Select a Healthy Tree
To grow healthy trees, it’s important to choose high quality trees from the start. They will grow into healthy trees if planted with good root systems, strong form, and no evidence of pests or wounds.
Selecting a nursery tree
Trees should be inspected for nursery standards, and not accepted if they have circling roots, roots filling the entire container, or trunk form that cannot be corrected by light pruning. You can also grow trees from seeds.
Get trees in 5-gallon containers
Trees in 5-gallon containers are recommended (instead of 15-gallon or larger sizes), as trees in small containers adjust much better to their “new home” site than trees than have grown longer in containers at the nursery. Trees in 5-gallon size are also easier to transport and plant, as a smaller hole needs to be dug!
Planting “giant” or “huge” trees is not recommended, although some local nurseries promote this. Those trees have been growing in “boxes,” have constricted root systems and large canopies that cannot be supplied with sufficient water and nutrients from the stunted roots.
Avoid hardware store trees
While large hardware store chains may include trees in their garden departments, they generally have limited selection and uncertain local suitability. Low quality trees (with poor form and root structure) of any size often develop problems that require extensive maintenance and reduce the tree benefits, and they may even die within a few years.
Guide to selecting a healthy tree
For more information about how to select a healthy tree, we recommend the International Society of Arboriculture guide to help you find a quality tree.
Kate Sessions Commitment recommended trees
Several retail nurseries stock locally-suitable 5-gallon ornamental and shade trees priced about $50, and are listed on this page. Native trees can be ordered directly from MoosaCreek Nursery and picked up from a cooperating local nursery. Fruit trees should be planted as bare-root seedlings, and many nurseries stock them in January and February. Call your nursery of choice in advance to visiting them to check what’s in stock.
Walter Anderson Nursery
Suitable trees in the 5-gallon size can be purchased now at Walter Andersen Nursery at their Old Town location, near the trolley station. Look for the “Kate’s Trees” signs in the row of trees along the back fence. Trees are organized alphabetically by Latin name i.e. Acacia trees are on the left. Click on the Latin name in the list below, to link to the “SelectTree” descriptions for that tree. Fruit trees are well stocked here in January and February
This inventory was updated on January 23rd, 2023
- Acacia baileyana purpurea, purple fern-leaf acacia, medium, evergreen – 8
- Arbutus x Marina, strawberry tree, medium, evergreen – 3
- Cassia leptophylla, gold medallion tree, small, evergreen – 4
- Eriobotrya flexa var Coppertone, bronze loquat, small, evergreen – 1
- Geijera parviflora, Australian willow, medium, evergreen – 1
- Leptospermum scoparium, New Zealand tea tree, medium, evergreen, stocked in the shrub section (to the right, or north of the 15-gallon trees – 12
- Podocarpus gracilior (Afrocarpus falcatus), African fern pine, medium-large, evergreen – 10
- Quercus agrifolia, coast live oak, medium-large – 5
Mission Hills Nursery offers a small inventory of trees. Located in Mission Hills at 1525 Fort Stockton Drive, this nursery is the oldest one in San Diego and fun fact – was founded by Kate Sessions in 1910! Open from 8 – 5, 7 days a week, call them at 619.295.2808.
City Farmers Nursery at 3110 Euclid Avenue has served San Diego since 1972, and offers high quality fruit trees and some ornamental shade trees. Call 619-284-6358 for availability and curbside pickup.
List of local nurseries, growers and private plant sales
Trees can also be purchased directly from local nurseries and plant sales. They are generally sold in 5-gallon and 15-gallon container sizes.
Kate Sessions Commitment recommends the following local nurseries:
- Walter Andersen – San Diego Old Town- all types of trees (see inventory above)
- City Farmers Nursery – City Heights – all types of trees
- Mission Hills Nursery – Mission Hills – all types of trees
- Bonita Creek Nursery – Bonita – fruit and nut trees
- Clausen Nursery – Vista – fruit trees
- Kniffings Nursery – El Cajon – all types of trees, no 5-gallon fruit trees
- Walter Andersen – Poway – all types of trees
In addition to these local nurseries, private tree sales from respected organizations are also available at certain times of the year or by appointment. Visit the following websites for details and contact information:
Trees for underserved neighborhoods
- Donate now to Kate Sessions Commitment, and we will provide a healthy tree for someone who would like to grow a tree but currently can’t afford it.
- Request a tree by filling out this form, and we will send you a coupon for a 5-gallon tree at Walter Andersen Nursery in Old Town. If you cannot access this form, send us an email with your zip code and whether you want to grow a small, medium or large tree on your site.
- Contact us if you would like information about promoting tree requests through neighborhood community groups, town councils, houses of worship, and others.
- Tree San Diego is planting trees for residents in disadvantaged communities in their Branching Out program, with a grant from CalFire (California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection). The eligible areas are shown in red on this map.
Request “free” street trees
Residents in the City of San Diego can request a new street tree through Free Tree SD in the parkway or easement of their property, planted from 15-gallon containers. Residents need to sign a watering agreement. Residents who want to purchase and plant a tree in their street easement need to request a permit and get approval from the City. Follow instructions for getting a No-fee permit.
Residents in the City of Escondido can request a free street tree at Free Tree Escondido.
Request trees from San Diego Gas & Electric
SDG&E has also pledged to plant 10,000 trees annually in their service area (mostly San Diego County). Get more info and a list of regionally-friendly and utility-friendly native and fruit trees. This program is best suited for larger properties, such as those in East County, not individual small urban properties. Sign up to request trees and get on the wait list. SDG&E offered a $35 program for qualified customers (in specified zip codes) in April 2022, and this program ended on October 31, 2022.