Home >> Embracing The Trees

Home Source Reduction Friends of Green Friends Newsletters
Gardening Resources What You Can Do Embracing The Trees

New England ETT Tree Planting Guidelines

Courtesy Stefan Steinbauer - (Gazing up in the forest )
Courtesy Stefan Steinbauer - (Gazing up in the forest )

Tree Species Suitable to Plant in New England

Chestnut Oak Quercus prinus (USDA Hardiness Zone 3-8) A Massachussetts native. Windbreak, insect nectary, bird habitat, coppice, wet to dry soil, tannic acids from acorns and leaves are used in photography, dyeing, clarifying wine, and as astringents in medicine. Can tolerate semi-shade. Slow growing. Acorns are edible, exceptionally large, and can be ground into a flour. Can live up to 400 years.

White Oak Quercus alba (USDA Hardiness Zone 3-11) A Massachussetts native. windbreak, insect nectary, bird habitat, coppice, wet to dry soil, tannic acids from acorns and leaves are used in photography, dyeing, clarifying wine, and as astringents in medicine. Can tolerate semi-shade. Can grow up to 100’. Acorns are edible and can be ground into a flour.

American Plum Prunus americana (USDA Hardiness Zone 3-8) A Massachussetts native. Dwarf to small tree, thicket forming, edible fruit, windbreak, insect nectary, bird habitat, can grow up to 20’. Moist to dry soil, sun to part shade.

Witch Hazel Hamamelis virginiana (USDA Hardiness Zone 5-8) A Massachussetts native. 15-30’. Full sun to part shade, moist to dry soil, fragrant, medicinal flowers.

Sugar Maple Acer saccharum (USDA Hardiness Zone 3-9) A Massachussetts native. Edible sugar sap, dynamic accumulator, coppice, insect nectary, windbreak, sun to part shade, moist soil, bird habitat.

Serviceberry Amelanchier canadensis (USDA Hardiness Zone 4-7) A Massachussetts native. 15-25’. One of the first trees to flower in spring. Very fragrant and showy. Part shade- sun. Prefers moist, sandy soil, but is adaptable to a range of soils, wet and dry, even clay. Three season interest. Edible fruits for humans and birds.

Eastern Red Cedar Juniperus virginiana (USDA Hardiness Zone 3-9) A Massachussetts native. Sun, moist to dry soil, grows up to 45’. Evergreen. Windbreak, bird habitat, fruit used in sauerkraut. Great for barren, dry soils.

Sweetbay Magnolia Magnolia virginiana (USDA Hardiness Zone 5-9) A Massachussetts native. Evergreen in warmer portions of its range. Wet to moist soil, sun to shade. Grows to 25+’. Creamy white, lemon scented flowers in early summer. Often seen with Clethra alnifolia and swamp azalea as understory plants.

Honey Locust Gleditsia triacanthos (USDA Hardiness Zone 3-8) A Massachussetts native. Windbreak, wind and drought tolerant. Seed pod pulp is edible. Insect nectary. Thorns make it a good security tree / living fence. Fragrant flowers. Sun, moist, well-drained soil. Can grow to 80’.

Black Locust Robinia pseudoacacia (USDA Hardiness Zone 4-8) A Massachussetts native. Their vigor leads some to think they are invasive. Zones 4-8. Moist to dry soil, sun, grows up to 75’. Insect nectary, bird habitat, coppice. Beautiful display of fragrant, edible flowers. Fast growing nitrogen fixer with the ability to restore the most degraded land in Eastern North America. Suckering, short lived. Wood can be burned green and is one of the hardest woods used for fence posts, etc.

Pussy Willow Salix discolor (USDA Hardiness Zone 2-7) A Massachussetts native. Fast growing to 20’. Full sun to part shade, moist soil. Great for wetland restoration projects. One of the first trees for various pollinators in spring. High wildlife value. Showy catkins used in floral arrangements. Coppice, living fence, rope, netting, basketry, insect nectary, bird habitat. Bark used as rooting hormone when propagating plants from cuttings, contains salicylic acid (aspirin). Vigorous root system. Do not plant near underground pipes etc. Tolerates WET soil and black walnut.

Amma's Fruit Tree Guide New England

  • Apple
  • Blueberry
  • Hazelnut
  • Pawpaw
  • Peach
  • Pear
  • Plum

Fruit trees are enjoyed by all: Animals, insects, bacteria and fungi come to mind as well as humans. Some fruit trees offer their fruits to us with less intervention than others. To fit more trees into your landscape always look at the mature size. It won’t get there for many years, but it is important to plan for future growth. Dwarf trees are not necessarily that small, just smaller than they would otherwise be. Most fruit trees are available in spring. Ordering starts in September to November. Many trees will come bare root in spring so be ready with your planting area before they arrive. Sometimes you can find trees in fall for planting, but the selection will be limited.

Bare root means there is no soil around the roots. The growers dig up the tree and then remove all soil before shipping. It allows for cheaper shipping. The trees are shipped in spring while they are still dormant (sleepy). Even so, the roots need to have moisture around them.

