Trees After The Storm

Replanting Storm-Safe Trees

As you consider replacement of trees lost to the recent storm events, reviewing the following important factors will give your new tree the best chance to survive future storm winds:

What can I do to keep my new tree from toppling over in a storm?

Keeping a tree upright in a storm is influenced by two factors: 

1. Minimizing wind resistance above-ground

2. Maximizing anchoring below ground. 

Trees use their root system to anchor themselves against storm winds. Contrary to popular opinion, the root system of a healthy tree does not reflect the shape of the above ground canopy. Ideally, roots spread out in all directions, four to five times the tree height, mostly in the top one-foot of soil. These far reaching, essentially shallow roots, anchor the tree as storm winds blow from side to side. When a tree is placed too close to foundations, driveways and other built structures that interrupt the radial extent of the roots, or when roots are cut to protect or make way for built structures, the tree is more prone to topple. This can also occur if roots grow in a spiral bundle around the tree rather than radially outward - we will discuss this below “How do I know if I’m buying a good quality tree?” and “How do I plant my tree to give it the best start?” Assess the space that you have available for planting your new tree and choose the right tree for the location. A good recommendation is to avoid built structures for at least a 10ft x 10ft space for a small tree and at least a 30ft x 30 ft space for a large tree. Minimizing wind resistance above-ground is achieved through proper pruning. Trees foliage can catch the wind like a sail. Some routine maintenance is required to reduce the canopy density and thereby reduce the “sail effect". Proper pruning can reduce the “sail effect” and also remove dead, broken and crossing branches and ensure that your tree has a strong and pleasing structure. Improper pruning can weaken tree structure, increase maintenance costs, and ultimately result in a denser canopy and an increased “sail effect”.

How do I know if I am planting a new tree near utility lines?

Aboveground Utility Lines - Trees that will be 20 feet at mature height and less can be planted below and adjacent to overhead utility lines. Trees reaching 30 feet in height should be offset 30 feet from the utility lines. Proper setback will avoid the need for drastic trimming which may result in an unnatural appearance. It will also ensure a safer more reliable electrical system. For more detailed information about this subject, please visit the Florida Power and Light Publication “Plant the Right Tree in the Right Place”.

Underground Utilities – Before you dig, contact Sunshine State One at 1-800-432-4770 for locating underground utilities. Plant trees far enough away from buried cables and sewer lines so that the roots do not grow into these utilities and avoid trees with aggressive root systems such as Ficus and Black Olives.

How do I choose the right tree for my space?

Choosing the right plant for your area can be tricky, but start by determining what the mature tree size and growth character your site can support. Determine how much sunlight and water is available in the area. Then choose a tree that will fit the available space and do well given the available light and water. To find out the growth characteristics and the light and water needs of various species please visit the South Florida Water Management District publication “Water wise”.

Which wind resistant tree species should I plant?

A tree's storm survivability will depend largely on plant stock quality, tree care, and planting the right tree in the right place in addition to the storm resistance of the species, however, the following list of trees have been noted to be highly resistant to storm wind.

Recommended Large Trees and Palms (35' +)

  • Bald Cypress, Taxodium distichum v. distichum
  • Cabbage Palm, Sabal palmetto
  • Canary Island Date Palm, Phoenix canariensis
  • Gumbo Limbo, Bursera simaruba
  • Live Oak, Quercus virginiana
  • Mastic, Sideroxylon foetidissimim
  • Pond Cypress, Taxodium distichum v. nutans
  • Red Bay, Persea borbonia
  • Royal Palm, Roystonea regia
  • Sabal Palm, Sabal Palmetto
  • Slash Pine aka: Dade County Pine, Pinus elliottii v. densa
  • Southern Magnolia, Magnolia grandiflora
  • Sweet Bay Magnolia, Magnolia virginiana
  • Wild Tamarind, Lysiloma latisliqua

Recommended Medium Trees and Palms (15' - 34')

  • Arborvitae, Thuja occidentalis
  • Black Ironwood, Krugiodendron ferreum
  • Christmas Palm, Adonida merrillii
  • Dahoon Holly, Ilex cassine
  • Florida Thatch Palm, Thrinax radiata
  • Foxtail Palm, Wodyetia bifucata
  • Geiger, Cordia sebestena
  • Lignum Vitae, Guaicum sanctum
  • Paurotis Palm, Acoelorrhaphe wrightii
  • Pigeon Plum, Cocoloba diversifolia
  • Pindo Palm, Butia capitata
  • Podocarpus, Podocarpus macrophyllous
  • Satin Leaf, Chrysophyllum oliviforme
  • Senegal Date Palm, Phoenix reclinata
  • Silver Buttonwood, Conocarpus erectus
  • Stopper spp., (White, Redberry & Spanish) Eugenia v. axillaris, confusa and foetida
  • Sweet Acacia, Acacia farnesiana

Recommended Small Trees and Palms (up to 14')

  • Buccaneer Palm, Pseudophoenix sargentii
  • Jamaican Caper, Capparis cynophallophora
  • Roebelenii Palm, Phoenix roebelenii

Which trees should I avoid planting?

