Frequently Asked Questions

How do I select a tree?

You want to select the "right tree for the right place". Before selecting a tree, you need to answer some questions. Do you want the tree to provide shade, fruit, or seasonal color, or act as a windbreak or screen? Does space lend itself to a large, medium, or small tree? Is there overhead or belowground wires or utilities in the vicinity? Do you need to consider clearance for sidewalks, patios, or driveways? Are there other trees in the area? Is the soil deep, fertile, and well-drained, or is it shallow, compacted, and infertile?

Based on your answers to those questions, review publications to determine which species of tree will best meet your needs. Once you select a species, you will need to select a high-quality tree at the nursery.

A high-quality tree has:

  • Sound roots that grow outwards from the trunk to support healthy growth
  • A trunk free of mechanical wounds and wounds from incorrect pruning
  • A strong form with well-spaced, firmly attached branches

A low-quality tree has:

  • Crushed or circling roots in a small root ball or small container
  • A trunk with wounds from mechanical impacts or incorrect pruning
  • A weak form in which multiple stems squeeze against each other or branches squeeze against the trunk

How do I plant a tree?

  • Before you dig, locate all underground utilities by calling Sunshine State One Call at (800) 432-4770 two days before digging. This is a free service. 
  • Dig a hole about 2 - 3 times the diameter of the root ball and as deep as the root ball.
  • ALWAYS lift the tree by the root ball and NEVER the trunk. The trunk flare, where the roots spread at the base of the tree, should be partially visible after the tree has been planted. It is better to plant the tree a little high, 2-3 inches above the base of the trunk flare than to plant it at or below the original growing level. Planting too deeply is a common cause of tree failure.
  • ALWAYS lift the tree by the root ball and NEVER the trunk. The trunk flare, where the roots spread at the base of the tree, should be partially visible after the tree has been planted. It is better to plant the tree a little high, 2-3 inches above the base of the trunk flare than to plant it at or below the original growing level. Planting too deeply is a common cause of tree failure.

Tree Planting diagram showing proper placement of the root ball

  • Straighten the tree in the hole before backfilling it with soil. Fill the hole about 1/3 full and pack the soil around the base of the root ball. If the tree is balled and burlapped, cut and remove the string and wire from around the trunk and the top third of the root ball. Fill the remainder of the hole, taking care to firmly pack the soil to eliminate air pockets by adding the soil a few inches at a time and watering in. Continue this process until the hole is filled and the tree is firmly planted.
  • Stake the tree, if necessary. Trees establish more quickly and develop stronger trunk and root systems if they are not staked at the time of planting. If you do need to stake the tree, use wide, flexible tie material (not wire) that will hold the tree upright, provide flexibility, and minimize injury to the trunk. Remove stakes and ties within one year.
  • Mulch the base of the tree. This helps retain moisture, moderates temperatures, and reduces weeds. Place mulch 2-4 inches deep, keeping it 1-2 inches away from the base of the tree. Your ring of mulch should extend at least 2 feet from the tree trunk to minimize the risk of string-trimmer damage to the trunk. Avoid using cypress mulch as it threatens the survival of native trees and instead use melaleuca mulch instead.

tree mulch showing a gap at tree base
  • Provide follow-up care. Keep the soil moist, but not soaked (overwatering will cause leaves to yellow and fall off). Gradually reduce the frequency of watering as the tree gets established. Conduct only minor pruning until the tree has completed a full season of growth.

How do you find an Aborist?

    All tree trimmers working in Broward County must have a Broward County Tree Trimmers License. Find a local certified arborist.
    If the tree trimmer you hire is uninsured, you could be held liable for damages and injuries that occur as a result of the job. An arborist should have personal and property damage insurance as well as worker's compensation insurance (if there are more than 3 employees). Verify it by calling the Florida Department of Financial Services Consumer Helpline at (800) 342-2762.
    Be wary of individuals who go door to door and offer bargains for performing tree work. Most reputable companies are too busy to solicit work in this manner.
    Don't always accept the low bid. Make your selection based on price, skill, professionalism, and the work to be done. Improper tree care can take many years to correct if at all. Good arborists will only perform accepted practices, and will not top (hat-rack) a tree, remove an excessive amount of live wood, use climbing spikes on trees that are not being removed, or remove or disfigure a living tree without cause.
    Read and understand the contract before you sign it.

What license should my tree trimmer have?

