Frequently Asked Questions
If you are a resident of the City and County of Denver, you may apply for free or low-cost trees through our Denver Digs Trees program. Due to the generous support of the Denver Office of the City Forester, 'Street Trees' for planting in the public right-of-way are freeof charge in 2017. 'Yard Trees' for planting on public right-of-way are also available at a highly discounted rate. 'Yard Trees' are offered for just $10 for planting sites in target low-canopy neighborhoods and $35 for residents of all other neighborhoods. Residents facing financial hardship may request a Treeship to receive trees free of charge.
To improve tree survivorship and reduce the costs of the program, we have combined our two (spring and fall) tree distributions into a single distribution of both street and yard trees in the spring. Spring tree applications are typically available in late December and due February 15 with the tree distribution day on the third Saturday in April. Sign up to receive a notice when tree applications are available.
Street trees are trees planted along the street in the "public right-of-way". The public right-of-way is generally the "tree lawn" space between the sidewalk and the curb or, in the absence of a "tree lawn," the space within 10 feet of the curb. While the public right-of-way is technically city property, a property owner is responsible for the maintenance of the right-of-way adjacent to his/her property, including the care and maintenance of street trees. Because street trees are planted on public property, a permit is required prior to planting to ensure appropriate tree species are selected and planted in appropriate locations.
Yard trees are planted on private property. These tree can be planted in front, side, or back yards. In the absence of a "tree lawn," they are trees that will be planted in areas 11 feet or further from the curb.
Due to the generous support of the Denver Office of the City Forester, all 'Street Trees' are available free of charge in 2017 to residents of the City nd County of Denver. Residents in our target, low-canopy neighborhoods are eligible to apply for 'Yard Trees' for just $10 each. We select the target neighborhoods based on several factors, including particularly low tree cover. Click this link for the list of the current target low tree-canopy neighborhoods.
All other Denver residents are eligible to apply for 'Yard Trees' at the highly subsidized rate of $35 each.
Trees of similar stock type and quality typically retail for over $125, so this is a great deal.
Residents who cannot afford the tree fee due to financial hardship may request a "Treeship" to receive tree(s) for free.
Click this link to find out the official neighborhood in which you live.
Target neighborhoods are our free-tree neighborhoods where residents receive trees for especially low fees. We select these neighborhoods based on several factors, including particularly low tree cover. Click this link for the list of the current target low tree-canopy neighborhoods.
If you wish to apply for trees to plant at multiple addresses, please submit a separate application for each planting address. On each application, be sure to enter both your mailing address (where we should mail your confirmation letter) and the appropriate planting address ("Planting Address").
What is a "Street Tree"?
Street trees are trees planted along the street in the "public right-of-way". This is a public space, as opposed to private property where yard trees are planted. The public right-of-way is generally the "tree lawn" space between the sidewalk and the curb or, in the absence of a "tree lawn," the space within 10 feet of the curb. While the public right-of-way is technically city property, a property owner is responsible for the maintenance of the right-of-way adjacent to his/her property, including the care and maintenance of street trees. Because street trees are planted on public property, a permit is required prior to planting.
A "Shade Tree" typically refers to a medium or large tree, often with a spreading canopy, which provides significant shade. A strategically planted shade tree can reduce the amount of energy needed to cool your home during the warm months, resulting in lower energy bills and less carbon released into the atmosphere. In the fall, these deciduous trees drop their leaves, allowing winter sunlight to pass through and warm your home.
An "Ornamental Tree" typically refers to a tree of a small mature size, generally 25 feet tall or shorter. Ornamental trees often have attractive features, such as showy flowers.
How do you select the tree species offered?
We work closely with the Denver Office of the City Forester to select species appropriate for Colorado's arid climate and of our urban environment. Most of our selections are relatively drought and cold hardy once established. We also select species for their disease resistance. We work to offer a variety of different species to build the diversity of the city forest - the best approach to combating disease and other threats to individual tree species. As new tree varieties are developed and new pests and diseases emerge, Denver Forestry staff helps us make wise decisions for the future of our urban forest.
Dependant on availability and affordability, we are able to occasionally offer a variety of fruit trees, including apples, cherries, peaches, and plums, during our Arbor Day Yard Tree Sale held in conjunction with the Spring Tree Distribution. The cost is typically $45-$65.
We typically order trees with a trunk diameter of roughly 1.25 inches. Diameter and height vary between species, with most trees arriving between 5 and 10 feet tall. These trees offer the benefit of being easier to plant, establishing faster and having higher survival rates than larger trees. Estimate 1 year of transplant recovery time for each inch in trunk diameter (e.g. 1 inch tree = 1 year to establish; 2 inch tree = 2 years to establish; 3 inch tree = 3 years to establish, etc).
We order trees in 3 types of "packaging": 1. bare root (no soil around the roots); 2. balled-and-burlapped (soil ball around roots; typically ~45 lbs); 3. container (typically plastic pot with lighter weight growing medium). There are pros and cons to each form, and we order varieties in various forms based on availability and pricing.
A truck or SUV is convenient. However, each year we creatively pack trees into smaller vehicles, including sedans. So, a large vehicle is not necessary unless you are hauling multiple trees. You may choose to bring a tarp or blanket to protect interior upholstery. Remember to drive carefully and slowly (30 mph or slower).
