In the planting of any tree, proper selection is not only critically important; it is the key to the tree’s long term success.  (Note: When planting trees in public spaces, species of trees and the purchase of trees will be decided by The City of Buffalo, Olmsted Parks or other government officials).

When selecting a tree, there are four considerations:

  1.  Site selection
  2. Tree selection
  3. Tree size selection
  4. Root ball type selection

You may prioritize this listing as you see fit as our ranking does not imply the value of each specific step – just be sure to include them all!

  • Look up and down. Check to see if there are any overhead utilities. Since it is impossible to know what utilities are buried underground, it is imperative that Call Before you Dig – 8 1 1 is contacted for guidance.
  •  Survey the area for planting to ensure there are no tree stumps or other obstacles that will deter digging a hole with a shovel.
  • Stay approximately 35’ from light standards. This is not only for security, but also overnight lighting has an effect on plant growth.
  • Ensure that you are far enough away from a driveway or street corner so as to not block the view of a driver – or make a tree susceptible to being hit.
  •  Check to see if there are other objects, such as tree canopies, that may either deter growing or force you to make a narrow-growing tree selection.
  •  Inspect the soil.
  • Determine if sun or shade predominates.
  • Determine if wetness or dryness predominates.
  •  How close will the tree being planted be to the street? Salt (winter) may become a factor in the species of tree.

Look at other trees that are growing in the vicinity of your trees. Are you looking to expand the species of trees in the area or do you want to match what is on site? Hint: Diversity is Good. 

Species Selection 

Before selecting a tree, you must first go through the site selection process and eliminate those species where the space will not work. You may access the City of Buffalo approved street tree planting list here. Note: A Department of Public Works Tree Work Permit is required to plant trees within the City of Buffalo Right of Way. Also, shade trees require a large tree lawn or tree pit (at least five feet wide). Do not plant under utility wires.
The next set of questions to be asked is:

  • Evergreen of Deciduous?
  • Fruit or no fruit? Fruit of a street tree is not desirable as dropping fruit stains a walkway or is a tripping hazard. Fruit in a park setting is desirable as it is food for birds etc.
  • Shape of Tree? If the tree will be planted close to buildings, you will want a narrow-headed plant. If you are near overhead wires, you want low-growing; in an open park you’d have little restriction
  • Do you prefer a fast or slow-growing tree?
  • Is this species hardy to our climate? If you are unsure, check a ‘hardiness zone map.’.
  • It is preferred that you purchase your tree from a supplier, retail or wholesale, in whom you have confidence and that you are getting a tree grown in our hardiness zone. Trees purchased in this manner generally come with a guarantee (usually one-year).
  • When you select a tree, you can Google that name and look at sites with climates similar to Buffalo, NY.

Tree Size Selection 

  • Trees planted with Buffalo Green Fund stakeholders are generally in the 1.75-2” caliper. That is the diameter of the trunk about 6” above ground level.
  • A tree at this size (1.75-2”cal) is considered out of its juvenile stage and, thus, the tree formed has been successfully pruned into shape by the grower. The tree has also survived those developmental issues that occur in its juvenile stage.
  • This size will be large enough to have an impact on the urban landscape, surviving the trials and tribulations that the environment avails.
  •  Having said all of the above, this tree is small enough to be very successfully moved, bare-root (see below, Root Ball Type Selection).

Root Ball Type Selection

There are two methods by which trees are grown: field and container. A field-grown tree is harvested either bare-root or balled and burlapped. (BxB)


root ball type

Container-grown trees as the name implies, started and was grown in a container.  This method is widely in the retail industry, especially for smaller trees and plants, as they are easier and cleaner to handle.

From our view, there are a number of issues with container-grown trees.  Mainly, they should be repotted as they grow; since this is rarely done, many container-grown trees are in the 2” caliper size. The Buffalo Green Fund operated a Container Growing Community Tree Farm on 14th St with a few of our Stakeholders and found the trees root-bound after two years.

Balled and Burlapped trees (BXB) is a method where a tree is manually or mechanically dug and placed in a wire basket and burlap. There are many advantages, the main being they can be held for a season or two with proper care and planted at any time.  However, these trees are heavy, costly to ship and a larger portion of roots are cut during the harvest than in a bare-root tree. Trees of very large size can be moved with this method.

Bare-root trees is the method we use.  They are easier to handle for volunteers, less costly to ship and more root mass is harvested. The main disadvantage is the window of time is critical to successful planting and more aftercare is beneficial to success. This is why a well-organized team with knowledgeable and enthused leadership is essential for our tree plantings

A final form of holding/growing trees, the Missouri Gravel Bed method, is making inroads. Bare-root trees are harvested and lined out in gravel beds.  Watered daily, these trees can pulled out of the gravel, in mid-summer, in full leaf and with proper handling, successfully planted. A lot of testing is underway.

Tree Processing-Handling-Shipping: For Bare-root trees

As we tend to say about each step in the complete ‘tree planting process,’ how the tree is handled from harvesting through installation is very important.  In this section, we will describe the process in the first person, as most of you may not be involved in this stage of the planting (although if the opportunity arises, it is important information to have).

First, ensure that you are working with a good grower, one who harvests the trees at the right time and takes the appropriate root mass for the trees we have selected.

Often the trunks have a tree-guard placed around them before harvesting to protect from any scarring during the entire handling-planting process.

The trees are either placed in refrigerated storage or the roots will be immediately dipped in a hydro-gel solution.  The roots will then be placed in a clear plastic bag, ready to be shipped.

tree processing


Hydrogel is a gel-like solution added to water that helps the roots not only retain the water they have, but also assist the root in absorbing moisture from the soil when planted

It is essential to protect the top of the tree from the open air when transporting. Thus, trees are now carefully placed in an enclosed truck or trailer, or they can be shipped on an open truck or trailer that has been covered with a thickly woven mesh tarp. A regular tarp that is not woven will act like a balloon and will rip off once driving.

For community plantings, trees are brought from supplier to a holding area a few days before the tree planting take place; they are held outside, but the tops might be covered in cases of the weather being too warm and sunny OR in the likelihood of an unexpected frost.

On the day of the planting, very early in the morning, a team picks up plants, (and if you’re keeping count – this is the third time!) and moves them to their respective planting locations – generally, a small holding area or to the exact tree location.

The tree is now ready to plant.