Month: March 2024

Can a Shade Tree Lower Your Energy Bill?

Green leaves on a tree with the text, "Can a Shade Tree Lower Your Energy Bill?"

Can strategic landscaping really lower your energy use (and bill)? 

According to My Florida Home Energy (from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services)  homeowners can save money by planting deciduous trees, which provide shade in the summer months but drop their leaves in the cooler months, allowing the sun to still provide heat to the home.  

Sound worth your time? Here are our best shade tree tips for cooling your home and lowering your energy bill. 

Choosing the Right Shade Trees 

When looking to provide shade for your home, the type of trees you plant matter. Choose deciduous trees that provide dense foliage in the summer to block sunlight but allow sunlight through in the winter when they shed their leaves. It’s also important to be mindful of the mature size of the trees you choose. You’ll want to plant trees far enough away from your home to avoid potential damage from roots and branches as they grow to their full size.   

Don’t have the space or resources for trees? You can also plant shrubs and vines that grow against the walls of your home to help block out the sun and its warming effects. 

What Type of Shade Do You Need? 

Before you begin landscaping, consider your home and goals. How much cooling is needed? Are you looking to cool windows, a sunroom or glass doors?   

My Florida Home Energy recommends considering whether you are looking to provide active or passive cooling. What’s the difference?  

Passive Cooling

Passive cooling allows shrubs and trees to provide gentle cooling breezes toward your home. It’s ideal for homes that use minimal air conditioning for cooling. To take advantage of passive cooling you may want to try these tips: 

  • Remove low tree branches to allow for maximum air movement. 
  • Ensure window-shading plants are located away from the home. 
  • If you’re using shrubs primarily for “low” shade, choose plant species with small leaves and an open branching pattern.

Active Cooling

Active cooling, on the other hand, diverts warm breezes away from your home. It’s a better option for homes that rely largely on A/C for cooling. To make the most of active cooling, here are a few strategies to consider: 

  • Use low-branching trees to protect windows from air movement. 
  • Create dead air space along the walls that face the summer winds. This insulates the home and cuts down warm air infiltration. 
  • In north Florida, use deciduous shrubs on south-facing sides to allow passive solar heating of the walls in the winter. 

Shade Tree Placement 

Now that you’ve created a cooling plan, it’s time to determine where your trees will be planted. Plant trees on the south and west sides of your home to provide maximum shade during the hottest parts of the day, particularly in the afternoon when the sun is most intense.  

Shade trees can also be strategically placed near windows, patios and outdoor living areas to reduce heat gain indoors and create comfortable outdoor spaces. Space trees strategically to ensure proper airflow and prevent overcrowding. This allows for healthy growth and prevents competition for resources among trees.   

My Florida Home Energy recommends providing shade for your AC unit, while being mindful not to block air circulation around the area or cause debris to fall on the unit. 

Shade Tree Maintenance 

Knowing how to provide proper care for your shade trees over time can ensure you are getting the best results from your investment. You’ll want to plant trees in well-drained soil and water them regularly, especially during the first few years of establishment. Apply a layer of mulch around the base of newly planted trees to retain moisture and suppress weeds. Next, prune trees as needed to maintain their shape and remove dead or damaged branches.  

Be patient and plan for the long-term growth of your shade trees. While it may take several years for newly planted trees to provide significant shade, the energy-saving benefits will be worth the wait. 

Trust the Tree Experts 

Whatever your landscaping goals are for your Tallahassee home, the expert team at Miller’s Tree Service is here to help. We’re your local tree experts providing inspection, mitigation, trimming and pruning. We provide afree consultationwith acertified arboristto evaluate the overall health of your trees, identify any structural problems and diagnose any pests and/or diseased trees.   

Contact ustoday to get started.   

How to Prune a Crape Myrtle: Tallahassee Tree Tips

How to Prune a Crape Myrtle

Crape myrtle trees are a popular landscape staple in the Big Bend area. Vibrant blooms combined with interesting bark patterns make this deciduous tree gorgeous year-round. Most varieties lend themselves to having the classic vase-like shape with multiple trunks and strong branches arching outwards, but how to prune them correctly is an issue of debate to ensure their blooms are at full strength the next summer. One step everyone can agree on is that January through March is the perfect time for pruning crape myrtles in the Big Bend area. 

Following these seven steps will go a long way toward keeping your crape myrtle healthy and thriving. 

You may enjoy the newly pruned view so much this season that adding a few more varieties to your landscape becomes a goal. We have included a few of our favorite crape myrtles for inspiration! 

Pruning Tips

1.  Begin with a goal in mind. Most experts suggest well-spaced main trunks with the center open enough for good air circulation. Identify your first group of branches to trim and then stop to reassess after the initial pruning. You can always go through with a second or third round of fine-tune pruning. 

2.   It is best to prune your crape myrtle in a certain order, making sure to cut back to a larger branch or to one of the trunks. Do not leave stubs sticking out. 

  • Start with the suckers coming up from around the base of the tree. Cut them back to the ground. 
  • Cut back branches growing inward that obstruct the flow of air. 
  • Prune any dead branches or ones that are rubbing against another. 
  • Remove any branches that detract from the overall shape and appearance of the tree. 
  • If the tree is 5 feet or taller, begin pruning side branches growing from the main trunks. As the tree matures, this will include branches up to at least 4 feet and more – giving room for walking or mowing without the risk of running into a branch. 

One of the best features of crape myrtles is their flexibility of shape. If you start trimming and then realize a few branches would have been better off left alone – no problem. Crape myrtles naturally fill in with smaller limbs during the growing season. As long as you keep the middle open for air circulation and suckers pruned at the ground, your crape myrtle will carry on with new leaves and showy flowers. 

Adding More Myrtles to the Mix

When the crape myrtles are in bloom around Tallahassee it’s easy to imagine adding more color to your landscape. With colors and sizes to match about any plan or space, the difficulty is often in deciding which crape myrtle to plant. To help narrow down the possibilities, measure out the proposed planting area. Consider not only the measurements of how wide the tree will grow, but also how tall. Will it get plenty of sun? Will it cast the right amount of shade?

We are including a crape myrtle infographic below of a few favorites seen around Tallahassee. If you have questions about placement or varieties, contact a certified arborist for guidance.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I prune my crape myrtle in the summer or fall? It’s generally not recommended to prune crape myrtles during the summer or fall, as this can stimulate new growth that may be susceptible to cold damage in winter. Late winter or early spring pruning is ideal.  

How do I prune a crape myrtle to encourage more blooms? Crape myrtles bloom on new wood. To encourage more blooms, lightly prune the tree after it finishes flowering. Remove spent flower clusters and any dead or weak branches.  

What tools do I need to prune my crape myrtle? Use sharp pruning shears or loppers for smaller branches and a pruning saw for larger cuts. Ensure that your tools are clean and properly maintained to make clean cuts.  

Can I prune crape myrtles into a specific shape, such as a ball or square? It’s best to maintain the natural form and shape of the trees. Avoid shaping them into unnatural forms, as this can stress the tree and detract from its natural beauty.  

Trust the Experts

At Miller’s Tree Service, we have certified arborists that can help care for your trees. 

If you have a tree creating too much shade it may be time to put a pruning plan in place for your larger trees. Contact us online here or call 850.894.TREE (8733) to schedule an arborist assessment. As a locally owned Tallahassee business we are invested in keeping Tallahassee trees looking their best!