New homeowners often wonder about the value of planting shade trees when they first move in when there are so many more areas to focus on with a new home. “Planting shade trees is an investment for the future just like other home upgrades,” says Richard Hentschel, University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator. “A smaller, young tree will be cost effective and will increase in value along with your home as well as providing indirect benefits.”

Trees can be planted throughout the year, depending on how they were grown. Fall and spring are prime times homeowners can consider a planting project to provide the extra care and time needed during transplant recovery.

Environmentally, there are several positives that come from having shade trees in the home landscape. The recent devastation caused by the invasive Emerald Ash Borer has taught developers the need for shade tree diversity. A single tree species and its cultivars should make up no more than 20% of the urban forest in order to survive stressful environmental conditions such as repeated droughts and severe winter conditions. “Younger trees tolerate these conditions better than older trees, so new trees need to be continually planted,” Hentschel says.

A big benefit for human health is a tree’s ability to generate oxygen while reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by collecting and storing carbon as they grow and mature. You’ve heard about industry carbon credits? Well, trees have always done this.

Shade trees also absorb water and hold soil in place, two benefits during severe weather conditions such as floods.

Trees support insect populations that create the balance of nature and are part of the natural food chain. Illinois white oaks support more than 500 insect species throughout the growing season, mostly butterflies and moths.

Their caterpillars are not only the main food source for migrating and breeding birds, but also are essential food for baby birds. That shade tree supports birds, squirrels, and more wildlife by providing food and shelter.

One big benefit of shade trees for homeowners can be the long-term energy savings. An air conditioner will not work as hard or stay on as long when your house is shaded by trees. Temperatures can easily be 5 degrees or more cooler in the shade. “It’s estimated that one tree is the equivalent of 10 window air conditioner units,” Hentschels says.

“Two trees shading the west side of a home from the harsh afternoon summer sun have the potential of reducing cooling costs by 30%.”

In the winter, a deciduous tree allows sunshine to warm the home and the windowsill providing a nice warm spot for a cat.

There is no doubt the value of a home is increased when surrounded by mature shade trees, but they also encourage neighborhood socialization. “There is a growing body of research that indicates plants and trees are a major benefit to mental health,” Hentschel says. “They also provide a sense of unity.”

Aesthetically, they offer beauty with springtime blooms and greenery and come fall the bright reds, yellows and golds of changing leaves. If there is shade to gather in and talk, adults are more likely to stop and pass the time as children climb tree branches or play in a tire swing.

For more information about selecting a tree for the home landscape, visit web.extension.illinois.edu/TreeSelector.

News Source: Richard Hentschel, Horticulture Educator, Illinois Extension

Doug Harlan is the County Extension Director for the University of Illinois Piatt County Extension, serving Macon, Piatt and DeWitt Counties. Email Doug at dharlan@illinois.edu.

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