The street trees that line city blocks all across Portland do more than add a bit of natural beauty to what might otherwise be a concrete jungle. In addition to their aesthetic appeal, their overhead branches provide shade to keep us cool, their leaves purify the air we breathe, and their roots help stormwater filter into the ground. But street trees not only make our lives better — they also provide habitat for plenty of wildlife! They are truly a precious resource.
That's why the Urban Forestry division of Portland Parks and Recreation has implemented a street tree planting program to encourage a more robust urban canopy across our city. Residents of certain target neighborhoods across Portland are set to receive free street trees from the city beginning this month. However, with the proper permit, those of us outside of these neighborhoods can still plant street trees for ourselves.
Why do you need a permit, you ask? Although it is probably decently obvious from their name where street trees are planted in relation to the road, what is less obvious is that this streetside strip of land is actually a publicly-owned right-of-way. While the adjacent property owners are responsible for maintaining this land — including any street trees — it technically belongs to the city, which is why they have a say in the trees that are planted there.
Portland Parks and Recreation has a motto — "right tree, right place" — and we couldn't agree more. There are many guidelines governing the planting of street trees in the city, including a list of varieties approved for differently sized planting strips with or without overhead high-voltage power lines, minimum setbacks from certain structures or road features, and a minimum caliper size that a tree must be at planting time. The free inspection that comes with the permitting process will help you to determine which trees would be suitable for your space, but for a full breakdown of these guidelines, you can visit the Portland Parks and Recreation website.
Below, you will find a few of our favorite trees that we often carry that are currently approved for street planting. With that said, there's nothing stopping private property owners from planting these trees in our own yards, as they also make excellent specimens for the home landscape further from the street.
Now that fall rains have arrived to help new plants get established, this is the perfect time to add a tree to your landscape, wherever that may be. If you would like help planting an approved street tree — or any tree in your home landscape — we can do that! Our professional planting experts will make sure your plant starts off its new life in the ground on the best foot... Or make that root!
As always, before digging, be sure to call the Oregon utility notification locate center hotline at 811 or 503-246-6699 (local) or 1-800-332-2344 (toll free) to have the locations of any underground utilities marked.
Smaller Trees for Planting Under Power Lines
- Muskogee Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia 'Muskogee')
- Natchez Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia 'Natchez')
- Tuscarora Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia 'Tuscarora'
- Bigleaf Snowbell (Styrax obassia)
Medium Trees for Planting Under Power Lines
- Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)
- Chinese Fringetree (Chionanthus retusus)
- Venus Dogwood (Cornus x kousa 'Venus')
- Chinese Pistache (Pistacha chinensis)
Medium Trees for Spaces Without Power Lines
- Autumn Gold Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba 'Autumn Gold')
- Wildfire Black Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica 'Wildfire')
- Bambooleaf Oak (Quercus myrsinifolia)
- Village Green Japanese Zelkova (Zelkova serrata 'Village Green')
Large Trees for Spaces Without Power Lines
Giant Trees for Spaces Without Power Lines
- Douglas Fir (Psuedotsuga menziesii)
- Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum)
- Western Hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla)
At Cornell Farm, we have a wide selection of trees for your home landscape, from towering shade trees to compact specimen trees and everything in between. Our knowledgeable team members would be happy to assist you in picking out the perfect variety for your home and are always available to answer any questions about their care. If you are looking for a particular tree approved for street planting, feel free to ask us. We just might be able to track one down!