Tree Care Resources

What can you do to help our urban forest?

Palo Alto residents play an important role in maintaining our Urban Forest. Much of the urban forest is made up of private trees that are planted outside the city right of way. These trees are an important part of the urban landscape and proper care from property owners can help keep our forest strong. Below you will find recommendations and resources that will help you care for both the private trees on your property and the public trees in the right-of-way in front of your property. 

Instructional young tree-care brochure (Canopy)

Post Storm Tree Care

The following provides essential information on assessing and correcting storm damage to private property trees, helping to ensure the safety and resiliency of our neighborhoods.

  1. Assessing Tree Damage: After a storm, it's crucial to assess the damage to trees in your area. Here are some steps to follow:
    • Safety first: Keep a safe distance from downed power lines, broken branches, or hanging limbs.
    • Visual inspection: Examine the tree for broken or damaged limbs, leaning, or uprooted root systems.
    • Tree condition: Evaluate the overall health of the tree, checking for decay, disease, or other pre-existing conditions that could compromise its stability.
    • Seek professional help: If you are uncertain about a tree's condition or safety, consult a certified arborist for a comprehensive assessment.
  2. Correcting Tree Damage: Once damage has been assessed, follow these guidelines to correct it safely and effectively:
    • Pruning: Remove broken, damaged, or hazardous branches using proper pruning techniques. Avoid over-pruning, as it can cause additional stress to the tree.
    • Structural support: If a tree is leaning or has a weakened structure, cabling or bracing may be necessary to provide support and prevent further damage. Consult with a certified arborist if you suspect your tree requires structural support.
  3. Post-Storm Tree Care: To help your private property trees recover, follow these tips:
    • Watering: Ensure that trees receive adequate water, especially during periods of drought.
    • Mulching: Apply organic mulch around the base of the tree to conserve moisture, moderate soil temperature, and suppress weeds.
    • Fertilizing: Consult a professional to determine the appropriate fertilizer and application method for your tree's specific needs. Many trees may not require fertilization.
    • Monitoring: Regularly inspect your trees for signs of disease, pest infestations, or further damage.
  4. Strengthening Our Urban Forests: To build resilience and mitigate the impact of future storms, consider these strategies:
  • Tree removal: In some cases, tree removal may be the only option for severely damaged or hazardous trees. Always consult a professional for this process. If the damaged tree is a protected status tree a tree removal permit may be required, please notify the Urban Forestry Section at 
  • Debris disposal: Properly dispose of fallen branches and debris to ensure the safety of your community and prevent the spread of disease or pests.
  • Diverse species selection: Plant a variety of tree species with different strengths and weaknesses to create a more resilient urban forest.
  • Proper planting: Plant trees at the correct depth and spacing to promote healthy root development and reduce the risk of storm damage.
  • Proactive maintenance: Regular pruning and tree care can help prevent storm damage and prolong the life of your trees.


Together, we can restore Palo Alto’s urban forest, ensuring a greener, healthier, and more resilient community for all. For more information or professional assistance, contact a certified arborist or our urban forestry partner organization Canopy. You can also reach out to larger statewide urban forest organizations, such as California ReLeaf, CalFire or the West Coast Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture.


Plant trees on your property

One of the best ways to help grow our urban forest is to plant more trees! Our non-profit partner Canopy has many resources (listed below) to help you select the right tree for the right site on your property. A few of the factors you should consider when selecting a tree species and planting site include: available soil space, overhead utilities, underground utilities, surrounding vegetation, and distance from structures. 

This video from Canopy demonstrates how to properly plant a tree.

Other Tree Planting Resources

Water your trees

All trees need water to thrive, even drought tolerant trees. Water young trees once a week, and water mature trees monthly or bi-monthly, particularly during hot, dry weather. Be sure to water trees deeply (the top 12+ inches should be wet) and water away from the trunk.

Established native California oaks (Quercus lobata and Q. agrifolia) should not be watered in the warm summer months.

Tree Watering Guidelines (Canopy)

Save Our Water & Our Trees (Canopy)

Mulch your trees

Spread a layer of organic mulch (e.g. wood chips) beneath trees.  Inorganic mulches such as rocks and decomposed granite (DG) do not provide the same benefits that organic mulches do. 

Properly applied mulch offers many benefits to trees by:

  • Helping maintain soil moisture, reducing the need for frequent watering
  • Controlling weeds
  • Regulating soil temperature
  • Reducing soil compaction
  • Improving the soil’s structure, fertility, and drainage over time

The mulch layer around trees should be 2-4” thick and the base of the trunk/root collar should remain exposed to prevent trunk rot. Avoid creating a 'Mulch Volcano'. 

Protect your tree's trunk

Mechanical damage from mowers or string trimmers can cause serious damage, especially to young trees. Wounds are easily invaded by disease-causing pathogens and insects. Keep turf away from the base of trees. Also, take care when opening car doors near trees and do not lock bikes or attach other items to trees. 

Reduce soil compaction

Trees grow best in uncompacted soil with about 50% pore space. This pore space allows for infiltration of air and water. Porous soil has better drainage and oxygen flow, and promotes root growth. Avoid driving and parking on the root zone of a tree. Vehicles, heavy machinery, or materials should not be stored beneath a tree.

Remove hardscape

Asphalt and concrete prevent water and air from reaching roots and increase the temperature of the soil and the air around the tree.  “Permeable” pavers are slightly better, but soil needs to be compacted for paver installation which damages roots and reduces soil pore space.

*No new paving (concrete, asphalt, pavers, etc.) is permitted within 10 feet of a public tree (PAMC 8.04.020)

Remove ivy, weeds and other competition

Vigorous plants like English ivy, weeds, and even turf compete with trees for water, nutrients, and rooting space and should be removed from around trees.  Ivy and other climbing plants can conceal defects on trees, can break branches from the weight of the vines, and heavy growth can limit a tree’s photosynthesis by shading the tree.

Call to attention any change in tree health

Residents see the public street trees in front of their home daily and are often the first to notice changes in tree condition. Please report changes in condition to public trees including damaging insects, diseases, physical damage, illegal pruning, etc. by calling (650) 496-5953 This will help us address the issue(s) in a timely manner.