Tree selection


Given climate change and the fact that my sapling sugar maple in the park has died, what is a tree species ? This would be something needing little or no maintenance. What is Toronto hardiness zone?


Hello, thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners with your question on tree selection.

I will first answer the easy question:  Toronto’s hardiness zone is 6.  However, areas of the city exposed to wintery blasts may be closer to zone 5.  Having said that, when choosing a tree for hardiness the best bet is to choose a tree hardy to two zones lower that your site, therefore I always recommend zone 4 hardiness for Toronto trees.

Hardiness is only one of many conditions we must closely examine prior to choosing a tree;

What are your light conditions?  Sunny?  Semi or Full shade?  What are your soil conditions? If your tree is near the top of a slope you may have to deal with very dry soil , if at the bottom of the slope your will have to withstand soggy soil.  Do you have sandy soil on you site or is it clay ?  Careful examination of the site and its conditions will help you arrive at the best tree choice.

Now for some thoughts on tree selection; I am sorry to hear that your Sugar Maple sapling did not survive.  Maples are extremely hardy, especially the Sugar Maple; Acer saccharum.  It typically does not do well in polluted areas or in tight spaces, but it should have been fine in a park.

We might look at other factors as to why your tree did not survive.  One of the most common problems is incorrect planting.  I will include a link for the correct method of planting which may be helpful in planting your next tree.

Meanwhile here are a couple of ideas for you:

If you are sure that your Sugar Maple was correctly planted, but it sill failed – I would be hesitant to plant another Maple, but if not, I would suggest a Red Maple: Acer rubrum – It is very cold hardy and can adjust to many soil types, or a Shantung Maple; Acer truncatum.  It is especially tolerant of heat and dry conditions.

For part shade a Blue Beech; Carpinus caronlinianam, might be a good choice.  It is a large tree, adapts to many soil types, but prefers part shade and soil on the moist side.  Other than that, it’s a very easy care and beautiful tree.

If you are looking for a smaller tree, my best suggestion is a Serviceberry Amelanchier.  This native tree is becoming very popular in Toronto for good reason, they are extremely hardy, very adaptable, and are not targeted by many pests.  Not to mention that they are beautiful!  Lacy white flowers in the spring, little red berries in the summer (until the birds get to them) and showy golden foliage in the fall.

You might also consider a conifer; they are typically extremely cold hardy and aren’t too fussy.  One of the most beautiful and instantly recognizable is White Spruce, Picea glauca.  Its very hardy, adapts well to many soil conditions but does to be kept well watered until it is established.

These are but a few ideas, my best suggestion for you is to contact an organization who can help you with your specific conditions.

This link will assist in determining your particular conditions:

And here is a link to LEAF, who’s website had a great deal of specific information on tree types and requirements.

This link to Trees Canada may also be helpful, they outline steps for proper tree planting