• Home Home

Homeowner asks advice on keeping tree alive: 'Test your soil before planting another one'

"In 15 years I have killed [five] trees."

"In 15 years I have killed [five] trees."

Photo Credit: iStock

"He who plants a tree, plants a hope," wrote the 19th-century poet Lucy Larcom. Not so for one Arizona homeowner who, in a recent Reddit thread, admitted that maintaining a single living tree had become impossible. 

The Redditor, who resides in Phoenix, Ariz., explained to the r/phoenix subreddit how the local homeowners association requires one tree outside the home. Simple, right? Not quite. "In 15 years I have killed 5 trees," reads the post. "I have no idea what the problem is." 

The trees that met an early demise included three Chinese elms and two purple-leaf plums, noted the post. 

Desperate, the homeowner turned to fellow Redditors for advice, many of whom confessed to their own tree failures. "If you lost a tree last year, don't take it personally … I had an agave die from the stress of summer," one commenter said. (2023 was the hottest U.S. summer on record, as Scientific American noted).

But another Redditor was more alarmed. "If you've lost that many trees in the same spot, I would absolutely test your soil before planting another one," reads the comment. "That is not a normal amount, even with heat."

Commenters on the thread extolled the virtue of native trees, which naturally grow in the region (find your area's native plants here). They can handle local conditions, require less watering and maintenance (a big win for lower-cost landscaping and utility bills), and support nearby animals and plants

"The easiest tree by far is a native tree [because] they just grow here and are 100% designed for this climate, generally speaking," added the agave owner

It's no secret that HOAs can come with arbitrary, bothersome, and often climate-unfriendly regulations, but you (and the environment) aren't doomed to suffer in silence

Research how eco-friendly neighborhood shifts like solar panels, electric-vehicle charging stalls, and native plant lawns enrich community value by reducing costs, beautifying spaces, and minimizing toxic pollution in the air and water — and then approach your HOA with an open mind. Try to educate, listen, and ultimately work together to transform outdated regulations

In the meantime, you can make positive changes of your own from indoors, like choosing energy-efficient appliances, avoiding fast fashion, and supporting reforestation projects to ensure our trees — and, in turn, our hope — can put down roots. 

Join our free newsletter for easy tips to save more, waste less, and help yourself while helping the planet.

Cool Divider