Trees are an important part of any community. They absorb carbon dioxide, generate oxygen and cool the air. We encourage customers to plant trees and we actively participate in tree-planting programs ourselves. Your tree purchase is a lifetime investment. Protect your investment by taking a few minutes to plant the right tree in the right place.
The Right Tree
Tree selection is an important decision when landscaping a new home or replacing a damaged or diseased tree.
Here are some questions to consider:
- Are you planting for shade or wind protection?
- Do you want fruit, flowers or seasonal color?
- Do you need to block a view or reduce noise?
- Do you want to attract wildlife?
Then visit your local nursery and ask plenty of questions:
- Is the tree suitable for the purpose you have in mind?
- What will be its mature height and width?
- Will it grow well in this climate?
- Does the tree prefer sun or shade?
- Does it have any special soil or water needs?
Select your new tree with diversity in mind. This will help you minimize landscaping damage if there's an outbreak of a tree disease or an insect infestation that affects just one tree species.
Our tree species chart (PDF) describes some popular trees and shrubs for our area and recommends safe planting distances from overhead power lines. You may also find the Arbor Day Foundation's Hardiness Zone Lookup Tool to be helpful when making your tree selection.
The Right Place
Trees mature to different heights. Always remember to look up before you plant. Determine where the tree will be located in relation to the overhead power lines once it is fully grown. Here are some things to consider when selecting your planting location:
Overhead utility clearance
Before planting your tree, consider the location of overhead power lines:
- Remember that the small tree you plant today will grow upward and outward each year. By finding the right spot to plant your tree now, you can avoid the need for tree trimming or possible tree removal in the future. Keep in mind that tree limbs, which can knock down power lines, are the most common cause of power outages.
- To select the best location for your tree, you need to know two things — the size (height and width of the tree at maturity) and the clearance requirements for both overhead and underground utilities. Our tree species chart (PDF) describes the growth habits of many different trees and shrubs that grow well in Southeastern Michigan. The chart also tells you how close the tree or shrub can be planted to overhead lines.
The D- and T-zones
- The power lines that carry electricity from the substation to local neighborhoods are part of a power distribution system. Tower-mounted lines that carry energy from power plants to substations are part of the transmission system. Because the amount of energy each system carries is different, the distribution system and the transmission system have different tree-clearance needs.
- These charts show you proper planting distances, by mature tree height, for the D (distribution) and T (transmission) zones:
Zone 1 -- directly under to 20 feet away: Trees or shrubs with maximum height of 25 feet.
Zone 2 -- from 20 to 50 feet away: Trees with maximum height of 45 feet.
Zone 3 -- more than 50 feet away: Trees more than 45 feet in height.
Zone 1 -- directly under to 30 feet away: Do not plant trees or shrubs – only grass.
Zone 2 -- from 30 to 60 feet away: Trees with maximum height of 15 feet.
Zone 3 -- from 60 to 90 feet away: Trees with maximum height of 25 feet.
Zone 4 -- from 90 to 120 feet away: Trees with maximum height of 60 feet.
Underground utility clearances
- Underground transformers are green or grey metal boxes found in lawns and parking lots throughout this region.
- These underground transformers need an 8-foot clearance from the front doors of the transformer cabinet. A 2-foot clearance is needed at the back and sides.
- Maintaining these clearances is an important part of providing you with reliable service.
- Landscaping or structures located too close to these transformers create a dangerous work area for our field crews and can hamper efforts to restore power in an emergency.
- Anything that obstructs these transformers may be damaged, trimmed or removed if crews need access to this equipment for maintenance or repair.
- Please plan your landscaping with these clearances in mind. Be sure to consider how much the landscaping will spread as it matures.
Well-planned landscaping not only muffles street noise and cleans the air, it helps you reduce energy costs! Trees and shrubs provide cooling shade in the summer and reduce the effects of wind chill in the winter:
- Place deciduous trees (trees that lose their leaves in the fall) on the south and west sides of a house to provide cooling summer shade and reduce air-conditioning bills. When the trees lose their leaves, you'll enjoy the benefit of solar heat gain in the fall and winter months.
- Give highest priority to planting shade trees due west of west windows.
- Plant evergreen trees on the north and west sides to protect your home from blustery winter winds and reduce heating costs.
Walkways and Driveways
Homeowners often plant flowering trees as accents near drives and walkways. Be sure to consider the mature size of the tree in relationship to the space you are enhancing.
When large trees are planted too near walkways and driveways, proper root development is inhibited. The pavement becomes a water and oxygen barrier for the roots, which can lead to an unhealthy tree. Growing roots can raise and break pavement, creating a tripping hazard. Branches extending too far into the walkway or driveway can be hazardous, too.
- Curbside trees provide shade and cover for paved surfaces, reducing reflected heat. Street trees also improve the curb appeal of a neighborhood.
- Local ordinances frequently control planting in the area between the curb and sidewalk. Check with your city or township office before you plant.
Sewer and septic systems
Trees with far-reaching root systems should not be planted near sewer lines or septic systems. Roots can easily force their way between sewer tiles, blocking or breaking them.
Raise the flags for safety! Call MISS DIG at 811 to locate all underground utilities before you dig post holes or plant trees. The service is free - and it’s the law. Just call three full workdays in advance.