Planting Considerations & Program Details
Before selecting your new tree, please take time to read the following information, evaluate potential planting sites, and select the right tree for your yard.
Right Tree, Right Place
Benefits of Planting Large Trees
Planting Street Trees
Tree Pickup Information
Right Tree, Right Place
A well placed tree can help conserve energy, provide a visual screen, and provide years of beauty. However, a tree placed in the wrong place can be harmful and potentially expensive! The small tree you plant today will someday grow tall and its roots may be as expansive as the tree's branches. Make sure you select a location with adequate room to grow above and below ground.
- Reason for planting. Are you planting to shade your house in the summer or to create habitat for birds? Or are you looking to provide some seasonal interest or frame your view? Select the appropriate tree to help you achieve your goal.
- Tree size at maturity. Many of these trees will get big! Read this year's tree descriptions carefully and envision what the tree will look like in 30+ years before making your selections.
- Tree shape/form. Small, spreading trees that are multi-stemmed require regular pruning when planted near a sidewalk or road. Upright trees can be better trained to grow over pedestrian and road traffic.
- Maximize the benefits with a large tree. Larger trees provide greater benefits to your neighborhood and our environment. Large trees absorb more water, breathe in more carbon dioxide, and breathe out more oxygen than smaller trees. For these reasons, we recommend planting larger trees whenever appropriate. If you have the space, consider one of our native evergreen conifers which will maximize the benefits to you and your neighborhood.
- Do not plant a tall tree under overhead power lines! Trees planted under power lines should reach a maximum of approximate 25 feet. If your planting site has overhead power lines, please select a tree from the "under power lines" list (i.e. Cascara, Chinese Fringe Tree, Eastern Redbud, and Southern Magnolia).
- Evaluate the planting site. Take time to evaluate potential planting sites on your property. The survival and health of a tree depends on how well suited it is to the site. Before choosing your site, consider:
- Available planting space
- Overhead and underground utilities
- Surrounding trees & structures (e.g. your house, driveway, and utility poles)
- Light (e.g. full sun, part sun, shade?)
- Surrouding human activity
- Soil type. What type of soil is present? Is the soil sandy or more clay-like? This will influence drainage, which should influence your tree selection. Is the soil compacted? Compacted soil can lead to poor drainage so you'll need to select a water-loving tree, such as the swamp white oak. You can test your soil's drainage by digging a hole 12 inches deep, filling it with water, and checking back one hour later.
Benefits of Planting Large Trees
Large trees add character to Seattle's neighborhoods and often become treasured neighborhood assets. Research has shown that large trees maximize the benefits in urban areas. They provide higher quality habitat for birds and other wildlife, stabilize hillsides and prevent erosion, and provide shade on hot days reducing the need for air conditioning. Studies have also shown that large trees even increase residential and commercial property values!
Large evergreen trees, especially conifers, are even better. Because conifers grow tall in our region, they produce a larger volume of leaf area on a smaller footprint – using the same amount of yard space but working harder to take in carbon dioxide, produce oxygen, and filter out air pollutants. Since evergreens hold their needles and leaves through the winter, our rainy season, they reduce stormwater runoff to a much greater extent than do small deciduous trees.
If you have the space in your yard or planting strip (away from overhead power lines), consider making a long-term investment in your neighborhood by planting a tree that will give back for decades!
Planting Street Trees
To plant a tree in your planting strip along the street, you must obtain a permit from Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT). When you participate in Trees for Neighborhoods, we will apply for this permit on your behalf. Just be sure to indicate that you plan to plant a street tree on your application!
When you apply for street tree, we'll take care of the details and keep you informed of the process as it proceeds.
- Mark your street trees on your application. All street tree applications must be submitted by August 24th. Provide some notes about where you would like to plant the tree, e.g. “I would like to plant the yellowwood along 49th Ave on the north side of the driveway”.
- Obtain a permit. In early September, we will initiate a Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) permit on your behalf. Note- Not all street tree applicants will be permitted as many trees will have long waitlists.
- Mark underground utilities. An SDOT arborist will contact Washington 811 to mark underground utilities in your planting strip. The arborist will return to your site in September and make a decision about your street tree planting request. The arborist may drive one or more stakes in possible planting locations—please leave these stakes where they are! You do not need to be present for these visits.
