Fall is the perfect time of year in Virginia to plant trees around your home. They can create four seasons of amazing curb appeal with their foliage and blooms. But in our many years of home insurance claims, we've seen our share of costly property damage from trees. Check out the experience the Duvalls had with a mature tree at their Charlottesville home.
Planning well when it comes to choosing what kind of tree, where to plant it, and the proper maintenance is essential to protecting your home. It will also reduce the chance you'll regret your tree down the road when it's big, problematic, and expensive to remove it.
Let’s tackle why you might avoid certain types of trees. You notice the popular Bradford Pear all over Virginia for their beautiful white blooms each spring. But those attractive flowers are quite potent and smell like dead fish! More importantly, this top-heavy, v-shaped tree is very prone to splitting during severe weather. If you're willing to deal with the smell, be sure to plant this tree at least 15-20 feet away from your house.
Speaking of stinky trees, you might want to avoid the Ginkgo tree unless you can find the male variety that produces no seeds. The female tree drops a messy, vomit-like smelling fruit in fall that sticks to shoes and gets tracked inside the house. No thank you! The skin's pulp also contains a chemical that can launch skin blisters, similar to poison ivy. People who wish to harvest ginkgo fruits should wear rubber gloves. Otherwise, this conifer's stunning yellow fall foliage is hard to resist.
There's also a list of trees with aggressive roots and should be planted far away your home or septic system, like the white birch, sweetgum, and Eastern cottonwood. Likewise, the weeping willow is an eye-catching southern tradition but requires so much water it will invade your home's sewer pipes, septic tanks, and foundation walls. Plant one these beauties if you live close to a watershed or pond and at least 100 feet from your home and septic.
Good choices for yard trees in Virginia include the crabapple and flowering dogwood, both with pretty spring blooms. The crape myrtle provides shade and gorgeous late summer flowers, while the Japanese maple has eye-catching red foliage in the fall.
Location, location, location
When picking a planting spot for a new tree, be sure to choose a location based on what it will become in 10 or 20 years. Size can be deceiving! Check the tag of that cute little sapling or, better yet, google it. You'll not only find out its growth potential, but you can also learn a lot about those not-so-cute qualities, like the invasive root systems, flammable foliage, and messy saps, seeds, and fruit!
Be sure to pick a healthy tree and plant it with ample room to grow. As trees age and get taller, they become more susceptible to being uprooted by wind. Trees with non-invasive root systems might be less likely to interfere with sidewalks, sewers, or your home, but can be more prone to falling from severe weather, including your neighbor's house and property.
That means the maximum growth potential, in feet, should be the planting distance from your home and other structures.
Maintenance is Key
Whether you are planting a new tree or moving into a yard full of them, regular maintenance is the best way to protect your home and property. If you have no idea what type of trees you have, here’s a handy identification tool. For most trees, it's best to prune in late winter, before new growth begins.
Once you've done a good job of selecting, planting, and taking care of your trees, the rest is the fun part. They're sure to bring your family years enjoyment and still keep your home protected.