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East Central ETT Tree Planting Guidelines

Pawpaw tree and fruit - MA Center DC
Pawpaw tree and fruit - MA Center DC

For several years Amma has been asking everyone to plant trees. Pennsylvania and the Washington DC area (Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC) have for some time had several local non-profit conservation organizations and public agencies which sponsor and support tree plantings. You can join one of their tree planting offerings or plant a tree at your own home.

The East Central ETT Region Defined

The East Central ETT region (Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington DC, Virginia, West Virginia) is located between the Greater New York Region and the Southeast Region. Because of this location it shares some overlap with tree species at both its northern and southern edges. In addition the East Central ETT region has a more moderate climate than that of the regions to the north and south. As it stretches from east to west, from the Atlantic beaches to the Appalachian (Blue Ridge) mountains, its diverse geography and local climates support a manifold diversity of tree species. One of the most unique natural features of the East Central Region is the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States. The Bay is suffering from water pollution from fertilizer runoff from farms as well as from industrial pollution. Reforestation of the Chesapeake Bay watershed is helping to address this problem.

This location bodes well for the possibility of having less severe effects of climate change on the environment, including effects on trees. "The biggest climate challenges the Mid-Atlantic will face in the coming decades, according to scientists, are intense rain events and summer heat waves. These won’t always be pleasant. I, for one, am not excited about more 90-degree days. They will require planning and preparation, but they are manageable. They are not like the megastorms, megafires, megadroughts and rising oceans putting much of the country in existential peril." (Popkin, 2022)

The four geographic areas within the East Central region

  • Atlantic Beaches/Tidal Marshes

  • Atlantic Coastal Plains

  • Piedmont—gentle hills, clay soil

  • Appalachians (Blue Ridge)

The Atlantic Coastal Plains and the Piedmont are heavily populated. Much of the land was historically farmed but now is becoming an extension of the outer suburbs of major cities and is laced with intrastate and interstate highways. Reforestation projects are now reforesting the previously farmed areas with an aim to prevent erosion, to cleaning the water of the local streams and rivers, and ultimately to cleaning the water of the Chesapeake Bay.

Large scale reforestation projects are critical but trees planted in yards also improve the environment by being beautiful, providing wildlife habitat, cooling neighborhoods, and reducing homeowners’ air conditioning costs, among other benefits.


Here are some suggestions for trees you may enjoy from among the many tree species that thrive in the East Central Region

Flowering Dogwood Cornus florida (USDA Hardiness Zone 5-9) Prefers partial shade and rich, well-drained soil. Can tolerate poor, dry soil. 30 ft tall. Has beautiful white flowers in the spring.

Pawpaw Asimina triloba (USDA Hardiness Zone 5-9) Prefers partial shade and rich moist soil. 25 ft tall. Zebra Swallowtail butterfly larvae live on the leaves. Produces fruits in late summer/early fall that are enjoyed by people and wildlife.

River Birch Betula nigra (USDA Hardiness Zone 4-9) Prefers sun and moist areas; can be grown near streams. 30-70 ft tall. Used in erosion control.

Sweetbay Magnolia Magnolia virginiana (USDA Hardiness Zone 5a-10b) Prefers sun/part shade and moist, organically rich soils; 10-35 ft tall. Has fragrant, white flowers in the summer.

Virginia Pine Pinus virginiana (USDA Hardiness Zone 4-8) Prefers sun and grows well in all soil types. Tolerates poor, dry soil, including clay soils. 25 ft tall.


    Godfrey, M. (1997) Field Guide to the Piedmont. University of North Carolina Press

    North Carolina Extension Gardener Toolbox

    USDA Plants Database

    The D.C. area, With Planning, Can be a Climate Refuge (Popkin, G. (2022, July 1): https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/07/01/dc-area-with-planning-can-be-climate-refuge/

Tree East Central Region - Research/Resources

ETT Regional Trees Research database

Tree Procurement Resources

Washington DC

    Casey's Trees mission is to restore, enhance, and protect the tree canopy of Washington, DC


    Maryland Dept. of Natural Resources - Get $25 off the purchase of a native tree at 86 participating nurseries across the State of Maryland

      Contains a list of participating state nurseries
      Contains information regarding tree selection, recommended native species, how to plant and care for a tree, etc.

    Montgomery Country, MD - Reforest Montgomery - Green Montgomery County by planting native trees on your property. Receive a $50 discount on any qualifying tree with a retail value of at least $75 from participating nurseries

      Montgomery Country, MD nurseries also listed

    Maryland State Nursery

    Herring Run Nursery - Blue Water Baltimore’s Herring Run Nursery specializes in plants native to the Chesapeake Bay watershed


    Fairfax County Releaf - free seedlings

      Includes a Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping plantun guide


    Tree Philly - get a free yard tree for your private property form the Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Dept.


Choosing a Tree at a Nursery

  • Not all trees sold commercially are equal. Purchasing a tree should be considered an investment, so take your time in selecting the right one and visit several nurseries if necessary Carolina Department of Agriculture (Casey's Trees - How To Select a Tree)

    • Avoid balled and burlapped trees that are not firmly in the soil

    • If you are buying a containerized tree, have the nursery staff take the tree out of the container and check the roots. Check to see that the roots look healthy and are visible around the entire root ball

Experts for guidance/advice

Online Resources: Tree Selection

General guidelines - size, purpose, location, etc.

Tree Species

How to Plant a Tree



Organizations which host/facilitate volunteer group planting

Providing enough water is the most critical component of aftercare, particularly in the first 2-3 years following planting. Young trees need 25 gallons of water per week, equal to 1.5 inches of rainfall. A rain gauge such as this may be helpful in deciding when/how much to water.


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