Tiny Trees Program
Tiny Trees 2022 Is Over
All the Tiny Trees have been handed out. If you received one, use the above planting instructions and remember the colors sprayed on your trees signifies its species:
White: White Oak
Yellow: River Birch
Purple: Chinkapin Oak
Blue: Wild Plum
No Color: Bald Cypress
Call the Public Works 24-hr Call Center at (515) 283-4950 with questions about the program and look for announcements in February 2023 about Tiny Trees 2023.
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. The pickup day will occur this spring and will be announced soon.
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.
Swamp White Oak
Swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor) 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.
Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) (American planetree, buttonwood, American sycamore, button-ball tree) is one of Iowa's largest trees; it attains diameters of 4-7 feet and heights of over 100 feet. It usually develops into a tree with a long, clear, strong central stem with spreading branches forming an open crown with somewhat sparse foliage. Its unusually large leaves, round seedballs, and mottled bark make it one of the easiest tree to identify. Sycamores grow moderately fast and can grow up to 75 - 100 feet in height. Sycamore has often been planted as a shade or street tree in Iowa because of its fast growth, excellent shade, handsome appearance, and its ability to withstand winds. It has strong wood and lives much longer than many other fast growing trees.
Chinkapin oak (Quercus muehlenbergii) is a native oak which is often not recognized as an oak when first encountered. It does not have lobed leaves like most other oaks; its leaves are toothed like a chestnut. Like all oaks, it does have a cluster of buds at the end of branches. Native over all of Iowa except for the northwest one-quarter of the state, the Chinkapin Oak often matures between 50 - 75 feet in height. Best growth in moist, well-drained soils. Adaptable to adverse soil conditions.
Ornamental Trees (SOLD OUT)
Elderberry (SOLD OUT)
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.
Redbud (SOLD OUT)
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.
Wild Plum (SOLD OUT)
When grown in the open, the common wild plum, (Prunus americana) is a low-branched, rounded tree, but becomes shrubby when grown in thickets or in crowded conditions. It is found throughout the state along fence rows, borders of woods and waste places. It is a valuable wildlife tree. The Wild Plum is a quick-growing tree that reaches a height of 20-30 feet and flowers in early spring (March - May).
Taxodium distichum, commonly called bald cypress, is a long-lived, pyramidal conifer (cone-bearing tree) which grows 50-70' tall. In the deep South, it is a familiar sight growing directly in swampy water, often in large strands, with its branches heavily draped with Spanish moss. Soft, feathery, yellowish-green foliage (1/4" long, flat needles in two ranks) turns an attractive orange/cinnamon-brown in fall. Easily grown in average, medium to wet, moisture retentive but reasonably well-drained soils in full sun.
The Tiny Tree pickup will be on May 14 from 8 a.m. to noon at the Polk County River Place (2309 Euclid Ave). Any additional announcements and information will also be posted on the Des Moines Public Works Facebook account, and the Des Moines Public Works Twitter account.
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.