transportation. All containers must be removed prior to planting.

  • Balled and burlapped trees are dug from a nursery bed with roots in a ball of earth, then wrapped in burlap. Even though trees may be carefully grown and lifted, many roots are lost; in fact, as much as 90% of the tree’s roots may be left behind in the field. Keep the earth ball moist to prevent drying.
  • Container-grown trees are raised directly in a pot or container. Although the entire root system is maintained, roots may become tightly encircled if left too long in the container. This may cause future problems for the tree.
  • Bare-rooted trees are also dug from a nursery bed, but soil is removed. They are easier to transport, but much more susceptible to drying. Roots may be wrapped in sphagnum moss or other packing material to hold moisture. Bare rooted trees are usually less costly, but must be handled and planted carefully.
  • Potted trees are dug from a nursery bed, then placed into a container. Containers may be hard or soft walled, but should be removed before planting. Soil in pots must be kept moist before planting.

Purchase Size and Characteristics

Tree sizes are measured by height and caliper. Height is used is used for deciduous trees up to 8 feet tall, and for evergreen trees. Caliper, or trunk diameter near the ground, is used for deciduous over 8 feet tall. Tree sizes increase by one-quarter or one-half inch caliper increments. Important considerations for selecting tree sizes are location, purpose, availability, cost and difficulty of handling. Very large trees are usually best installed by a landscape contractor.

Note: Caliper is the stem thickness measured 6 inches above ground. Trees over 4-inch caliper are measured 12 inches above ground.

Purchased trees should have these desirable characteristics:

  • Long, vigorous branches on current year’s growth. Well developed buds.
  • Pleasing proportion of height to spread. Well developed lateral branches.
  • Generally straight trunk with absence of wounds.
  • Firm, moist root ball or container soil.
  • 1 and ¼ inch caliper tree with balled and burlapped roots.

Transporting and Storing Trees

Remember trees are alive and should be treated with respect. Protection from drying is critical; roots must be kept moist. Foliage, branches and trunks can also dry out. If trees will be transported by truck, be sure to keep them covered for protection from winds. It is best to plant trees as soon as possible after they are received. If they must be stored, place them away from excessive exposure to sun and wind. Cover balled and burlapped or bare rooted tree roots with wood chips, sand, or loose earth. Trees should be lifted by their container or root ball to avoid breaking fine roots and to protect trunks.


Tree cost depends on size, root condition, species, method of growth or culture, and origin. Relative prices of trees generally indicate quality, but not always. When estimating the total cost of a planting project, be sure to include the expense of labor, tools, materials and delivery along with tree costs for maintenance of trees after they are planted, including mulching and watering.

Content provided by The Missouri Department of Conservation and USDA Forest Service Northeastern Area.

Recommended Tree Species

Choosing the right tree species can be challenging. Check with your city Parks Department or Forester to see if they have a recommended/approved tree list for your City. If one is not available we recommend using Robert Whitman’s “Great Trees for Kansas City” or contacting additional resources found on the Tree Resources page.

Trees not Recommended for Yardstree

These trees are known to have insect/disease problems in the Kansas City region and are susceptible to ice damage and/or are messy. There are other trees besides those listed here that may not be suitable for your situation due other considerations, such as those with large seeds (sweetgum, walnut). Be sure to get complete information about any tree you plan to plant.

  • Ash
  • Austrian Pine
  • Black Locust
  • Boxelder
  • Bradford Pear
  • European White Birch
  • Lombardy Poplar