If you cannot attend distribution day, you have several options. 1) You could send a friend or family member to pick up the tree on your behalf. They will need to present your confirmation letter, which you will receive by mail, so be sure to give that to them. 2) We typically offer Early Pick-up for several hours the Friday morning before distribution day. You must contact our office in advance to request the Early Pick-up option as the pick-up location may be different from your original location and we will have limited hours. 3) You may contact our office if these options will not work for you, but please note that we have limited options as we must quickly sell off any unclaimed trees after distribution.
Note: If distribution day conflicts with a religious tradition that you observe and you will not be able to claim your tree, please contact our office.
Trees improve our quality of life. They beautify our neighborhoods, improve property values, and support good health by encouraging us to spend time outdoors. They also provide habitat for wildlife, filter air pollution, and cool our communities with their shade, which conserves energy and saves us money.
In order to plant a tree along the street in the "public right-of-way" (see definition below), you must obtain a planting permit from the city before planting your tree. If you apply (and are approved) for street trees through our Spring Tree Distribution, we will obtain the permit for you and mark the approved planting locations. Now that's service!
The "public right-of-way is a public space that often includes public sidewalks and in which street trees can be planted (as opposed to private property where yard trees are planted). The public right-of-way is generally the "tree lawn" space between the sidewalk and the curb or, in the absence of a "tree lawn," the space within 10 feet of the curb. While the public right-of-way is technically city property, a property owner is responsible for the maintenance of the right-of-way adjacent to his/her property, including the care and maintenance of street trees. Because street trees are planted on public property, a permit is required prior to planting.
Yes. Any time you will dig soil to plant a tree (on private or public property), you MUST call 811 or 1-800-922-1987 in advance to have your underground utilities marked (a free service!). Plant your tree at least 5 feet away from buried utilities.
- Large shade trees should be planted at least 30 feet away from other large trees.
- Small ornamental trees (25 feet or shorter at maturity) should be planted at least 20 feet from other trees.
- Plant at least 10 feet away from existing dead, failing or over-mature trees that will be removed within three years.
- Plant 10 feet away from driveways, alleys & fire hydrants.
- Plant 30 feet away from the curb at an intersection.
- Large shade trees should be at least 20 feet away from streetlights and stop signs.
- Small ornamental trees must be at least 30 feet away from streetlights and stop signs.
- Plant 5 feet away from buried utility lines (Call 811 or 1-800-922-1987 to have your underground utilities marked - a free service).
- Plant medium or large trees (30 feet or larger at maturity) at least 20 feet away from overhead power lines (this does not apply to single strand wires, such as street light and telephone wires);
- Plant at least 15 feet away from your home and other buildings.
- Plant 30 feet away from large trees (except for existing dead, failing, or over-mature trees that will be removed within three years).
- Plant 20 feet away from small trees (25 feet or shorter at maturity).
- Plant 5 feet away from buried utility lines (Call 811 or 1-800-922-1987 to have your underground utilities marked - a free service).
- Assess other potential obstructions for the tree's mature height and spread.
- Plant on East or West side of your home to maximize shade cover and energy savings (South side plantings are not recommended for saving home energy in most cases because winter shading disrupts passive solar heating and may limit the potential for solar energy production).
Must haves: shovel, utility knife (or scissors), water source, hose or bucket, mulch*
Handy to have: tarp to pile soil on, pickaxe in case of tough soil or roots
*Denver Digs Trees applicants will receive a free bag of mulch along with their tree on pick-up day.
We strongly advise you to plant your tree(s) immediately. If you cannot plant right away, you must keep the roots from drying out (particularly a challenge with bare root trees, so get those babies in the ground!).
We do not recommend digging your tree's hole in advance because you will base the size of the hole on the tree's rootball or root system (digging twice as wide but at roughly the same depth). It's like trying to pick out shoes before trying them on! One of the most common mistakes is planting too deeply, which suffocates the tree and often shortens a tree's lifespan. So, it's important to get that depth right and base it on the tree's anatomy (see Planting Instructions).
We do not recommend amending the soil in your planting hole with fertilizer or compost. Improving the soil in this way creates a pleasant environment for the tree's roots just within the planting hole, discouraging the roots from spreading out into the surrounding soil. Thus, instead of developing healthy roots that expand outward and anchor the tree, the roots may grow much like a potted plant, girdling (strangling) themselves and making the tree vulnerable to winds and weight. Instead, consider topdressing the entire surrounding lawn area with compost to improve the overall health of your soils and encourage your tree's roots to grow outward.
We do not generally recommend staking trees unless necessary (i.e. the tree will not stand straight on its own, more often an issue with bareroot trees than balled-and-burlapped and container trees). Too often, staking materials serve no necessary function and are left on too long, resulting in a girdled (strangled) trunk and a dead tree. Also, many people tie stakes to trees too tightly, so the trees do not sway in the breeze. This prevents them from developing the strong tissue structures that make them adaptable to strong winds. So, if your trees stand straight on their own, avoid staking them. Visit this link for recommended staking techniques.
Yes. Tree wrap helps protect the thin bark of young trees from sunscald in the winter. Sunscald can result when the dormant cells of young trees become activated by high intensity sunlight, at a lower angle in the winter months. As the temperature drops after sunset or with a change in the weather, these active cells are killed, leaving a wound on the tree.
To avoid sunscald, in November wrap trees upward from the base of the tree to the lowest branches for the first three years. Be sure to remove the wrap in April to prevent girdling (strangling) and potential insect damage.