Planting Trees in Tallahassee for Arbor Day and Beyond

planting tree

Arbor Day is both a national and state holiday. Nationally, Abor Day falls on the last Friday of April – April 29 this year. The state holiday coincides with the optimum tree planting time – meaning the third Friday in January for Florida. With proper planning and follow-up care, every day can be a good day for planting trees in Tallahassee and growing roots in North Florida.

A Short History of Arbor Day

Known for his enthusiasm of trees, former newspaper editor J. Sterling Morton spread his message of valuing trees as secretary of the Nebraska Territory. In 1972 he proposed a holiday he called “Arbor Day” be established by the Nebraska State Board of Agriculture. According to, “The celebration date was set for April 10, 1872. Prizes were offered to counties and individuals for the largest number of properly planted trees on that day. It was estimated that more than 1 million trees were planted in Nebraska on the first Arbor Day.”

Considering the Nebraska Territory was known for unending plains and dust, establishing the trees was a practical solution to providing windbreaks and helping to reduce soil erosion. Today, all 50 states celebrate Arbor Day as well as numerous countries around the world including Australia. Iceland and New Zealand.

Abor Day in Tallahassee

Late January in North Florida is considered an optimal time for tree planting due to cooler temperatures with slightly above-average rainfall. This combination means the trees are less likely to suffer from heat stress and drought, enabling root growth rather than leaf or flower production. Most Tallahassee Arbor Day celebrations are on or around the third Friday in January, so mark your calendar for 2023. Until then, it’s still a great idea to plant trees with the proper planning for location, soil prep and follow-up care.

Location, Location, Location

The repetitive words apply to both real estate and choosing the right spot for planting trees in Tallahassee. Just like not buying the first house you see, picking the right tree and location is better accomplished with information and planning. Do you need shade on part of your house or a low spot in the lawn that collects rainwater? Those are perfect scenarios for a tree planting solution.

I Need Shade on My House!

Determine which side of the house you are concerned with – south, east, or west? Eastern exposure gives you the morning sunlight, western exposure gives you the sunset. If you still want the heat of the sunset in fall and winter, but not in the summer, then consider a deciduous tree that drops its leaves in the fall. For a larger yard consider a maple or catalpa tree or for smaller yards crape myrtle and eastern redbuds can be your best solution.

If you want year-round shade, investigate the different evergreens that grow well in the Tallahassee area. For large yards consider southern magnolia and longleaf pines or for smaller yards yaupon holly and camellias. All of them need to be planted the proper distance from the house to allow for full-size tree diameter and height. The University of Florida has put together an easy-to-use guide for North Florida trees available by clicking here.

TIP: If you want flowering trees, native trees or a tree that will tolerate that low spot in your lawn, the guide mentioned above provides that information as well.

Tree Planting is Different

Once you have located the best spot for your new tree, dig the hole 1.5 to 2 times wider than the root ball. Going a little wider loosens the soil and allows for faster root growth, especially important in higher wind locations. To measure the depth of the hole, locate the topmost root to the bottom of the root ball.  Note that the topmost root will need to be above the soil level once planted.

Move the tree (always maneuver the tree using the pot, not the trunk) to the edge of the hole, removing inorganic material such as plastic from around the root ball. Examine the topmost roots, even if it requires brushing away a layer of dirt. If any of the top roots are kinked or circling the trunk or container, cut them off at the base of the trunk. Otherwise, these roots run the risk of “girdling,” wrapping around the growing trunk and eventually killing the tree. Use the remaining top roots as your guide for the depth of planting.

After the tree is in the hole, make sure the trunk is standing as upright as possible. Use a level if needed. Backfill with previous dirt and any soil left from the nursery pot and from the soil. When the hole is half full of soil, water the area to remove air and hydrate the roots. Finish filling the hole to ground level with the top roots exposed, allowing them to breathe. Double-check the tree is not leaning. Finish watering the area thoroughly.

Your final act of planting is mulching with plant-based materials. Use enough mulch for a 2- to 3-inch coverage around the tree, leaving the top of the root ball bare. The mulch keeps evaporation down, providing much-needed moisture to new roots growing out from the tree.

Water is Life for a Tree

  • Weeks 1- 2: Water the root ball daily.
  • Weeks 3-8: Water every other day.
  • Weeks 9-12: Water once a week
  • Water less often in winter or if you have poorly draining soils.

