Tiny Trees Program
The Tiny Trees Program began in Des Moines in 2017 and since then has provided tens of thousands of free trees to Des Moines residents for planting on private property to help Des Moines grow its urban canopy and reap the many benefits that trees provide to our residents like lower heating and cooling costs, increased stormwater retention, increased property values and increased use of the outdoors.
Each Year, Des Moines residents are able to request up to five FREE individual trees from the Forestry Division. See below for a list of this year's available species through the Tiny Trees program.
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.
The following species were available at the Tiny Trees event on May 8, 2021. This list will be updated in early 2022 for the next Tiny Trees event.
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.
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.
The American elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) is a multi-stemmed bush that grows wild throughout the Midwest and can be seen along roadsides and rivers. It thrives in moist areas and can be grown in riparian situations. Similar to aronia berry, elderberry is also referred to as a "superfruit' due to its high level of antioxidants and associated health benefits. However, unlike the aronia berry, elderberry can be eaten right off the bush and has a sweet taste.
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.
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.
For 2021, Tiny Trees were picked up on Saturday, May 8, 2021 at Polk County River Place (2309 Euclid Ave.) between 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Check back in early 2022 for details about the next Tiny Trees pickup date!
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.