March 11, 2022

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the common questions that community members ask about the Community Yard Tree Giveaway Program. If you still have a question or an idea to make things better, please email us at [email protected] or leave a voicemail at 215-683-0217. All the information on this page related to trees planted in your yard, school, religious center or other privately-owned community space. For questions about street trees (the ones planted between the sidewalk and the street) visit our page on street trees.

Getting a Yard Tree

Q: Why are only people who live in certain zip codes allowed to sign up for neighborhood events? A: Philadelphia needs more trees everywhere! But we also have one of the most unevenly distributed tree canopies in the USA, with some neighborhoods having ten times more trees than others. Learn more about the reasons for this reality here We work hard to make sure that trees will always be available for those neighborhoods that have the most to gain from tree planting by partnering with local community leaders to share the resource with their neighbors. If you would like to partner with us to plant trees in your neighborhood, please email us at [email protected] or leave a voicemail at 215-683-0217. Residents from any zip code can sign up for a tree from our ‘city-wide’ or ‘regional’ events.

Q: What if trees are sold out? A: If trees are out of stock, you can sign up for the waitlist on the tree registration form. We will then contact you if trees become available. You can sign up for our mailing list here to be notified of the next event.

Q: Can I just buy a tree for my yard? How much do they cost? A: Yes, absolutely! There are lots of nurseries in the area that offer affordable, quality trees. Check out our guide to buying a tree here. Most of our trees are purchased from the Tree Authority in Perkasie, PA in #5 pots, which cost $50-100 each.

Yard Trees – Care and Maintenance
Note:These questions apply to trees planted in the yard, not along the street.

Q: Who’s responsible for planting a yard tree from TreePhilly? A: The resident receiving the tree from the yard tree giveaway (you) will be responsible for planting the tree. For seniors and those physically unable to plant a tree, TreePhilly offers home plantings to those in our priority areas. You will have the option to sign up when you select your tree. There is also a new organization called Philly Forests that provides home plantings of trees and other native plants in the priority areas. Those outside these areas are welcome to submit a request but we may not be able to fill all requests due to our capacity.

Q: What does it take to maintain a yard tree? Who’s responsible for that? A: The resident receiving the tree (you) will be responsible for taking care of this tree. Here’s what involved:
  • Planting the tree: TreePhilly provides a guide on the best way to plant the tree and how to pick a good spot, then you or your neighbors will plant it yourselves.
  • Watering: For the first two years, you’ll give the 5-10 gallons of water per week during the spring, summer and fall. When it rains a lot you don’t need to water. The increase to your water bill should be only about 75 cents per month.
  • Mulch: TreePhilly provides free mulch with each tree. You should put it on the ground around the tree and replace each year.
  • Pruning: After the first two years, when your tree is established in its new home, lightly prune your trees every 2-3 years.
  • Clean-up: Most trees drop leaves, and some drop seed-pods, acorns or fruit.

  • For more information on caring for your new tree, visit our website:

    Q: Who can help me maintain the tree? A: At this point, TreePhilly does not offer tree care services for yard trees. For any tree work, make sure to hire an ISA-certified arborist. For a list of certified professionals, call us at 215-683-0217 or visit Some of our partner organizations in local neighborhoods may offer some support with pruning and maintenance. Call us to inquire.

    Q: What happens when the tree gets old? A: The resident receiving the tree for their yard will be responsible for removing the tree when it reaches the end of life. Most trees in the city will live 20-30 years, but in your yard some can live for much longer – up to 200 years. Large trees live longest and are most costly to remove. Proper pruning early on can make the tree safer and less likely to drop branches as it gets older. Pruning and removal of trees can be a big financial responsibility. Especially when your trees gets older, we highly recommend hiring a professional ISA-certified arborist to help with maintenance of the tree. Here are estimates of the cost.
  • Trimming a small tree: $50 – $100
  • Trimming a large tree: $350 – $750
  • Removing a small tree (30 feet and under): $100-300
  • Removing a large tree (30 feet and over): $400 – $1,200

  • Issues with Trees

    Q: I don’t want to plant a tree because it will drop leaves and leave a mess. A: Most trees offered by TreePhilly will drop leaves. For any tree that doesn’t hang over the sidewalk, you can leave the leaves on the ground under the tree: they act as a natural mulch, suppressing weeds, keeping the tree’s roots insulated and providing the tree with important nutrients. We also offer some kinds of evergreen trees, which do not drop leaves. For information on which trees are evergreen, visit this season’s tree page.

    Q: Won’t tree roots clog up my pipes? A: It is true that trees can cause problems with pipes, especially if the pipe is already damaged and leaking water. However, some species of trees have more aggressive roots that others – we do not give away these trees. Also, most trees have roots concentrated in the top 1 to 2 feet of soil while a home’s sewer lateral is 6 or 7 feet below ground. We have selected trees for our giveaways that will not put down deep roots, and are safe for planting in yards with pipes. The most pipe-friendly trees in our giveaway are:
  • Pagoda dogwood
  • Witch Hazel
  • Plum, Pomegranate, Elderberry

  • Q: I’m still worried about my pipes and tree roots. A: For $8 a month, you can insure your water line and sewer lateral pipe from tree damage. The Philadelphia Energy Authority has partnered with American Water Resources to provide affordable insurance for water and sewer lines, and all tree root damage is covered. If you want a tree and peace of mind about your pipes, this is the most affordable option. For more information you can visit: or call 1-844-765-7260

    Q: What about trees tearing up the pavement? A: Big trees planted close to the sidewalk can cause expensive damage and hazards for walking. This can be avoided by planting the right tree in the right place. If the tree is given enough room to grow and planted at least 5 feet from pavement, it will be much less likely to buckle or damage sidewalk. Small trees and medium-to-large trees that are slow-growers will be the least likely to damage pavement. Visit the tree selection page to learn about picking the right tree for your space. Pavement-friendly trees from our giveaway include:
  • Shade tree (in large yard): Baldcypress and Chinese Chestnut
  • Small trees: Small trees are the least likely to cause damage to sidewalks when planted 5ft or more from pavement. If you can only plant close (less than 5 feet) to pavement or your house, avoid figs!

  • Q: How big does the tree get? A: We offer a range of different sized trees every season for every size yard. Shade trees will grow between 30 and 80 feet tall, while small trees will grow 15-30 feet tall. We also offer shrubs, which stay under 10 feet tall. Information on the size of each tree is available on the tree info sheets and we have a guide to choosing the right tree for your space here.