Regular watering assures your tree has the hydration it needs to keep roots, leaves and new growth going. Even in the colder months, water matters. During hibernation, trees focus on root growth to help support trunk growth and foliage in the coming spring and summer.

Feeding and Trimming Matter

For most trees, wait six months to apply a light feeding of slow-release fertilizer. Anything more and you run the risk of damaging new root growth. Lightly spread or broadcast the fertilizer under the drip line of the tree canopy, keeping away from the trunk. Once established, most trees are fine on their own, with the exception of citrus and palms. Talk to your local nursery or arborist for specifics.

Pruning does not occur the first year your tree is in your yard. In the following years, follow specific pruning instructions for the specific tree species. Common practices include cutting close to the trunk at an upward angle and avoiding the use of tree wound paints after trimming.

At Miller’s Tree Service we think every day is tree day. Helping to plant and trim healthy trees is always a pleasure. As arborists, we also assess trees that are at the end of their life cycle or pose a danger to structures. We are grateful for the opportunity to provide full-service tree care and landscape services around the Big Bend.

As Arbor Day is a holiday for planting trees for the future, so are we and our families firmly rooted in the Tallahassee and area communities.

Azaleas in Tallahassee – Perfect Spring Color Under Your Trees

Azaleas in bloom – our local Tallahassee sign that spring is here. The bursts of red, white and pink are often a splash of color under or around trees, taking advantage of much-needed shade. While new varieties offer new colors and bloom seasons, the best practices on planting, pruning and general care remain the same. Let’s explore how to have the healthiest and happiest (more blooms) azaleas in your Tallahassee neighborhood!

Azaleas Thrive in Companion Planting with Trees

While some of the new varieties of azalea have more sun tolerance, many favorites are what our parents and their parents planted – shade-loving shrubs. A classic southern location for azaleas is under the shade of larger trees, gathered in groups or planted as a surround for the tree trunks. Whether the tradition of pairing shade trees and azaleas sprung from practicality or whimsy, the results provide a perfect balance for your spring bloomers.

When planning where to plant azaleas, be sure to measure back at least 10 feet from tree trunks. Planting closer to the trunk creates competition for nutrients and water between the tree and new shrubs. As the roots grow on both azaleas and trees, the risk of root binding is another reason to give each their own zone.

#1: Plant azaleas 10 feet away from tree trunks.

Pines and Oaks are an Azalea’s Best Friend

Azaleas like acidic soil and prefer indirect light. Pine and oak trees are both tall with varying amounts of foliage throughout their canopies and limbs. The pH from pine needles and oak tannins combined with dappled lighting provide azaleas close to perfect conditions for growing. Tip: Avoid planting azaleas near black walnut trees. Exposure to juglone, a compound specific to the walnut family, is toxic to many plants. Azaleas struggle when planted within the dripline of a black walnut tree.

#2: Pines, oaks and azaleas are happy companions.

Azaleas are Thirsty – but Tolerant

In the first year of planting, azaleas need two good soakings a week during warm weather, three times a week in drought conditions. Azaleas like to get their roots wet, but they do not like soggy ground. Most of our Tallahassee-area yards have enough sand in the soil that drainage is not an issue. After the first year, azaleas are drought tolerant – look for signs of stress and water appropriately during long dry spells to keep them thriving.  Tip: Azaleas need about an inch of water a week after the first year.

#3: Keep your azaleas moist under mulch, but not soggy.

How Proper Pruning of Azaleas is Different

Azalea blooms appear on old wood – meaning they need to be pruned right after the blooming season ends. Not mid-summer, and not in the fall like so many other plants. By that time, next year’s blooms have already set on the stems from spring. Pruning later in the year won’t damage the azalea, but you will not have blooms the next year.

#4: Prune azaleas after blooming season ends.

Azaleas Like to Breathe

Azaleas are like other shrubs and trees in the fact that air circulation through the branches is healthier. Ideally, there are no branches rubbing against each other or dead limbs attracting pests. If there are a few overgrown limbs and smaller shoots that need to be pruned, a handheld bypass pruner works great on live wood, helping to tidy up the shape of your azaleas. TIP: Use loppers for wood thicker than a half-inch.

#5: Tidy up crowded areas and remove dead limbs.