Tree trimmers must have insurance and be a Broward County Licensed Tree Trimmer. Ask for this information before discussing your job! To verify a Broward County Licensed Tree Trimmers you may call 954-765-4400. You may also wish to hire an International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) certified arborist. Certified arborists can be found at the following:




How do you prune a tree?

Pruning large trees can be dangerous and is best to hire a professional arborist. An arborist can determine the type of pruning necessary to improve the health, appearance, and safety of your trees. A professional arborist can provide the services of a trained crew, with all of the required safety equipment and liability insurance.

  • Good pruning techniques remove structurally weak branches while maintaining the natural form of the tree. For most young trees, maintain a single dominant leader. Leave some lateral branches in place to contribute to the development of a sturdy well-tapered trunk and to help protect the trunk from the sun and mechanical injury. Branches selected to be permanent must be well-spaced, both vertically and radially, along the trunk. A good rule of thumb for vertical spacing of permanent branches is to maintain a distance equal to 3% of the tree's eventual height.

Good verse Bad Pruning examples of trees

  • Use the proper tools and make sure they are clean and sharp. Clean and sterilize tools before making cuts on another tree to prevent the spread of pathogens. For branches up to ½" in diameter, bypass hand pruners are adequate. For branches larger than ½" in diameter, use loppers or a pruning saw.
  • Prune branches that are dead, dying, diseased, crowded, weakly attached (those with narrow angles of attachment and tight crotches), of low-vigor, and to increase light and air penetration, reduce weight on heavy limbs, and provide clearance.
  • Make clean cuts just outside the branch collar.
  • Cut branches back to a lateral branch or bud. Do not make internodal cuts (cuts between buds or branches).
  • Avoid over-thinning the interior of the tree, which can starve the tree, reduce growth and make the tree unhealthy. Maintain at least half the foliage on branches arising in the lower two-thirds of the tree.
  • Do not use wound dressing. It does not reduce decay or speed wound closure and rarely prevents insect or disease infestations.

Pruning guide from Arbor Day Foundation

What is "Hat-Racking" and can I report it?

To report "hat-racking", tree abuse, or unlicensed tree trimmers, contact the City Landscaper Architect at 954-571-4521, Code Enforcement at 954-480-4241, or the Broward Sheriff's Office at 954-765-4321.

"Hat-racking" or topping is the indiscriminate cutting of tree branches to stubs or lateral branches that are not large enough to assume the terminal role. The most common reason given for "hat-racking" is to reduce the size of a tree. "Hat-racking" is not a viable method of height reduction and will make a tree more hazardous in the long term.

Hat Racking diagram after being cut and after growth

  • "Hat-racking" can seriously weaken a tree and may cause it to die.
  • A stressed tree is more vulnerable to insect and disease infestations.
  • Cuts made along a limb between lateral branches create stubs with wounds that the tree may not be able to close, causing decay to move down through the branches.
  • "Hat-racking" can expose the bark of the tree to strong sunlight, causing sunburn leading to cankers, bark splitting, and the death of some branches.
  • The multiple shoots that are produced below stub cuts are not well attached to the tree. The new shoots grow quickly and are prone to breaking, making the tree more hazardous than it was before pruning.
  • "Hat-racking" destroys the natural form of the tree, making it appear disfigured and mutilated. A tree that has been "hat-racked" can never fully regain its natural form.
  • "Hat-racking" is expensive. The cost of "hat-racking" a tree is not limited to what was paid for the initial pruning job. If the tree survives, it will require pruning again at more frequent intervals and will either need to be reduced again or storm damage will have to be cleaned up, as branches are much more likely to fail. If the tree dies, it will have to be removed and replaced.
  • Your property value will be reduced. Healthy, well-maintained trees can add 10 to 20% to the value of a property. Disfigured, "hat-racked" tree are considered an impending expense.
  • Another possible cost is potential liability. "Hat-racked" trees are prone to breaking and can be hazardous. Because "hat-racking" is considered an unacceptable pruning practice, any damage caused by branch failure of a "hat-racked" tree may lead to a finding of negligence in a court of law.

Is hiring an unlicenced arborist or tree trimmer a problem?

Tree trimmers often take advantage of homeowners by using scare tactics, under the guise of “hurricane pruning”. They have been known to top trees and leave the homeowners with no identifying information, and unfortunately, the property owner is left with the liability of a structurally unsound tree. Be suspicious of anyone knocking on your door offering to trim your trees, especially after regular business hours and on weekends. Licensed, professional tree trimmers do not solicit customers door-to-door. If you see such activity, report it to the Broward Sheriff’s Code Enforcement by calling 954-480-4241.