Winter Tree Tips

As Nashville's cold fronts roll in, so do questions about winter care for young trees. If you’re wondering how to keep your trees healthy and safe, we're answering all your winter weather for trees FAQs. Plus, learn more about winter identification tips for some of this season’s Root Nashville trees!

Q: Is there anything special I need to do for my trees in frigid weather?

A: Not really! We recommend planting your trees as soon as possible after you receive them. Adding a thin layer of mulch added after planting is always a good idea. But because we provide large trees and native species, they weather the colder temps of this climate just fine.

Q: So I *don’t* need to cover my new trees?

A: If you’ve received a tree from Root Nashville, there is no need to cover it. Native species are adapted to this climate and can weather the highs and lows of the seasons.

If you have non-native fruit trees, exotic trees that are native to warmer areas, or small seedlings/saplings in your yard, you might want to cover them. 

Remember the extreme cold snap at the end of 2022? It affected non-native species the most! Our large, native trees handled the rapid temperature drop without issues.

Q: How will I be able to dig the hole for my tree in frozen ground?A: Actually, even if temperatures are freezing or below freezing, it would take a *very* prolonged period of extreme cold for the ground itself to freeze here in Nashville. Breaking the sod at the top of your hole might be a little tougher if there’s ice or wintry mix, but otherwise, digging a hole in January isn’t that much different from digging a hole in November.

Q: Wait, trees are being delivered and planted in January and February, too?

A: Yes, we’re still in the prime of planting season! Since the ground doesn’t freeze here and we don’t (usually) get much snow, we can plant all winter: from mid-October through to the end of March. 

Planting trees when they are dormant (a.k.a. asleep!) is best for their long-term survival — that’s why we plant in the winter.

Q: I received several different species of trees. Without the leaves, how can I tell which trees are which?!

Three of our five neighborhood tree options this season are red oak, tulip poplar, and crabapple; all excellent trees, but they can look alike in the middle of winter! 

See below for photos and tips can help you identify each.  If you’re still stumped, you can always reach out to hello@rootnashville.org with pictures and we’ll help you identify your new trees.

The best way to tell these species apart is to look at their buds, at the very tips of the branches. Bark color and general bark appearance can also help you distinguish, but sometimes bark color can vary, so we would recommend relying on the buds first.

Red oak

The buds at the very tips of the branches (the terminal buds) are clustered, reddish-brown in color, and generally small in size compared to terminal buds of other species.

Tulip poplar

Tulip poplar buds are larger, compared to red oaks, and they are shaped like an almond or duck bill.

Crabapple

Crabapples have a very small bud at the tips of their branches, and in contrast to the oaks, you can just look for one (instead of multiple).

Other questions? Reach out to our team at hello@rootnashville.org. (For extra-technical questions, we might refer you to an arborist.)

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