A group of students, smiling and planting a tree on a Baltimore street.

Street Tree Planting: Frequently Asked Questions

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Blue Water Baltimore (BWB) is a small non-profit organization focused on improving water quality in Baltimore. We achieve our mission through restoration, advocacy and education. Our Restoration Team plants hundreds of trees each year across our neighborhoods.

In some cases, trees are requested by community associations or residents. We meet with them to learn their priority locations to plant. We also receive grants to work in specific neighborhoods.

  • Trees save money. A large tree can reduce energy costs by 15-35% by shading your home in the summer and blocking winter wind. 
  • Trees reduce flooding. They slow down rushing rainwater during storms. 
  • Trees are natural air conditioners. They lower temperatures and combat urban heat island effect to make city life livable.  
  • Trees improve our health. They provide oxygen and filter pollutants out of the ground and the air, helping to reduce asthma rates. 
  • Trees increase property values. Tree-lined streets bring beauty to our communities. 
  • Trees are homes. They provide habitat for native wildlife such the Baltimore Oriole!  

BWB is focused on ‘Right tree, right place,” which means that we carefully select tree locations to ensure both the health and well-being of trees and residents. Trees are chosen from the City’s approved street tree list to minimize conflicts with sidewalks and other utilities.

We plant smaller ‘understory’ trees in areas with limited growing space, such as a narrow tree bed or under a power line. When there is more space available, we plant larger shade trees with the goal of increasing our local canopy to 40%, which is recommended for a healthy city. This helps reduce sidewalk damage by placing the right sized tree in the right space.

If a street tree raises the sidewalk, the homeowner is not responsible for the repairs of their sidewalk in Baltimore City.

We plant native species. Native trees are adapted to our climate and soils in Baltimore. They do not require any amendments to survive and provide habitat to native wildlife.

We do not plant fruiting trees on the street to avoid mess on your vehicles and sidewalks.

You choose the type of tree from our list that will be planted in front of your home! Contact us to learn more.

Trees will be planted in front of homes in the “public right-of-way” between the sidewalk and the curb. Depending on your neighborhood, we may cut the sidewalk and remove concrete to create new tree beds. Impervious surface removal reduces flooding in communities!

In other cases, we’ll plant trees in the existing grass strip.

We collect feedback from leaders and residents to determine planting zones. For example, in a recent project in Oliver, our neighborhood contact asked us to focus on greening up Asquith St because it is large, busy gateway into the community and she wanted to slow down speeding traffic. We typically start by downloading data from the Baltimore City Tree Inventory to find open tree beds and grass strips. This map is available online. We survey the blocks to determine which locations are the best for trees. Before digging, BWB works with MISS Utility (811) to mark buried utilities and prevent damage. 

A short, white line painted vertically on the curb is the location of your future tree in a grass strip.

White paint marks on the corners of the sidewalk indicate where we will remove concrete to create a new tree bed. We also add a large stencil that states a new tree is coming. The tree will then be planted in the new tree bed, typically in the middle. Our team came out and painted these to alert both our staff and residents of the exact location.

All other marks show the location of buried utilities. Before we dig, we always call 811 (MISS Utility) to avoid damage to underground infrastructure. Located underground is a complex network of pipes and wires for critical services such as electricity, natural gas, communications, water, sewage and other utilities. Unsafe digging can damage equipment. This is the first, vital step to ensuring we are doing the job safely. Miss Utility will notify BGE and other affected utilities that will then send professional locators to the dig site to mark the exact location of any underground lines.

  • White: Proposed Excavation
  • Pink: Temporary Survey Markings
  • Red: Electric Power Lines, Cables, Conduit and Lighting Cables
  • Yellow: Gas, Oil, Steam, Petroleum, or Gaseous Materials
  • Orange: Communication, Alarm or Signal Lines, Cables or Conduit
  • Blue: Potable Water
  • Purple: Reclaimed Water, Irrigation and Slurry Lines
  • Green: Sewers and Drain Lines

Tree roots will only invade sewer lines that already have breaks or cracks. These openings in the pipes are caused by age – not tree roots. The growing tip of a plant is very tender and is not capable of drilling into an intact pipe.  

When a pipe develops a break and begins to leak, tree roots may enter pipes to take advantage of extra water and nutrients.If a pipe is damaged, removing a tree will not unclog the pipe or stop the leak. The permanent solution for a root-clogged pipe is to replace the defective pipe with a modern watertight PVC pipe. The Baltimore City Department of Public Works (DPW) is responsible for maintaining pipes in the public right-of-way. Therefore, a property owner can submit a 311 request if a street tree’s roots are in your sewer line. DPW will clear that section of your sewer pipe within the right of way. Property owners are responsible for the maintenance of the sewer pipes on their property.  

Yes, briefly. For 1-2 days during tree installation, we ask that residents do not park on the block between 8am-3pm to allow access for equipment to pre-dig holes.We will clean up any remaining soil piles within 1 business day.

6 months before planting:  

  • BWB connects with community organizations and partners to create project plans and incorporate feedback. 

One month before:  

  • Direct mailers are sent to all homes on our list. 

Two weeks before:  

  • BWB staff and community leaders knock on doors, offering residents the opportunity to select their tree species!  
  • We stencil the sidewalk (if removing concrete) or place yard signs (if grass strip) or to alert everyone that “Trees are coming!” 

One week before:  

  • “No Parking” cones are placed 

One day before:  

  • Holes are dug with excavator 

Tree planting events:  

  • BWB staff work with community partners and individuals to plant and water the trees.  Join us! We welcome volunteers of all ages. Join us! Sign up to volunteer at a tree planting this season. Learn more about why we plant trees here.


  • Our staff return to confirm that all trees are planted correctly.
  • BWB maintains newly planted trees for the first 2 years. We water trees regularly in the summers and remove the wooden stakes and Greenwells (the green plastic ring used for watering) after 1-2 years.
  • If possible, after three to five years, we lightly prune trees to improve their structure and health. 
  • We strive for 100% survival rate and will replace any dead trees.  
  • After year 2, Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks’ Forestry Division takes on maintenance of the city’s street trees with four in-house crews and nine contract crews. There are approximately 200,000 street trees in Baltimore City. Maintenance includes pruning and removal of dead trees. Learn more at treebaltimore.org and bcrp.baltimorecity.gov/forestry/faq

Street trees can always use extra TLC from residents! The best love you can give your tree is regular weekly watering in the summer during extreme heat and new mulch each season. Street trees require an average of 20 gallons of water each week. Slow watering is preferred. Always use natural, un-dyed mulch and be sure to leave space around the trunk of the tree or it will rot the bark. Think mulch donut, not mulch volcano!

Learn more about tips and tricks for caring for our trees at our Street Tree Care blog post.

Have questions or concerns?

Contact us at [email protected] or (410) 254-1577 ext. 121