Summer is coming to a close and many are beginning to plan for the garden in the fall. This is the best time to think about planting and pruning deciduous trees. Though it is still rather early, one cannot be too early for planning.

When it comes to finding the right tree, first determine the purpose of the tree. Trees provide a wide variety of benefits, from shade to aesthetic improvements like blooms and fall color.

Trees are planted for several reasons with the main purpose being shade. Whether it is the resilient grand live oak or the slender black Tupelo (black gum), there are several options for choosing shade trees. When it comes to grand trees, native species are the best avenue to go.

The live oak is extremely popular and has a big ecological impact. While many shy away from the infamous sweet gum and the gum balls that are a nuisance, the black gum (not related) is a beautiful native that has excellent fall color.

Another popular selection of shade trees comes from the Carya genus which includes the bountiful pecan and many species of hickories. These are harder to transplant due to their extensive taproot but are a great addition to any yard, provided there is space available.

Lastly, one tree that should be considered for planting is the Chinese elm. Although not native, it is a great replacement to the American elm, which has all but disappeared in large part because of Dutch elm disease, a fungal disease spread through elm bark beetles. The Chinese elm is smaller in stature but has a fuller canopy and is resistant to Dutch elm disease.

The most common native trees planted for their blooms include the Southern magnolia, dogwood and redbud. When it comes to planting trees for their blooms, there are not many species that thrive in this area. The native dogwood, once the jewel of many a landscape, has declined in recent years due to many issues, mainly the susceptibility to anthracnose.

The Chinese dogwood, though not a native, is resistant to the anthracnose disease and has just as attractive blooms. Redbuds, as well, are suffering with similar problems, such as verticillium wilt. The lack of native blooming species has given way to the well-known crepe myrtle that populates many a roadside and parking lot. The crepe myrtle is one of the easiest trees to grow provided overpruning is avoided.

There are, of course, trees to avoid. The mimosa and paulownia trees, while they have pretty blooms, can be quite invasive.

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When planting the trees, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Do not plant too deep. This is by far the biggest issue with tree decline as well as improper sight evaluation. The tree roots need to have adequate drainage and appropriate air circulation to keep them healthy.

Another thing to take note of is proper tree pruning. This is, outside of proper planting, one of the most important steps one can take in the course of caring for a tree. The more you carefully prune when it is young, the easier to maintain as it gets older. When pruning, thin unhealthy branches, which encourages good leader development. There are also many guides found online that outline proper tree pruning.

Trees are a great addition to any landscape. And of course, when it comes to planting trees, know how big it will get and how it will grow in that area. Plant the right tree for the right place.

Christopher Burtt is the Urban Horticulture Extension Agent and Master Gardener Coordinator for Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties. He graduated from Clemson University and his main area of expertise is consumer horticulture with experience in research agriculture. He can be reached by email,

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