Why Give Away Trees?
Arlington’s tree canopy is shrinking fast as our largest trees fall victim to age, redevelopment, poor pruning practices around power lines, as well as prolonged periods of drought and record high flash rainfalls. Many seek to replant, but the instinct to plant a larger tree often leads to disappointing results, since larger nursery trees need extensive root trimming to be portable enough to sell. The cost of buying and planting a larger tree can also be beyond the reach of many.
Smaller trees, ones whose root balls are no bigger than a one- to five-gallon pot, are easier to plant, easier to maintain to the point where they have stabilized in their new homes, and, since they do not suffer from the shock of root pruning, they will thrive and grow faster, easily compensating for their small initial size within a few years.
About the Program
Small Trees Make Big Canopies was launched in the spring of 2020 by interns with the Extension Master Gardener of Northern Virginia Program to help expand the tree canopy in Arlington. Each year, the program gives away hundreds of small sapling native trees to help restore the region’s tree canopy. The program also seeks to educate the public about the wonderful variety of our native trees, how to plant and care for them, and how the trees benefit us, our neighbors, and the wider environment. For each tree we giveaway , you can find information on this webpage that covers tree siting and planting, tree care, growth pattern and expected size when fully mature. If you don’t know what tree might be best for your needs and conditions, we can help guide you (see the Our Trees section, below).
Saplings in the program have been donated by your neighbors – including many Master Gardeners! If you have saplings (anywhere from six inches to three feet) you want to donate, fill out an I Have Saplings! Form and we can work with you to harvest your crop of young trees.
How Do I Get A FREE TREE?
If you would like a Free Tree, you can either fill out a Tree Request Form and we will be in touch with you to come retrieve your tree from our nursery, or you can attend a scheduled Free Tree event, listed in the Extension Master Gardener Calendar.
We only give away trees in the spring and fall, when the weather is cooler and the trees have a better chance of adapting successfully to their new homes.
Have A “Surplus” Native Tree In Your Yard?
Learn How To Harvest A Small Tree
You may be wondering where we get the trees we give away. Saplings in the program have been donated by people like you and your neighbors – including many Master Gardeners! If you have saplings (anywhere from six inches to three feet) you want to donate, fill out an I Have Saplings! Form and we can work with you to help you harvest your crop of young trees and get them into our program. If you want to get a head start, watch this short video on how to harvest saplings.
We urge you to harvest trees only in the spring and fall, when the weather is cooler and the trees have a better chance of adapting successfully to their new homes.
Species of Trees Available
Click images or plant name to learn more about specific trees:
*Each fact sheet for our Tried and True Native Plant Selections specifies the areas in which the plant is indigenous. Most of the recommended species are native to (some parts of) the Mid-Atlantic Region. This does not necessarily mean that every plant is native to your particular area.
Rules to Follow:
- New trees should receive 1″ of water a week
- If deer are nearby, consider protecting with a deer guard
- Avoid volcano mulching