Planting the right tree in the right place is extremely important. Unfortunately, many people do not give this enough thought and have regrets years after planting.
As the real estate agents often say, "Location. Location. Location." People are beginning to understand that putting trees under power lines can be a bad idea. That does not mean that trees cannot be planted under power lines but you need to think small specimen trees, not large shade trees.
We also need to think of scale. Planting a Colorado blue spruce four feet from your house may initially look good but it will soon tower over a single story house, looking out of place and will be deformed as it attempts to spread to its full width of 20 or more feet.
There are sometimes circumstances when a larger tree is a good idea for aesthetic reasons. Let's face it, sometimes a 2" caliper tree just looks out of place in certain situations. For instance, when replacing large specimen trees or planting in front of large structures. We all know the immediate visual benefits of installing larger trees.
But, when planting larger trees it is a much different process from planting a standard 1 1⁄2 to 2" tree. Survivability and performance all hinge on selection, installation, care and maintenance; everything is different when installing large trees. But if done properly the large tree can thrive and make an immediate visual impact.
Most important is to realize that these giants require heavy equipment to move and place them in their holes. And hand digging a hole for a large tree can be a daunting job. Make sure you do not plant your tree too deep or loosen the soil under the root ball as it will cause it to settle lower in its hole.
Larger trees require a greater volume of water, but less frequently. You must remember that you are watering to a depth of 36-48" vs. 24" and just because the tree shows stress does not always indicate a need for more water. More large trees die from too much water than too little. Use a soil probe to check soil moisture and only water when needed. Supplemental watering may be necessary for at least two growing seasons.
It is important to know that the nursery tree has been cared for each year and is not just a leftover cull. Finally, the staking and guying must be strong enough to support the heavier and broader tree, especially if it is an evergreen. If you are willing to put in the extra time and effort you can capitalize on the immediate impact of a large tree. But you cannot just plant it, water it and walk away.
Also realize that larger trees take longer to establish a sufficient root system to begin putting on new growth. Often, a smaller tree will catch up to a larger planted tree a few years down the road.
Jim Leser retired to Cedaredge in 2007 after a career with Texas A&M University Extension in entomology. He is a member of the Cedaredge Tree Board and a Colorado Master Gardener.