Tree Selection and Planting

Tree Selection

The Right Tree in the Right Place

A healthy community forest begins with careful planning. Trees provide many benefits such as wildlife diversity, higher property values, improved air and water quality, storm water management, energy savings from summer and winter extremes, and quality human health. The key to these benefits, however, is to select the right tree and plant it in the right place.

A proper landscape plan takes each tree into consideration in order to maximize benefits and minimize future maintenance costs. Choosing a tree should involve more than picking one you think looks nice. Consider characteristics such as height, canopy spread, form/shape, growth rate, soil/sun/moisture requirements, fruit and hardiness zone. Overuse of a single species of tree greatly increases vulnerability to insects and diseases so you should also consider what other trees have been planted in the area.

Our staff makes every effort to make themselves available for questions you may have relating to choosing the right tree for your space.

Planting Trees in the Public Rights-of-Way and City-Owned Green Spaces

The City of Burlington uses rights-of-way, easements, and other public spaces as a practical matter and the city has the right to restrict, manage, and control what is planted in these areas through city ordinance. Additionally, the city has the responsibility to address safety issues in public spaces.

The City of Burlington has approximately 250 different species of trees growing in public rights-of-way and city-owned green spaces. View City Ordinance Chapter 151 for Trees and Forestry, for the full details of spacing, location and restrictions.  

Tree Planting

Tree planting is the most important component of long-term tree survival. For example, trees planted too deep will begin to decline from lack of oxygen and respiration issues. They will develop shallow roots and are prone to uprooting during major weather events such as thunderstorms. To ensure proper tree planting, follow the steps outlined below.

  1. Dig planting site 2 to 3 times the width of the root ball.
  2. Plant tree no deeper than the original depth of the root ball. Root flare visible at the base of the tree trunk should be level with the soil surface.
  3. Center tree in the planting site on solid subsoil.
  4. After tree is positioned, cut and remove top 1/3 of wire basket.
  5. Remove twine and roll down burlap to the bottom of the hole.
  6. Backfill the planting site to 1/2 depth with gently packed soil and fill the hole with water.
  7. After water has drained, backfill the remaining area areound the root ball with soil.
  8. Create a saucer shaped ring in the soil outside of the root ball to enable water to drain toward the root ball in the future.
  9.  Place a 2 to 3 inch layer of mulch in a circle around the tree, beginning at least 3 inches away from the trunk and extending 3 to 4 feet in all directions. This will help prevent future lawn mower and weed trimmer damage to the trunk.


  1. Forestry

    Physical Address
    400 Washington Street
    Burlington, IA 52601


  2. Ryan Gourley

    Parks Superintendent
    Phone: 319-753-8117

  3. Patrick Moore

    City Forester
    Phone: 319-753-8140

  4. Jessica Gerling

    Project Coordinator
    Phone: 319-753-8131