Tiny Trees Program
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Tiny Trees 2020 has been canceled.
Up to five FREE individual trees are made available to City of Des Moines residents each year. Plant TINY TREES this spring to help you increase the value of property in your neighborhood, save on heating and cooling bills, provide oxygen, and create habitat for wildlife.
With this free program, we are making it easier than ever for you to increase our urban tree canopy by planting trees on your property.
Thank you for your help in increasing the urban forestry canopy in Des Moines!
Looking for the Street Tree program? Try here.
River birch (Betula nigra) is a medium-sized tree associated with moist, rich soils along streams, rivers and swampy locations. It is the most common birch native to Iowa. Best planted in full sun, with moist, well-drained soils. Will tolerate a range of soils. River birch trees require a higher soil pH than most landscapes in Iowa provide and develop iron chlorosis, characterized by chartreuse- yellow leaves throughout the summer.
Red oak (Quercus rubra) is a member of the broad red oak group (black, blackjack, pin, northern pin, and shingle). This group is characterized by having bristles or points on the leaf lobes and acorns which mature in two growing seasons and sprout in the spring after maturity. Red oak leaves are simple and arranged alternately on the twig. They are 7 to 11 lobed, and 5 to 9 inches long with slender petioles 1 to 2 inches long. The lobes are usually no longer than one third the total leaf width; the sinuses of the lobes are u-shaped and the tips of the lobes are bristle tipped.
White oak (Quercus alba) is a member of the broad white oak group (white, bur, chinkapin, swamp white, and post oaks). This group is characterized by having rounded lobes on the leaves and acorns which mature in a single growing season and sprout soon after they fall in the autumn. Best growth in moist, well-drained soils. Adaptable to adverse soil conditions.
Inland serviceberry (Amelanchier interior) is known by many names: serviceberry, juneberry, shadbush, shadblow and May cherry. It is a small tree growing to a height of 35 feet under favorable conditions. The serviceberry in the western part of Iowa is usually only shrub-like. The tree flowers in the early spring, and has beautiful, delicate white flowers. It is desirable as an ornamental.
In Iowa the redbud (Cercis canadensis) is a small tree or large shrub with coarse foliage and a spreading, open crown. It is found over most of the eastern half of the United States, and in Iowa it is found mostly in the eastern and southeastern section scattered through existing woodlands. The Redbud is used widely as an ornamental because of the rose-pink flowers which appear early in the spring along the branches before the leaves appear.
The choke cherry (Prunus virginiana) is a small tree with frequently crooked or inclined trunk and a narrow, open, slender-branched head. It is found over most of the state at the edge of woods, in fence rows and waste places. It is a beautiful tree when in flower in the spring, and is a valuable wildlife tree.
Only five evergreens are native to Iowa. They are eastern white pine (Pinus strobus), redcedar, balsam fir, common juniper and yew. Evergreen or conifer trees differ from hardwoods or deciduous trees in that the leaves are needle like and the reproductive organs are borne in cones instead of flowers.
Deciduous Conifer Trees
This stately conifer, native to the Midwest, often is found in groupings in parks and larger spaces, along streets, and around lakes. Unlike most cone-bearing trees, bald-cypress loses its needles each winter and grows a new set in spring. The russet-red fall color of its lacy needles is one of its outstanding characteristics. Hardy and tough, this tree will adapt to a wide range of soil types, whether wet, dry, or even swampy.
In order to protect the health and safety of our residents and our staff, Tiny Trees will not be available for pickup this season.
Plant Care Tips
Before You Plant
You MUST call Iowa One Call before you dig. Call 811 to provide your address, closest major intersection, how you have marked the planting location(s), and where in your yard you intend to plant your Tiny Trees.
- Dig the hole just deep enough to accommodate all roots so they are not bent in the planting hole. As you remove soil, use your shovel to slice and separate soil chunks, making it more granular if possible. If the roots are downward facing, build a cone of soil and straddle the roots over the cone. If the roots are horizontal, gently separate criss-crossing roots prior to backfill.
- The planting depth is important! Set the root flare (the point where the vertical tree trunk begins to bend sideways to form roots) at the final soil grade. A tree planted too deep will not survive. Replace the soil that you loosened earlier, back into the planting hole. When 2/3 full, use water to settle the soil.
- Next, fill the rest of the hole with soil. To catch rain water, use any extra soil to build a circular soil berm around the tree. Apply a two inch covering of wood mulch to keep out weeds and retain moisture. Neither soil nor wood mulch should touch the trunk of the tree.
- Do a final watering, and there you have it. A brand new tree that will grow to provide numerous environmental and economic benefits on your property.
Select a common household object, such as a pint yogurt tub or a quart milk jug, so that you can measure a single (1) pint of water. Plan to gently pour the pint of water at the base of your new tiny tree 2X’s per week all summer long. The slower you pour, the more water gets to the roots instead of the adjacent soil. Add a 3rd watering if there is drought for more than a week. Ask a neighbor to water if you leave home for more than three days. Water is the MOST important resource to keep your new Tiny Trees alive.
Your Tiny Tree will resemble a ‘stick with branches' when you get it, so no pruning is required for the next 5 years. Only remove an occasional broken branch, and try to never break or prune the top of the vertical tree trunk. Placing a two inch thickness of wood mulch at the base of your tree will do 3 things: keep your mower and string trimmer away; retain moisture in the root zone; and keep unwanted weeds away.
Volunteer for Tiny Trees
The Tiny Trees program would not be possible without the help of dedicated volunteers from throughout the Des Moines community. If you are able to help in the future, please email us to let us know you're interested in supporting Tiny Trees.