Updated: Nov 5
As the rainy season approaches, many gardeners get busy and start thinking about revitalizing our gardens. Plant nurseries are bustling with sales, and landscapers are stocking up for upcoming projects.
Trees play a crucial role in any garden, but unfortunately, we often don't give them enough thought before planting. We tend to prioritize fast growth over other considerations. As you plan your garden, you need to think about how to integrate trees into you garden design and also plan around maintenance and succession.
In this article we have tried to answer some of the frequently asked questions that people ask when it comes to planting trees. Hopefully this will help you in your tree planting this rainy season.
Where to buy trees in Zambia
There are several indigenous tree nurseries in Zambia as well as other growers who specialise in different more exotic & fruit trees.
Trees for Zambia - specialists in indigenous trees
Palm View Nursery - specialists in palms and hibiscus
Rose Garden Nursery - has a variety of trees including palms and an interesting range of conifers
Sandy's Creations Garden Centre - has a variety of trees indigenous and fruit trees
Plant-a-million - has a variety of trees indigenous and fruit trees
Rainlands Nursery - Ndola - have a good selection of indigenous trees
Palm Farm Nursery - Kabwe - have an interesting selection of fruit trees
The good thing about buying your trees from a nursery is the staff should be able to advise you on the care of the tree. Where possible select plants that have been grown in Zambia, rather than imported as these will be more acclimatised to the range of weather we get here. There are also many informal growers and nurseries who advertise online and these also can offer good specimens.
How big will the tree will grow? Trees planted too near the house can be a danger in several ways, either with branches damaging windows or roofs, or the roots lifting the house as they grow thicker and spread under the foundation. it may take decades for the tree to reach it's full size but you have to think that far ahead. Remember that trees can drop branches or fall over in heavy winds so do try to plant them where they can't do too much damage should that happen.
How much water do trees need? - most trees once mature will have developed enough of a tap root to find water even in the drier months, however some trees like eucalyptus and jacaranda take up a huge amount of water during the day. Try create a catchment basin area of about at least a metre in each direction where water can soak into the ground to the roots of the tree.
Does it have edible fruits? are a bonus but as much as we enjoy them, they can be a nuisance if they drop too much fruit on the ground so it rots and attracts flies, small animals also enjoy eating them so you may find the tree becomes a home for bats or birds. For example, mangos and guavas are easy to grow trees and provide abundant fruit, but if the fruit is allowed to fall, rot it can become quite unsightly.
What trees can I plant near my house?
Maintain the indigenous trees - usually we remove the trees that are already in the area and replace them with younger ones. We have to realise that the average tree is at least 10 years old before it will give meaningful shade so protect those that are already established. Popular choices for trees are:
Crotons - these are relatively fast growing and the leaves have lovely silvery underside even in the dry season.
Trichilia - is a fast growing indigenous tree which grows in most parts of Zambia. It is evergreen and low maintenance and so is an easy choice for urban spaces.
Palms - these are popular and easily available in Zambian plant nurseries however. These are popular because this is the quintessential low water plant, although some palms are from tropical areas and may actually struggle in our climate. Generally, their roots are not destructive and so it can grow in smaller gardens. They can drop coconuts which near the house can pose a safety hazard. Avoid Alexandra palms and King Palms as their roots can be quite destructive.
What not to plant near your house
It's important to be cautious about what you plant near your house.
Avoid ficus trees (including the popular ficus benjamina, ficus lyrata, ficus elastica) , as they are rapid growers which can grow to over 20m tall, but can be invasive, potentially damaging foundations, pipes, and sewage systems. Ficus are popular as indoor plants which is fine as their roots are contained and cannot do much damage.
Although acacia trees are stunning, with their greenish grey bark, delicate leaves and umbrella shape, steer clear of acacia trees near the house due to their thorns, which can be a nuisance in your garden
How do I plant a young tree?
Young trees do require a bit of Tender Loving Care for the first few years in order for them to become established, even if you plant them in the rainy season, they may still require watering for months after that.
Doing your research will help you make informed choices when selecting trees for our gardens, ensuring they not only enhance the aesthetics but also coexist harmoniously with our homes and provide the desired benefits like shade and fruit.