Tree Planting Tips

Jenny Bull & Anne Kotyk, Toronto Island Community

Professor Pricklethorn says: “Plant the right tree in the right place!”

Do you want a cooler yard in summer? Did you lose trees in your yard to flooding? Do you want to beautify your environment and encourage biodiversity?  Plant a Tree!  Here are some tips:

Site survey

How much space do you have? Are there other trees that will shade out a new tree?

Where are overhead wires and gas, water and sewer lines?

If you want to take advantage of the City of Toronto’s street tree program (see below) for a front yard tree, where is the road allowance?

How much was your yard affected by flooding? If you’re not sure, TRCA flood maps are available.

Species selection

Look around your neighbourhood for trees you like the look of and that are growing successfully; what do want the tree for? Shade, ornamental or aesthetic value, wildlife value? We recommend planting native trees for wildlife and pollinators.

Species with some tolerance to flooding:

Shade trees: Large: Kentucky Coffee-tree, Northern Catalpa, White Elm. Medium: Red Maple, Freeman Maple, Ohio Buckeye, Hackberry, Black gum/Black Tupelo, Honey Locust (Skyline).

Small and ornamental trees: Redbud, Serviceberry, River Birch (susceptible to leaf miner and drought)

Tree planting programs

We recommend using one of the following two:

For a street tree that is within the road allowance portion of your yard you can request a tree to be planted by calling 311. This program is free. See for more information.

For a back-yard tree facilitated by LEAF (Local Enhancement and Appreciation of Forests), see This program is subsidized. LEAF also offers guidance regarding planting native shrubs, garden kits, pawpaw trees and other edible species in order to increase biodiversity and harvest the urban forest.

Note: If these programs have many applicants, you may have to wait until the following season. For trees not available through these programs, try Connon Nurseries at

Planting preparation

If your yard flooded in 2017 or 2019 and you can afford to buy soil, we recommend raising the area where you will plant the tree. In a future flood, this can reduce the amount of time your new tree’s roots are underwater and therefore reduce the risk of it drowning.

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