What to do When Your Azalea is having a Bad Hair Day

If your once-shapely azaleas look like they stuck a limb in the closest outdoor outlet, partial prunes are the way to go. This is necessary when some branches have shot up or outwards from the main shrub, causing potential rubbing or breakage issues. It’s best to grab your longer-handled loppers so you can easily prune the wayward branches 6 to 12 inches up from the ground. Try to prune at a natural point on the branch, leaving some leaves on the shoot. Plan on cutting back a third of the azalea for three consecutive years to have all newer wood and a healthier shrub. NOTE: Because you are cutting a live branch back so far, this prune should take place in winter.

#6: To bring wayward azaleas back to shape, trim one-third of the branches back for three years.

Your Azaleas Need a Total Makeover

Azaleas left on their own will grow to the size their cultivar and conditions allow. When partial pruning is not enough, the alternative is to cut the whole shrub back to 12 inches above the ground. Known as rejuvenation pruning, this more drastic measure will leave a hole in your landscaping, with no blooms the following year. Plan for rejuvenation pruning to occur in late winter, which means January and February are your best months in Tallahassee. The azalea will branch back out, setting buds in late spring for the next year.

#7: Rejuvenation pruning helps overgrown and scraggly azaleas back into shape.

When it is Time to Plant Anew

Azaleas are part of the Rhododendron family, originating in parts of China and Japan. A Chinese province claims having a 262-year-old azalea with a 28-inch diameter trunk! Azaleas can live 25 years in well-maintained landscapes, with some making it 35 to 50 years in optimal conditions.

If you have tried rejuvenation pruning without good results, it may be due to the age of the azaleas. If they have reached the end of their growing years, think of this as an opportunity to refresh the soil and plan the exact colors and placement you’ve always wanted for your azalea landscape!

#7: Azaleas thrive for an average of 25-35 years in well-maintained landscapes.

Azaleas are a Tallahassee favorite whether planted in the shade of your trees or as a hedge along your fence. The newer repeat bloom and evergreen varieties open opportunities to add azaleas to areas previously too sunny. But we’ll always be partial to the charm of azaleas in full bloom under the shade of southern oaks.

At Miller’s Tree Service, we often help our clients with the care of their azaleas, trimming and fertilizing or removing old shrubs to make way for new plants.

Our certified arborists can answer your questions about azaleas, crape myrtles and more while on-site. 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!


Proper Pruning: Crape Myrtles in the Tallahassee Area

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. January thru March are the perfect time for pruning crape myrtles in the Big Bend area.

Following the seven simple steps outlined in this article 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 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 own 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 often around Tallahassee. If you have questions about placement or varieties, contact a certified arborist for guidance.

At Miller’s Tree Service we have certified arborists that can be a part of your crape myrtle care measures.

If you have a sweet gum 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!

Why Mitigation Matters

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Miller’s Tree Service specializes in tree removal, but our services also include tree mitigation. Mitigation is the process of planting healthy trees to compensate for the removal of dead or dying trees. It usually occurs when someone decides to build a house on a plot of land with many trees. When done correctly, the size and species of the removed trees must be considered, and a healthy amount of replacement trees must be planted. 

Mitigation is an extremely vital part of the tree removal process. Without it, an environment may have a drastic negative change after the removal of any number of trees. While it is common knowledge that trees and greenery reduce the levels of carbon dioxide in the air, they actually do so much more. Trees may also be used to cool homes with their shade or act as a barrier between buildings and the surrounding environment. In addition to benefiting the environment, these actions benefit building owners by saving them money on electric and air conditioning bills. 

If you are considering adding tree mitigation to your tree removal process, it is extremely important that you discuss it with a professional contractor or arborist. Although it may not seem like it, mitigation is more than planting saplings in your yard. Professionals are required to assess your tree removal process and determine the best way to replace any removed trees healthily . An attempt to tree mitigate a property by yourself may lead to more damage than help. If you’re interested in tree mitigation services, give our team at Miller’s Tree Service a call today.

Transplanting Nursery Saplings

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Are you interested in planting a new tree in your yard? Before you do, it is important that you ensure the tree can be transplanted successfully! A recurring problem that comes with purchasing saplings from a nursery is circling and girdling roots. This is the result of having the said tree remain in the container for too long. Naturally, roots keep extending outward to increase the maximum amount of water and nutrients and to support the tree from tipping over. However, being in a container forces the roots of a tree to circle around the wall. There are methods you can take before and after purchasing a tree to ensure it has a healthy and long life.

