Frequently Asked Questions



BTT is part of a citywide coalition of nonprofits, city agencies, community groups and individual residents working within the TreeBaltimore partnership under the Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks. We share a goal of reaching 40% tree canopy cover. Tree canopy is the percent of a city’s land covered by leaves and branches when looking down from a bird’s eye view.

Trees act like giant sponges that absorb heat and pollution. They reduce health issues like asthma and cool down blocks in the summer. They cut down on heating and cooling bills. They add shade and beauty, improving property values. The benefits of trees increase as they age. An abundance of well-maintained trees improves quality of life for city residents. 

Baltimore City is mostly made up of hard, impervious surfaces such as pavement, roads, sidewalks, and rooftops that increase issues like extreme heat, flooding and sewage backups. Trees and greenspace reduce these urban problems.

At Baltimore Tree Trust (BTT), we understand that our tree canopy is not distributed equitably. Some communities have as low as 6% canopy, while others have more than 60%. A lack of trees negatively impacts residents’ health. Therefore, we focus on planting in neighborhoods with the fewest trees to improve public health. In neighborhoods with more mature trees, we still need to proactively plant to replace aging canopy.

BTT abides by the credo, “Right tree, Right place,” which means we carefully select trees that are best suited for specific locations. In past decades, city planners were not as well informed about proper species selection. For example, large trees were planted under low power lines. Many trees were also planted in small tree wells that they quickly outgrew, which caused roots to lift the sidewalk. BTT is working hard to change this narrative and leave a legacy of well-maintained trees for the future.

We plant trees in parks, schools, and on private property, but most often in the public right-of-way (ROW) between the sidewalk and the curb. Our team of site assessors visits each neighborhood block-by-block to determine potential planting locations that are clear of street signs, lights, overhead utilities, or other hindrances that may affect the success of tree growth. Ideal planting locations include tree lawns (grass strips), street tree wells that are 4×8 feet or larger, as well as open green spaces that can accommodate larger species. We collaborate with communities and landowners to determine their priority areas.

It is important to be thoughtful about tree species selection and placement to promote safety, reduce damage to utilities and ensure beauty for years to come. BTT uses a palette of Baltimore City approved trees, most of which are native to the Baltimore region and well adapted to urban growing conditions such as concentrated air & water pollution, compacted soils, extreme heat and vehicle and pedestrian traffic – to name just a few challenges!  Some common species include swamp white oak, sycamore, honey locust, hackberry, sweetgum, American elm and black tupelo. We focus on large canopy trees to reach our 40% goal, but occasionally plant smaller flowering trees in locations with limited growing space.

Our outreach team is committed to raising awareness about upcoming planting projects before we start digging. We aim to share details about our project plans, the many benefits of trees, and offer an opportunity for residents to ask questions or decline a tree. 

First, BTT seeks out contact information for local community organizations and attends association meetings when possible. We send direct mailers to each home on our list via the postal service in advance of our projects. Finally, our outreach team goes door-to-door to speak with residents. If no one is home, we leave a door hanger with more information.

While we encourage feedback during the outreach phase, we cannot always guarantee a specific tree request will be met for trees planted in the public right-of-way. We plant thousands of trees each year and requests are difficult to coordinate. Considering availability and site constraints, our staff of ISA Certified Arborists and trained Neighborhood Foresters will ultimately make decisions regarding species selection.

Yes. While trees planted in the public right-of-way are on city property and under the jurisdiction of the Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks, we still want to give residents the final decision. (Note: Public right-of-way means the area on, below, or above a public roadway, highway, street, bridge, bicycle lane, or sidewalk. Land within the right-of-way is reserved for public use.) 

While we hope that everyone wants to plant some shade in front of their home, we understand that you may not want a new tree at this time. If you would like to decline a tree before it has been planted, please contact us at, notify one of our Neighborhood Foresters before installation, or visit the link below to fill out our Tree Decline Form.

We work diligently to identify residents who do not want a tree during the outreach phase of our projects. If you let us know you do not want a tree in advance, we will not plant one. Once a tree has been planted, however, we are unable to accommodate removals, except in rare extenuating occasions. 

Typically, no. Our planting days are subject to weather and crew availability, and are usually scheduled months in advance. We occasionally host volunteer events throughout the planting season and welcome community members to join. Our newsletter and social media accounts are the best place to find information about upcoming volunteer opportunities.

Our Neighborhood Foresters are committed to regular maintenance for the first two years after planting. This includes staking, watering, mulching, and basic pruning. It takes about two years for a newly planted tree to grow roots and become established in its environment. Our maintenance crews routinely revisits plantings that are under warranty to monitor tree health.

