Community Spotlights

Fall yard tree giveaways are underway

by Fairmount Park Conservancy on November 1, 2022

It’s time to put down some roots. The best time to plant a tree is in the fall (October through early December) or spring (late March through early May). Thanks to TreePhilly’s biannual community yard tree giveaways, Philadelphia residents with a yard can get a free yard tree during these ideal planting seasons!

TreePhilly is a program of the Department of Parks and Recreation and Fairmount Park Conservancy, sponsored by TD Bank. Since 2011, the program has given away about 28,000 trees as they work towards their goal of 30% tree canopy in every Philadelphia neighborhood.

This year’s fall tree giveaways are underway, and while most tree giveaways are neighborhood-specific, the next regional giveaway open to all Philadelphia residents is scheduled for Saturday, November 5 at Pleasant Hill Park, 9000 N. Delaware Avenue. Click here to pre-register for a tree.

Lee Scottlorde, TreePhilly’s Community Forestry Coordinator, says TreePhilly staffers can help residents select the tree that’s best for their space. It’s important for residents to consider why they want trees on their property. Are they looking for shade and possible financial savings? Are they seeking beautiful blooms or colorful leaves? Do they want trees with medicinal values? 

Fruit trees as well as smaller flowering trees and shrubs, such as Bayberry and Sour Cherry, are better suited to yards with limited space. Larger properties are great for shade trees, like Black Gum or Sassafras. Two of this year’s tree varieties are literally “home grown.” The Eastern Red Cedar and Bayberry trees were propagated at Greenland Nursery, which is run by Parks and Rec

The tree varieties offered differ each year. One important consideration is climate change. Philadelphia currently falls in Zone 7 on the U.S.Plant Hardiness Map, which is based on the average annual minimum winter temperature. But by 2050, the city is expected to be much warmer and will fall in Zone 9, which has a minimum temperature range of 20 – 30°F.

“We have to consider native trees from the south that will thrive in our area,” Scottlorde said. “Some of our native species will not be able to thrive, so we have to get ahead of that change.”

The Fall 2022 trees
Large Shade Trees:
Black Gum
Shagbark Hickory

Smaller Shade Trees:
Eastern Red Cedar

Smaller Flowering Trees and Shrubs:
Witch Hazel
White Fringetree
American Smoketree
Parsley Hawthorn

Fruit Trees:
Paw Paw
Montmorency Cherry

Once a tree has been selected, TreePhilly’s website provides resources on how to care for your tree.

Scottlorde believes in trees – the more, the better – since trees improve air quality by removing pollutants and generating oxygen. They filter rainwater, meaning there’s less run-off and danger of flooding. A lush tree canopy can help homeowners save on energy costs and mitigates the urban “heat island” effect. Well-maintained trees are proven crime deterrents. 

“Trees increase people’s sense of well-being and mental health. It makes things better for us all,” Scottlorde said. “This work is beyond environmental for me. It’s holy work, community building work.”  

Click here for more information about TreePhilly’s yard tree giveaways.