By Nancy Penrose

Approximately 80% of Americans live in cities, and are not regularly exposed to natural areas like forests. This makes trees extremely important in an urban environment, for providing shade, removing air pollution, reducing stormwater runoff, and giving recreational benefits and providing beauty. Consider these facts:

  • Trees, if properly placed, can reduce heating and cooling costs by 10-20%, 10-15 years after planting.
  • Trees reduce asphalt temperatures by up to 36° F and vehicle interior temperatures by 47° F.
  • Home sale prices for houses with trees tend to be 3.5% to 4.5 higher than similar properties with no trees.
  • Consumers rate retail establishments up to 80% higher in retail districts with trees and other landscaping.
  • Recuperation rates are faster with patients who had window views of a wooded landscape.


But urban landscapes can be hard on trees. The average life expectancy of a tree in a downtown urban street is just 13 years, while trees in rural areas can live up to 100 years or more. Common causes of urban tree damage can include:

  • Damage to trees from nearby construction
  • Trees planted in too small an area
  • Poor, compacted soils
  • Damage during maintenance of utilities or sidewalks
  • Not enough watering
  • Polluted air


What can you do to help trees planted in an urban environment last longer?

  • Select a good site. The planting site should have at least two cubic feet of usable soil for every one square foot of expected mature canopy). Consider whether the location will create any potential conflicts with existing trees.
  • Improve the site conditions if necessary. You may need to apply compost, peat, lime or other material to improve soil drainage and fertility of the soil.
  • Choose the right tree species. It’s vital to select trees that are appropriate for your climate and soil conditions. A tree specialist can tell you what trees will work best in your environment.
  • Use proper planting techniques. Planting a tree is not difficult, but it must be done correctly to ensure tree health.
  • Proper tree care is vital. It is important to properly care for the tree after planting, including mulching and watering. But not too much mulching. Spread 2-4″ of mulch underneath the tree and keep it 1-2″ away from the base of the trunk.

Nancy Penrose is the owner of Big Trees Inc., located in Snohomish, WA in the Seattle area. The company is one of the largest tree nurseries in the Seattle area with over 120,000 trees available in over 300 varieties. They not only deliver young trees, but also mature trees in a wide range of sizes. Some types of trees available include spring flowering, deciduous, evergreen, and privacy trees. The company also does tree transplanting including large trees. Their blog can be seen at or They can be reached at 360-563-2700.

Big Trees Inc.
10928 Springhetti Rd
Snohomish, WA 98296