To start, the first suggestion is to remove the tree from a container and inspect the roots of a tree you seek to purchase. While the roots support the base of the tree, they are also in charge of absorbing nutrients and water. Regardless if you transplant a tree with circling roots into Earth’s soil, the problem of circling roots will persist because that is how they have been conditioned to grow.

On top of providing less support to the tree, circling roots strangle the tree. This stuns development for the tree. In the worst cases of circling roots, stem girdling roots form. Stem girdling roots are roots which grow up and over the root flare and base of the trunk. These crossing roots will cut off the conductive tissue below the bark causing part of the tree to decline and branches to die. The carbohydrates produced in the foliage cannot be moved into the roots and the affected roots can die. Because the stem girdling roots block conductive tissue, water and nutrients absorbed by the fine roots cannot move into the upper part of the tree. Therefore, branches in the crown can starve and die.

If circling roots are small, about less than ⅛ in diameter, it is not much of a problem. Often circling roots can be fixed by pruning the roots to recondition the way they grow, however the treatment is not always successful. If there are too many roots which circle around, it is best to pick a different tree.

All About Pollen

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Many of us start sneezing and getting watery-eyed when it comes to spring. We all know the cause of these symptoms, and it is pollen. In spring, male trees have to pollinate the female trees, which is their form of reproduction. So while this may be a nuisance for us, we can see why this is important to have so life keeps going.

Around 375 million years ago, plants evolved to produce pollen to help spread their seed and population across landmass. This process helped plants and animals get to where they are today. Without an abundant amount of trees, we would have a less diverse and robust ecosystem of plants and animals. We should also keep in mind that these plants provide us with a much needed supply of oxygen.

Plants evolved to pollinate so they can disperse their seed through the air. Initially, plants would rely on flowing bodies of water and animals to move the male seed to the female. Depending on water supply and animal population in an ecosystem, oftentimes plants would remain in a small area because there would be nothing to take them any further. However, with pollen, plants gained a chance to disperse on a greater scale.

Plants began to take advantage and use winds to increase the travel distance of their seeds. If we look around our forests today, we can see how effective this evolutionary trait is. Plants produce a lot of pollen because it is usually hit or miss, so with more pollen comes a greater chance to successfully fertilize.

Coniferous plants, which include pines, cedars, and redwoods are the most wide spread pollen producers, which rely on winds to do most of the job for them. Deciduous plants, like birch, oak, and maple trees use animals to help pollinate their seed. These different trees contain different proteins in their pollen. These pollen proteins when exposed to us can trigger our immune systems to go into overdrive mode. Everyone has an individual sensitivity to pollen, so depending where you are, you may be more or less affected by this allergy.

Should You Prune Your Trees?

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Pruning trees can be a controversial topic in the arboriculture world; when and when not to prune, which trees need pruning, how it should be done.  In general, we prune plants or trees to control their size, to produce a desirable shape, to increase vigor, and to increase flowering and fruiting.  However, experienced arborists and gardeners will tell you the best time to prune is whenever it is necessary – any time of the year!  The best rule of thumb is to not prune trees and shrubs during active growth.   The worst time to prune is when new leaves are first forming.  The best time to prune most trees and shrubs is during their dormant period, which is from December to February for most trees in Florida, just prior to bud formation in late winter.   

Dense Branches

There’s nothing wrong with a big, bushy tree. Or is there? When a storm or hurricane blows through town you want it to be able to blow through your tree branches as well. Leaving a tree unpruned could be dangerous to the tree and to your home if it catches too much wind. Consider pruning trees that you can’t see through the branches from the base of the tree, and you may save yourself some serious damage.

Dead Weight

Dead or dying branches should always be removed if they are over a house or driveway or an area that receives a lot of traffic, however, in some cases it is okay to leave dead limbs to fall on their own if they are in a natural area that does not receive much traffic. It is natural for trees to shed limbs, much like people shed hair, and in many cases it does not mean the tree is in decline. If a tree has more dead limbs than live ones, then it would be a great candidate for removal. If you are unsure if your tree has too many dead limbs, set an appointment with one of our arborists to assess your tree and help you decide if removing it or pruning it is best for its future.  

