Plant a tree! But what tree.. and where…?

To plant a tree is a gift to the future; an act of hope.  If you do nothing else for the world this year, plant a tree; or ten trees; or a thousand… 

But what trees; and where?

If you have a small garden, plant a small tree – a modest native, like a holly, rowan or crab apple – great for colour, birds and pollinators.  If you have a bigger garden, grow a small copse of silver birch and add a fruit tree, whose produce you can enjoy.  If you are the parent of a school-age child, why not encourage them to ‘green’ their school, helping to grow an outdoor learning and playing area at the same time?

Better still, get together with neighbours or your community and persuade your local council to donate one of their verges or flower beds: small flowering trees and seasonal flowers, especially woodland species like bluebell and wood anemone, look wonderful together and are much easier (and cheaper) to maintain than dull plots full of regimented bedding plants.  Investing energy and thought in your local landscape brings people, and nature, together.

Even if you don’t have any space to grow trees yourself, you can pop an acorn or beechnut – or several (or dozens) – into pots and then, when they are a year or so old, offer them to a local scheme or school.

But before you head to the garden centre, or get your rusty spade out, here are some golden rules for new tree planting – after all, it’s possible to plant the wrong trees in the wrong place at the wrong time.

  • Do’s:
    • Protect existing trees
    • Keep it local
    • Make biodiversity and habitat the priority rather than just planting trees for the sake of it
    • Think about what a tree or small copse will look like in ten, twenty, a hundred years’ time
    • Consider how your trees will be looked after – they need watering and weeding for a few years before they become established
    • Above all, make sure the land is suitable for trees. 
  • Don’ts:
    • Don’t plant a giant (oaks, Scots pines; beeches; sycamores etc) in a small space;
    • Don’t plant without the permission of the landowner
    • Don’t, in general, plant a tree between April and October when the tree is busy growing.   

There are many organisations out there who welcome volunteer tree planters and who give good training and advice on what trees to plant – and where. Check out:

Our new initiative, Woods for the Trees (, matches opportunities for would-be tree planters with landowners who’d like to do their bit for the environment. Our Woods for the Shires campaign aims to plant at least an acre of trees (about 63m squared) in every historic county of England.  We’re also looking to create partnerships with businesses and charities keen to boost their eco-credentials and give their employees a sense of wellbeing and collective positivity. To get involved, visit

To find out more, why not get a copy of my guide to the Why, Which, Where and How to get started: The Little Book of Planting Trees. 

Originally published on:

Max Adams is a woodland manager and the author of The Wisdom of Trees and Trees of Life.

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