These days, more and more homeowners take advantage of the small terrace areas in their patios, between the street and the sidewalk, to be able to have their trees.

While annuals, perennials, and shrubs are excellent plants for these small sites, not all trees are suitable, primarily due to their roots.

Trees planted on the sidewalk or sidewalk can eventually cause problems with tiles and floor tiles, they can also be a problem for overhead power lines.

Tips for planting a tree on the sidewalk

Trees generally have one of two root types, either having deep taproots or fibrous lateral roots.

Trees with deep roots send their roots deep into the ground to search for water and nutrients. Trees with fibrous lateral roots extend their roots horizontally near the soil surface to absorb rain runoff from the tree canopy.

These lateral roots can grow quite large and lift heavy concrete sidewalks. From the other perspective, the concrete over these roots can prevent the roots from receiving rainwater, oxygen, and other nutrients that trees need to survive.

Therefore, it is not a good idea from any perspective to plant shallow rooting trees too close to sidewalks. Tree height also takes into account what type of root system a tree will have and how much space the roots will need to develop properly.

Trees that grow 50 feet or less are better trees for sidewalks because they are less likely to interfere with overhead power lines and they also have smaller root zones.

So how far from the curb do you plant a tree? The general rule of thumb is that trees growing to 30 feet should be planted at least 3-4 feet from sidewalks or concrete areas.

Trees growing 30 to 50 feet tall should be planted 5-6 feet from sidewalks, and trees growing more than 50 feet tall should be planted at least 8 feet from sidewalks.

Recommended trees to plant on the sidewalk

Trees that are very dirty and shed many leaves, which can cost homeowners considerable time and money to clean up, are not included in this list.

1. Zelkova serrata: Japanese Zelkova

Zelkova serrata is a graceful, fast-growing tree suitable as a replacement for American elms and tolerant of urban conditions. This tree is resistant to Dutch elm disease.

Zelkova has a moderate growth rate and likes a sunny exposure. The branches are more numerous and of smaller diameter than those of the American elm. The leaves are 1.5 to 4 inches long and turn bright yellow, orange, or burnt in fall. This tree is best suited for an area with a lot of space and air.

2. Ulmus parvifolia “Drake”: “Drake” Chinese Elm (Lacebark)

Chinese elm is an excellent tree to plant on the sidewalk. It has many features that make it ideal for planting on the sidewalk.

Also known as lacebark elm, Ulmus parvifolia is a fast-growing and almost always green tree, as the leaves tend to remain.

Lacebark elm is extremely tolerant to urban stress and resistant to Dutch elm disease (DED). Elm thrives in dry conditions and will adapt to alkaline soil. It is relatively free of pests and diseases.

3. Tilia cordata: Littleleaf Linden

The Littleleaf Linden tree is valued for its vigor and improved branching habit. It tolerates a wide range of soils, but is somewhat sensitive to drought and salt. It is a good specimen tree and is suitable for areas where sufficient root space is available.

Architects enjoy using the tree because of its predictable symmetrical shape. The tilia cordata is a prolific bloom. Its small, fragrant flowers appear in late June through July. Many bees are attracted to the flowers, and the dried flowers persist on the tree for some time.

4. Jacaranda

The jacaranda tree is an exotic species from South America. In Mexico City it has become a milestone that determines the beginning of spring.

During the months of February to July, the jacaranda flowers cover the pavement, sidewalks and parks of the big city with purple carpets.

5. Acer buergerianum

The Acer buergerianum tree, commonly called trident maple or three-tooth maple, is native to China, Korea, and Japan. It is a small, rounded, deciduous tree that generally grows quite slowly.

The three-lobed triangular leaves are bright green above and pale green below. The variable but generally attractive fall color features shades of deep red and orange. The non-showy yellow-green flowers bloom in spring (April-May).

6. Hybrid Serviceberry

This multi-stem bicolor dogwood is white and pink because it is a grafted tree and a root sucker from the rootstock (the white flowers) has been allowed to grow with the tree part of the stem (the pink flowers).

It is a small native understory tree that is active all four seasons. The first white flowers of spring, the exceptional orange-red color of autumn and the striking gray bark make it a beautiful specimen for any landscape.

What to consider when selecting trees to plant on the sidewalk

Before selecting and planting stray trees, the planner should always consider how demanding the urban environment can be.

City trees typically have a high drought tolerance with the ability to remain resilient regardless of the weather. They must be carefully selected and adapted to soil and microclimate conditions and designed to be durable and not cause problems for both property and power lines.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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