- Permit notifications. In late September, SDOT will send us all of their street tree decisions and Seattle reLeaf will contact all applicants with permitting decisions in early October. An approved planting permit is necessary to receive a street tree from us.
Not all street tree permits are approved. The Seattle Department of Transportation’s arborists may deny your permit for a number of reasons, including proximity to utility lines, street lights, and street intersections.
- CALL BEFORE YOU DIG! The week before attending the planting workshop, you are responsible for contacting Washington 811 and submitting a ticket to dig your planting hole in the designated location. We will provide you a specialized web link for submitting this dig ticket. Note- By the terms of your permit, you must plant the tree in the same location as the stake.
Since we receive many more tree requests than trees, we do not apply for a permit for all street tree requests. If we are not able to apply for you and you're still interested in planting your own street tree, check out this page for more information on how to apply for planting permit from SDOT.
- Avoid conflicts. To avoid future problems, street trees must be planted to the following standards:
- 3 ½ feet back from the face of the curb
- 5 feet from underground utility lines
- 10 feet from power poles
- 7 ½ feet from driveways (10 feet recommended)
- 20 feet from street lights and other existing trees
- 30 feet from street intersections
- Concrete Removal. We cannot remove concrete / pavement to create new tree planting locations. If you are planning to remove concrete / pavement yourself, that work must be coordinated with the Department of Transportation. Call 206-684-TREE for more information.
- Tree Removal & Replacement. We cannot help with street tree removal. All street trees are protected under the Street Tree Ordinance (SMC 15.43) and must be permitted for removal. SDOT may permit a removal if the tree is hazardous, poses a threat to public safety, is in poor health, or cannot be successfully retained due to construction or development. If you're considering tree replacement, please apply for a removal permit prior to apply for a replacement tree. Please visit SDOT's website or call 206-684-TREE (8733) to learn more.
In 2016, the application process changed from first-come-first-serve to a lottery process. This change allows applicants more time to make tree selections and prevent certain species from selling out within minutes, as they have in past years.
How will I know if my application is approved?
After the first round of the application lottery closes, Seattle Trees for Seattle will begin processing applications. Once your application is processed, you willl receive an email with the status of your tree order.
How does the lottery work exactly?
All applications received will be assigned a random number once the application closes. Trees for Seattle staff process applications sequentially by random number. An entire application order will be processed at once, however only trees still available will be marked as "Approved". Trees will be distributed until sold out. Once a species is sold out, requests will be added to a waitlist in the same sequential order and marked on the applicaiton as "Waitlist". As trees become available for the waitlist, they will be distributed in order of the position on the waitlist.
Can I submit more than one application to improve my chances?
No, please submit only one application per household. We will only process the first application we receive from your address. Since we will process the entire application at once, it does not benefit you to submit more than one. If you submit your application and would like to make a change before the application closing date, please contact us and we will make that change on your behalf.
Attention renters! If you do not own your home, you need to ask the permission of the homeowner before applying for trees. Also consider follow-up care. Young trees need regular summer watering through their first three years. If you do not plan to be at your home that long, consider how the young tree will receive the proper care it needs.
Attention landlords! If you apply for trees for one of your rental properties, please consider future watering and maintenance. If you are unable to water the trees 2x/week during the summer months, please be sure your renter is willing.
Tree Pickup Information
You must be present at the planting and care workshop to pick up your tree(s). Indicate which date you are available to attend the workshop on the application.
- You are responsible for transporting your trees from the pickup site to your home. You may need to rent or borrow a pickup truck if you have a small vehicle or are picking up numerous trees. Remember that having more passengers in the car means less space for trees!
- The trees will be in 5, 7, or 10 gallon containers and are generally 4-6 feet tall. Staff will help you load your trees on the pick-up days, but you may need to make sure you have help to unload once you are home.
- All trees should be planted within 1-2 weeks after receiving them. You are responsible for planting the tree, which is why we require each participant to go through a planting workshop at the pickup event. If you are physically unable to plant your tree and would like assistance, please contact us.
- Your young trees will not survive the dry summer without watering. Water bags will be provided to help you care for your trees in the summer. For more tips about caring for your young tree, click here.
Check out our Frequently Asked Questions page for more information.
Contact us with additional questions at TreesForNeighborhoods@Seattle.gov or (206) 684-3979.