Planting Native Shade Trees

Planting native trees, particularly shade trees, is critical for reaping the many benefits our trees provide us, such as moderating temperature, maximizing protection from wind, preventing erosion and managing storm water. It is also the only way we can retain any remnants of the maritime forest that once covered our coasts. Native trees are best suited to endure the salt aerosol and hurricane-force winds on our barrier island, and their features enhance our sustainability and resiliency. Lastly, these trees are part of the natural heritage our children and grandchildren should inherit, and it is one of the reasons tourists visit Amelia Island.

Native trees that perform well near the ocean include Live Oak, Sand Oak, Southern Magnolia, Red Cedar and Bumelia. A little further from the ocean, we can also enjoy Laurel Oak, Hickory, Longleaf Pine, Loblolly Pine, Red Maple and Hackberry.

Palm trees do not provide the extensive benefits of shade trees. However, Sabal (Cabbage) Palms are native to Amelia Island and characteristic of maritime forest. Most other palms are not.

While we’re planting native trees, we might want to think about planting native understory trees and shrubs. Examples include: Saw Palmetto, Yaupon Holley, Dahoon Holley, American Holly, American Dogwood, Redbud, Wax Myrtle, Sparkleberry, & Beautyberry.

In this environment, we recommend planting trees between Dec. 1 (after hurricane season) and the end of March. That enables the new tree to become established before summer heat.


If you need support, contact one of the following:

  • Amelia Tree Conservancy: Email us here
  • Keep Nassau Beautiful provides a program to facilitate and support tree planting throughout our county: Planting Nassau’s Future.
  • Dave Holley, Fernandina Beach Urban Forester; Email here.
  • Nassau County Extension, UF/IFAS Environmental Horticulture, Yulee County Building, 86026 Pages Dairy Road, Yulee; 904-530-6350

Tips on How to Plant a Tree

Before Planting: Match the tree & location:

  • Learn about the place you want to plant a tree:
  • How large is the space?
  • How much light does it get per day?
  • How much water does it get? Is it usually very wet or very dry?
  • What kind of soil do you have? (sand, clay, soil with lots of organic matter)
  • What are the hottest and coldest temperatures?
  • Are the conditions likely to change (growth of other plants/construction)?
  • Are there electrical wires overhead or pipes/cables buried underground?
  • Check with your utility companies.
  • Is there access to water so that you can water the tree regularly after planting?

Learn about the tree you want to plant:

  • How tall does it grow? How wide does it grow?
  • How much light does it need per day?
  • How much water does it need?
  • What kind of soil does it like? (sandy, soil with lots of organic matter, etc.)
  • What temperatures can it tolerate?

Compare your tree and the location. Do you have a match? Will the tree have enough room to grow to maturity? If not, look for another location or choose a different kind of tree. PDFs, & additional resources can be found here

Planting the Tree

  • Dig a wide, shallow hole 2-3 times wider than the root ball  and the same depth as the root ball.
  • Pack the soil firmly at the bottom of the hole.
  • Remove the container (burlap, pot or wire).
  • Lift the tree by the root ball and place it in the hole.  (Never lift a tree by the trunk.)
  • Identify the trunk flare, the part that expands at the base of the tree. Make sure to plant the tree at a height where the flare will be partly visible above the soil after planting.
  • Straighten the tree. Look at it from all directions to make sure  it is in the right position.
  • Fill the hole. Pack the soil firmly around the root ball to stabilize it and eliminate air pockets.
  • Use the leftover soil to create a water well around the  perimeter of the hole.
  • Water deeply. Fill the water well and let the water soak in.  Repeat this three or four times.
  • Spread 2-4 inches of organic mulch like pine straw or shredded bark around the base of the tree, but leave 1-2 inches between the tree and the mulch.

After Planting:
Care of the newly planted tree

  • Soak the roots of the tree, as described above, every other day for two weeks.
  • After the first two weeks, water at least once a week, unless we have rain. Check the surface of the soil below the mulch every few days to see whether the tree needs water. It should be moist, but not wet. If it appears dry, water deeply.
  • After the first month, water once every three weeks or month, depending on the weather. During hot, windy weather, water more frequently. In mid-fall start decreasing the water.
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