A quick heads-up: Note that any specific plants mentioned in this story or any others may be toxic to pets or humans. “Toxic” plants can induce symptoms that range from mild (upset stomach) to severe (possible death). If you have a cat, dog, or kid, make sure you research the plants ahead of time on a reputable site like ASPCA.org, PetPoisonHelpline.org, Poison.org, or by calling your vet or pediatrician.
If you’re thinking of selling your house one day, or maybe you want to liven up your yard by planting a new tree, there are important things to consider before breaking out the shovel. Certain trees come with labor-intensive maintenance, for example, or might inadvertently have you planting invasive species and incurring damage to your property.
“At my first home, there was this massive and beautiful Ginkgo tree that shaded my driveway,” says David Steckel, home expert at Thumbtack. “That tree produced these little orange fruits that would all drop in the span of a week in the fall. If I did not clean them up immediately, they would stain my masonry or worse, my car. If the cold weather came early, it would harden the pulp and that mess would be stuck to my car for the entire winter.”
Steckel advises not planting trees within 10 feet of your home if possible, since some trees have invasive root systems that tend to grow laterally and aggressively like Willows, American Elms, and Silver Maples. These root systems are hydrophilic (water-loving, in other words) and in their search for moisture can invade drains, sewer systems, and lift driveways and sidewalks.
“Another reason to make sure your trees aren’t too close to your home is in case of a fire or drought-prone areas. Some trees like Italian Cypress or Eucalyptus are considered highly flammable,” Steckel says.
When deciding on what kind of tree to plant, it’s worth doing a little research on what kinds to avoid, since one wrong move may deter potential buyers down the road once the tree matures. From Female Ginkgo to Cottonwood trees, here are seven trees homeowners should steer clear of planting.
A beautiful but annoying tree when it comes to maintenance, the Red Oak produces hard-to-clean leaves and acorns. “The tree also produces these little flowers called catkins that when they fall, they’re also quite difficult to clean up,” warns Steckel.
The Silver Maple is a fast-growing shade tree with a shallow root system that can cause turf and concrete issues. “It’s popular with homeowners and contractors who are looking for a fast shade solution in a new development, but it has terribly weak wood due to its fast growth,” says Brian Parker, senior live goods merchant at The Home Depot. “It also doesn’t sustain wind and snow damage well.”
Mulberry trees are known to be messy because their fruit stains just about everything — like your driveway, walkway, porch, or patio. “In addition to the fruit attracting dozens of birds, the Mulberry’s aggressive roots are large and shallow, and routinely cause damage to irrigation systems and house foundations, cracking pavement and upending landscaping,” Parker says.
A Cottonwood tree’s rapid growth leads to a weak wood structure, making it susceptible to limb breakage and damage from storms and wind. “Cottonwood trees are not hardy enough to withstand years of exposure to the elements,” advises Parker. “The trees release fluffy, cotton-like seeds in late spring or early summer that stick to just about anything, and they also continually drop leaves and sticks.”
Parker advises against planting a female ginkgo or “maidenhair tree” in your yard because it will bear small round fruits that are not only slippery and fleshy but emit a very foul odor. However, male Ginkgos are a hardy, easy-care type of tree to have in your yard. “It’s a large shade tree with a very long life due to its resistance to disease and insects, so if you buy a Ginkgo, it’s critical to get the correct sex,” Parker says.
The Bradford Pear is infamously known for its weak branches that can easily break off in severe weather. Parker notes that its flowers smell unappealingly fishy while also being highly invasive, as its thorny seedlings crowd out native plants.
Sweet Gum seed pods or “gumballs” fall in autumn and winter and are very difficult to rake up. “These seed pods have a round, sharp and spiky exterior and the tree’s surface roots can also create issues across the lawn,” Parker says.