Benefits of trees

All about trees and tree care

Urban tree forest

Take a look at the nearest tree. That tree is part of a "community forest," a term used to describe all the trees and shrubs in your town. In Minnesota, trees cover about 27% of the land in our cities and towns. However, that percentage is declining due to stress from tree pests (such as emerald ash borer), drought, heat, and storms.

The USDA Forest Service outlines the following benefits of urban trees:

  • Save energy and money. Energy savings come from shading buildings, lowering ambient air temperatures, and reducing wind speed. Trees and other vegetation can lower air temperatures 5 °F compared with outside the tree-covered area. One well-placed large tree provides average savings of $31 in home heating costs each year.
  • Increase property values. Research comparing sales prices of residential properties suggests that people are willing to pay 3 to 7 percent more for properties with many trees versus properties with few or no trees.
  • Reduce storm water runoff. Leaves and branches temporarily hold rain on their surfaces. This reduces runoff volumes and slows soil erosion. Tree roots help rain soak into the soil and increase total amount of rain that the soil can absorb.
  • Improve air quality. Leaves intercept and hold small particles on their surfaces--like dust, ash, pollen, and smoke—and absorb gaseous air pollution. Ground-level ozone formation is reduced because air temperatures in tree-filled areas are cooler.
  • Reduce atmospheric CO2. Trees directly sequester CO2 in their stems and leaves while they grow. Trees near buildings can reduce the demand for heating and air conditioning, thereby reducing emissions associated with power production.
  • Healthier communities. Tree-filled neighborhoods report lower levels of domestic violence, are safer and more sociable, reduce stress of body and mind, decrease need for medication, and speed recovery times.

HTML icon Midwest Community Tree Guide - Benefits, costs, and strategic planting (USDA)

Planting and caring for trees

What kind of tree should I plant?

Trees come in many shapes and sizes, and each is suited for different conditions. Think about where you will plant the tree and what your preference is for its full-grown size and shape. Check out the DNR's tree planting page and the Extension's list of species for each region to start. Talk to your city arborist or local plant nursery staff for recommendations.

Species suitable to many locations in Minnesota are basswood (linden), oaks, cedars, hophornbeam (ironwood), serviceberry, pines, fruit trees, hickory, kentucky coffeetree, beech, and fir. To add diversity to our community forests, try to avoid maple and spruce, which are already a large portion of what is planted.

Where should I plant my tree?

tree planting illustrationYou will need to consider location at the same time you select the type of tree. Location may be determined by aesthetics, existing trees and gardens, and power lines. Also consider these energy conservation strategies:

When and how should I plant the tree?

Spring and fall are best for tree planting, but you can also plant during summertime if you keep the tree well-watered. Remember to identify buried cables and pipes by calling Gopher State One-Call at 800-252-1166 before making your final decision or picking up a shovel.

HTML icon Planting a tree or seedling

Directions for digging the hole, planting the tree, mulching, and watering. (Minn. DNR)

How should I care for my trees?

Mostly, just pay attention to your trees! Know what kind of trees are around you. Watch mature trees for signs of tree pests or stress. Newly planted trees need watering for 3-5 years. In drought conditions, provide mature trees with water too. If you are familiar with your trees and want more detailed tree care advice, visit the DNR's tree care page.