Wandering Branches

While your tree may be in a good spot, where it’s branches grow may be another story. When branches start approaching telephone poles and power lines, it’s time to prune. They may not pose an immediate threat, but it’s best to tackle the problem before it becomes a problem!  You also do not want tree limbs getting close to your house.  They can cause expensive damage to your roof or siding, when a simple pruning could have saved you hundreds of dollars.  

Some of these branches can be pruned by yourself fairly easily, but some branches require professionals to deal with them. If your trees seem to be getting a little out of control or potentially dangerous, contact Miller’s Tree Service for a free estimate and consultation. We’ll determine the best course of action and remove all potentially harmful branches.


Beautifying Your Yard

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Miller’s Tree Service isn’t just about removing dangerous trees or fallen limbs. We understand that tree care is also an important job that can benefit many people! Ever notice how your yard looks a lot different than when you first moved into your house? Maybe it looked cleaner or less overgrown. We can help restore your yard to its former glory!

There’s a lot more to your yard than your lawn. Grass is the most noticeable thing when it comes to overgrowth, but what about branches, underbrush, and vines? In Tallahassee, a lot of property is surrounded by trees. Trees separating you from the neighbors behind you, on the sides, and maybe your house from the street. But what happens when you don’t regularly have someone like Miller’s help keep it in check? Trees and bushes grow, vines cover places they didn’t previously, and you start losing your yard to what used to be neatly carved nature!

Often times this can be the result of new trees. Acorns fall, sprout out of the grown, and pretty soon you’ve got a sizeable tree where there was once clean space. Because this happens close to other growth, it often goes unnoticed! Without the tools and time, you’re helpless to the encroaching wilderness. This is where Miller’s Tree Service can help. It’s a lot easier to remove a sapling than a tree with it’s roots grown firmly in the ground!

If you notice this happening to your yard, call Miller’s so we can work our magic. You’ll not only take back a part of your property once claimed by overgrowth, but it will look even better than it did when you first moved in. Remember, we’ll go out on a limb, for YOU!

The History of the Christmas Tree

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Unlike flowers, it’s not very common to see a tree in someone’s house. Unless it’s December of course! Trees require a lot of resources and space which make them poor house plants, and unless it’s of the Christmas variety, a tree in your house is probably not a good thing. So what brought about this tradition and how has it evolved. For this special entry in the blog, we’ll be talking about the history of this famous fir.

So what is a Christmas tree? You may be surprised to know there are many different kinds, but they all fall under the category of “evergreen conifer”, including fir, pine, and spruce trees. Basically anything trimmable into that desireable triangular shape is used around the world as a Christmas tree! As plants are regional, where you live may decide what type of fir or spruce you’re getting.

How did the tradition originate? Like many holiday traditions the Christmas tree has pagan roots. Seen as a symbol for life, trees were worshipped by many ancient civilizations. Other than their symbolic comfort, we start to recognize where certain traditions related to the tree originate with Medieval “mystery plays”. One such play, performed on the name day of Adam and Eve on December 24th, the tree is identified as the “tree of paradise”. It is decorated with apples similar to that of the tree in the Garden of Eden. These ornamental apples were later replaced with shiny red balls we now typically see on trees. In the 16th century it is said that Martin Luther would light candles on these trees, which would later be replaced with Christmas lights. Because of this, Christmas trees were considered a Protestant custom, until it’s widespread popularity outside of Germany freed it of it’s denominational roots in other parts of the world.

This was largely due to influential figures and families adopting the tree’s use. When Queen Victoria married the German Prince Albert they brought the tradition to the wealthier middle class, interested in escaping the cold industrial revolution to a simpler time of familial bonding. This was introduced to Victoria as a child by her grandmother, German-born Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Her association with the tree and the presents as a little girl made it a permanent Christmas custom for the royal family. This resulted in the first advertisements for “Christmas Trees” as a product for sale. This drove demand for all classes to take part in decorating and placing presents under the tree.

The Christmas tree was just too good of an idea to fail. Combined with other traditions from around Europe, the Christmas holiday eventually became a melting pot of rituals centered around Christianity that most people in America celebrate regardless of whether they’re religious or not. Presents, stockings, Santa Claus, decorated trees, all culminating in a bright point for the cold winter. The tree’s comforting nature and seasonal spirit has cemented it in western culture, something adults and children both appreciate for similar reasons.