After two years, Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks’ Forestry Division takes over maintenance of the city’s street trees. Learn more at their website here.

BTT will replace any tree that has died within our two-year warranty. Dead trees may be removed at any time of year but we will wait to replant until the spring or fall planting season.

A tree is generally considered dead when ALL of its leaves have turned brown during the growing season (spring or summer) and its branches have become brittle. To know for sure, you can do a very small scratch test with your fingernail in the bark: if you see green, it is still alive. If the inner bark is brown, the tree is most likely dead. It can be more difficult to tell during the winter, so wait until late May after leaf-out to decide. One exception might be a recently planted tree. In some cases, a newly planted tree will lose all its leaves from the shock of being transplanted. It takes approximately six weeks for new leaves to grow. If more than one third of the tree has dead branches, it may need to be replaced. If you notice a dead tree, or have questions about the health of a tree planted by the Baltimore Trust, you can let us know by reaching out to us at

A newly planted tree requires about 20 gallons of water each week between May-October. Rain is only a substitute for watering if we get a one-inch rainstorm or more. Baltimore Tree Trust will care for trees for the first two years after planting, which includes routine watering. However, if Maryland is experiencing a severe drought or you notice browning/wilting/curling leaves or premature fall coloring, this may be an indication that your tree is stressed. You can help a nearby tree by watering it yourself. 

The best way to water newly planted trees is to go slow and allow the water to penetrate deep into the soil. This allows the water to reach 8-12 inches into the ground instead of just wetting the surface. Slow watering encourages deeper root growth, which leads to a more anchored mature tree.

There are several slow drip methods that we recommend including putting your garden hose on low and placing it at the base of the tree trunk for 5-10 minutes (depending on flow rate) or drilling holes in a 5 gallon bucket and refilling it a few times so the water trickles out. You may also consider purchasing products like gator bags or greenwell water savers to install around your tree.

It takes about 2-3 years for most trees to develop the extensive root systems needed to soak up ample rainwater to survive on their own.

Besides watering, mulching is the next best practice you can use to help your tree survive & thrive. Mulch holds moisture in the hot summer, keeps down weeds, and improves soil conditions as it decomposes. 

Always use natural, undyed mulch made from wood chips. When putting the mulch around your tree,  do let it touch the trunk. Mulch should be a maximum of 2-3 inches deep with an open space in the middle. Aim for a mulch donut, not a volcano! A buried tree trunk will start to decay and can limit the lifespan of the tree.

We encourage residents to take ownership of their trees as long as decorations do not cause damage. If you add string lights or tie anything around the trunk, remove or loosen them over time before they get too tight and girdle, or strangle, the tree.

If you build a fence or barrier around the tree bed, leave a gap underneath to make sure rainwater can enter the tree well! Trees cannot absorb rushing stormwater if the tree well is blocked.  Also, avoid building a structure that raises the soil level around the tree trunk.

Tree roots cannot break an intact pipe. Root tips are delicate hairs that are not capable of drilling into anything. Tree roots will only invade sewer lines that have pre-existing cracks. Baltimore’s infrastructure is aging, and many old sewage lines are still made of terra-cotta. When a sewer line breaks or leaks, a tree’s root can grow toward the water and enter the pipe. 

Once your pipe has a crack that a tree root has grown into, removing the tree will not solve the problem. Many people incur the unnecessary expense of removing trees around their property only to find that the problem still exists. The only solution is to replace the lines with watertight PVC or cast iron lines.

If you know your pipes have not been replaced in the recent past, you can have an inspector come out. Repairing pipes before roots enter will save you money and trees their lives! 

The Baltimore City Department of Public Works (DPW) is responsible for maintaining pipes in the public right-of-way. Property owners are responsible for the maintenance of the sewer pipes on their property.

At BTT we are committed to “Right tree, Right place.” The standard size for new street tree wells is now 4×8 feet, which gives the tree a lot more breathing room for the roots than previously mandated. We avoid planting large trees in narrow spaces wherever possible to limit damage to the sidewalk. We follow ADA (American Disabilities Act) standards to ensure that sidewalks are wide enough to accommodate wheelchair users and we aim to make Baltimore accessible for ALL pedestrians. 

If a large mature tree does impact the sidewalk, contact 311 and request that the Footways Division come out and repair the sidewalk. The city will not remove a tree because it conflicts with a sidewalk. If a tree root lifts a sidewalk, the resident is NOT financially responsible for the repair!

The best way to contact us is at Please provide your name, address, and contact information and a member of our team will get back to you as soon as possible.

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