A good soak for an hour in a bucket before planting makes sure they are fully hydrated before going into the ground. Be generous with your hole. You need to be sure the roots can spread out fully in the hole. Wider is more important than deeper. Soil should have moisture in it as you carefully backfill around the roots. This is the time to add some compost to the existing soil to give the plant some encouragement to get started putting out roots.

The tree should be planted so that the roots are below the soil but not the trunk. When you are finished planting, the area where the trunk leaves the roots should be at ground level. If your soil is fairly loose you will want to plant the tree a little high to account for settling. It’s also recommended to plant a little high if you will be adding mulch on top for a more pleasing look. Do not cover the trunk (of any tree) with mulch so that it looks like a telephone pole sticking out of the ground. This is suffocating to the roots.

For the first two years of life the tree must be given water. To know how much water you are giving, fill a watering can with your hose and count how long it takes to fill it. Once you’ve done that you can count while watering with only the hose. A light sprinkling on top of the soil will not be helpful. You need to water enough so that the water gets down into the full root zone. Thorough watering once a week is much better than a sprinkle every other day. Make sure you have water available to bring the trees through their first few years. After three years you should not have to water unless there is a drought. With a thorough watering you are hydrating the root zone and further out from the root zone to invite root growth.

All fruit trees need full sun. If you don’t have full sun the tree will still grow. Full sun is optimal for growth and fruit production. The farther you get from full sun the harder it will be for the tree to grow well and produce fruit.


Apples always come to mind first because they so well known. But they are the hardest for a home gardener to manage because many insects love them and when they feed on the leaves and flowers they cause disease and misshaped fruits which are often inedible.

Blueberries while not a tree, (they can become 8’ shrubs) would be lowest on the list for needing human input to achieve edible fruit. Because of the droughts in CA that are affecting whole almond groves, I would recommend finding a spot for hazelnuts. They do require cross pollination so three or so would be good to plant in a group.

Pawpaws are more of a southern fruit but as temperatures in the Northeast have warmed they have become more viable in New England. They also require little input (except for years of maturing) to get fruit. Plant two or more for cross pollination.

Peaches do very well in New England. The "free stone" variety refers to the peach that easily pulls away from the pit when you open it up. They require pruning every year during blossom. There will be years like 2023 that a hard frost will take out the entire crop. With no interventions, pesticide sprays, you may get some fruit that doesn’t look perfect but plenty edible. Look for self-pollinators. (That means you only need one to get fruit.)

Pears love New England and they produce easily with little help. Bosc and Bartlet would be the best known. Again, look for self-pollinators and dwarf varieties. Standard trees get BIG and you’d have to climb or get a ladder to harvest the fruit.

Plums are not seen as often in New England, but they are still a wonderful fruit for the region.

Habitat Plants That Can be Planted Along with Trees

Understory Shrubs

    Summersweet Clethra alnifolia (Zones 4-9)

    Sweetfern Compton peregrina (Zones 2-6)

    Silky Dogwood Cornus amomum (Zones 4-8)

    American Hazelnut Cornus americana (Zones 4-9)

    Dwarf Fothergilla Fothergilla gardenii (Zones 5-8)

    Black Huckleberry Gaylussacia baccata (Zones 4-9)

    Vernal Witch Hazel Hamemelis vernalis (Zones 4-8)

    Smooth Hydrangea Hydrangea arborescens (Zones 4-9)

    Blueberry Vaccinium corymbosum (Zones 3-9 - depends on type)

    False Indigo Baptisia australis (Zones 3-9)

Herbaceous Layer/ Support Plants

    Beardtongue Clethra alnifolia

    Beardtongue Clethra hirsitus

    False Dragonhead Physostegia virginiana

    Solomon’s Seal Polygonatum commutatum

    Jacob’s Ladder Polemonium reptans

    Eastern Coneflower Rudbeckia fulgida

    Black Eyed Susan Rudbeckia hirta

    Lupine Lupinus perennis

    Sweet Pea Lathyrus latifolius

    Garlic Allium sativum

    Canadian Milk Vetch Astragalus canadensis

    Campanula Bellflower Campanula persicifolia

    Oregano Origanum

    Lemon Balm Melissa officinalis

    Lavender Lavandula

    Strawberry Fragaria

    Yarrow Achillea millefolium

    Echinacea Echinacea purpurea

    Comfrey Symphytum

    Bee Balm Monarda didyma

Nurseries and Organizations Where Saplings can be Purchased

Tree experts within the Amma community:

    Victoria Taft

    Jessica Tsoukalas

Tree-planting Groups or Non-profits for Volunteering

Community-Provided Trees

  • Your city/town may have a tree planting program in which you can request a tree to be planted outside your home or on your property for free! If you aren’t sure if your city or town has tree planting programs, you can call your city hall to ask or search online. Every municipality throughout New England should have a tree warden. Tree wardens are responsible for trees on public property, and they would be an excellent contact person to learn about tree initiatives in your community. City sponsored tree planting is a great option for many people because the city will pretty much do all the work for you and you get to reap the benefits, which are many!

  • If you live in Massachusetts, check out Greening the Gateway Cities – MA Urban Canopy Project to see if you live in one of the 23 eligible cities where focused tree plantings are going on.




Home Source Reduction Friends of Green Friends Newsletters Resources What You Can Do Embracing The Trees

For more information, e-mail info@greenfriendsna.org