The following trees were found to be poor storm survivors:

  • African Tulip Tree
  • Albizia (Woman's Tongue)
  • Australian Pine
  • Avocado
  • Bischofia
  • Black Olive
  • Brazilian Beautileaf
  • Carrotwood
  • Cassia
  • Earleaf Acacia

  • Eucalyptus
  • Ficus spp.
  • Floss-silk Tree
  • Golden Rain Tree
  • Hong Kong Orchid
  • Indian Rosewood
  • Jacaranda
  • Java Plum
  • Key Lime
  • Mahogany
  • Mango
  • Melaleuca
  • Norfolk Island Pine
  • Pongam
  • Queen Palm
  • Queen's Crepe Myrtle
  • Royal Poinciana
  • Sand Pine
  • Sausage Tree
  • Seaside Mahoe
  • Silk Oak
  • Southern Red Cedar
  • Tabebuia (yellow)
  • Washingtonia Palm
  • Wax Myrtle
  • Ylang-ylang

How do I know if I’m buying a good quality tree?

This is one of the most important considerations when buying a tree and it is one of the least known issues. All trees are not created equal. Trees are sold commercially in various “grades”. A better grade tree is far more likely to grow into a strong storm resistant tree than a poor grade tree. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is responsible for the grading system. In general, a tree is of a higher grade when it has a single straight trunk, it’s branches are uniformly distributed around the trunk if seen from above, branches alternate around the trunk without being directly opposite to each other and the roots do not circle excessively within the container. Poor grade trees will have more than one main trunk, an unbalanced branch arrangement, an uneven canopy and roots circling within the container.

For more information please view the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services site on Florida Grades and Standards for Nursery Plants

How do I plant my tree to give it the best start?

Dig a hole NO DEEPER than the height of the root ball, with a width at least 2 to 3 times greater that the diameter of the root ball. Place the tree in the center of the hole. Backfill the hole with only the same soil dug from the hole. Water in the backfill as you go, to remove all air pockets. Do not add anything to the hole except the soil! Pile the last shovel fulls of soil in a mound up around the tree trunk. Gently pull this mound back off of the trunk in all directions to form a shallow bowl around the tree that can hold water. Water thoroughly and immediately after planting the tree to ensure all air pockets are displaced. Daily watering during the first six weeks is the most important thing you can do for your tree. Give your tree 5 gallons of water for every inch of trunk diameter each time you water. Pay close attention to the soil around your tree, watering less often if the soil is soggy. Mulching is a very important part of tree planting. After watering the tree, spread the mulch in a circle 2 to 4 feet from the base of the trunk - but keep it 2 to 3 inches away from the trunk itself (to prevent trunk rot). The mulch should be 3 to 4 inches deep. For more detailed information, please visit the following website: Broward County Tree Preservation Program Proper Tree Care

How and when do I prune my tree?

Routine maintenance can correct issues and help ensure your tree grows into a storm survivor.

Does my contractor need a license to trim my trees?

A license is required to trim trees in Broward County. Any companies that contract to perform tree trimming services are required to have a Broward County Tree Trimmer’s License. For further information on Broward County Tree Trimmer Licensing or to obtain a Broward County Tree Trimmer License application, contact the Building Code Division at (954) 765-4400 ext. 9872.

  • To report unlicensed Tree Trimmers please contact the Broward County Building Code Division at (954) 765-4400 Opt. 2

Should I keep my storm damaged tree?

As you assess your storm damaged tree there are many factors that will determine if you should keep it, or remove and replace it. You may want to consult with an ISA certified arborist to make this determination to ensure you do not keep a tree that could grow into a potential hazard. The following are excellent resources to determine if your tree can be saved:​

Do I need a permit to remove my storm damaged trees?

Trees that have been toppled, or severely damaged trees that have suffered permanent loss of 50% or more of their canopy, do not require a permit for removal. This does not include trees that have been defoliated (loss of all their leaves) as these trees should recover. For trees which have not been severely damaged, whether a permit is required depends on the type and size of tree(s) that are proposed for removal. Contact the Tree Preservation Program at (954) 519-1483 for further information.​