Free trees from the Arbor Day Foundation

A few months back I received a packet in the mail from the Arbor Day Foundation.  It was the typical ‘looking for donations’ mailer but something caught my eye.  For a small donation of $10 you would receive among other things 10 free trees plus 2 free crepemyrtles.  I love crepe myrtles and to buy one at the nursery would be at least 4 times that.  As for the rest of the trees, I would figure that out later.

I had never received trees in the mail before.  The website gave me a date range (read: a few months range) when they would be mailed but that was about it.  I wasn’t really sure what to expect and kind of put it in the back of my mind.

Then one day I come home and I have a package.



Inside that plastic white envelope were 12 trees!  Each of those sticks is one tree.  Yes, one tree!

I’m not sure exactly what I expected.  And yes if I thought about it for more than 2 minutes I would have realized that they wouldn’t ship heavy trees in pots for $10.  So here I was with 12 sticks with a few roots and a tiny leaf or two.

The instructions said to plant them immediately.  Like as in today or tomorrow.  The 12 sticks with roots came in a plastic bag covered in a goo that kept them hydrated.  The instructions said to soak them in water for a few hours them carefully untangle the roots.  I had been told that I would be sent trees that were appropriate for my area.   You may be wondering how I would know which trees were which.  Each stick was painted a different color and they came with a color coded chart.

This is what I received (I am writing it all down here so when I lose the list I can look here to tell what’s what!):

2 Sargent Crabapple (painted purple): grows to 6′-10′ tall

3 American Redbud (painted white): grows to 20′-30′ tall

2 Washington Hawthorn (painted dark blue): grows to 25′-30′ tall

3 White Flowering Dogwood (painted orange): grows to 25′ tall

2 Crapemyrtle (painted red): grows to 15′-20′ tall

If you notice none of these are small shrubs.  They may be appropriate for my area but not really for my yard!  I have a small piece of property and before this adventure didn’t own a tree.  My backyard has lots of shade from my neighbor’s trees which makes my backyard a lot cooler.  It also doesn’t leave a lot of room for planting trees of my own.  I could fit something smaller in the front yard but I would have to convince TB that digging up some grass to plant a tree  isn’t a terrible idea.

Now that they were here the next issue was finding somewhere to plant 12 trees.  They said I could plants them in a temporary spot until they got older and had to be moved.   I didn’t think they would last a day stuck in the ground in a place where Opie and his dog friends had access to them.  Even though it said it wasn’t optimal I went with putting them in pots.  Luckily TB found a bunch of half used bags of organic potting soil to use.  We mixed them all in a wheelbarrow and filled the pots we had available.  We were short pots so we doubled up a few in each (another thing I’m sure wasn’t on the instructions).  None of this was what the instructions said to do but was really our only option on short notice.

I figured they wouldn’t last the week, they looked so frail. I am happy to report that they arrived on April 18th and all are doing well.  (One got yanked out from a storm the other day but I stuck it back in so we will see how that goes.)

So here are my trees as they look today, a little more than a month after they arrived here as sticks.

The American Redbud –

American Redbud

The Sargent Crabapple –


The Washington Hawthorne –

Wash Hawthorne

The White Flowering Dogwood –


The Crapemyrtle –


I have some very nice friends who have offered me some more pots so I can at least get each tree in it’s own pot.  I am going to let them hang out and grow for awhile until I figure out what to do with them.  I can really only pick one to keep.  From there I will have to find homes for the rest once they are big enough.

So for $10, some pots and some soil I get to help add some trees to the world.  Trees are so very important.   Not only do they clean the air, their roots help stop erosion, they are home to many kinds of wildlife and they provide shade to keep us cool and lower out electric bills using less fossil fuels.

If you are interested in getting your own baby trees go to the Arbor Day Foundation tree program.  If growing trees isn’t your thing but you would like to help them with their good tree planting work, go to the Arbor Day Foundation to donate.


  1. Betty G.

    Thank you for your article, your experience was much like mine, except, I just now received my trees (same as your trees). My ground is frozen where I live, so I am planting in pots. My plants looked healthy (for sticks) LOL

  2. T. Hoover

    I am laughing as I am writing this. I too ordered 10 Arbor Day trees along with my neighbor in NJ many, many years ago. I have to tell you this – I was shocked that the trees were just little spindly sticks. My husband and I immediately planted them in the ground around our yard. To my surprise in 5 – 10 years we had magnificent trees! Yes actual TREES! One tree eventually topped our two story house. I am thinking about ordering trees again. We moved to Virginia 8 years ago and between the sidewinder wind storms and a very infamous Derecho we managed to lose quite a few privacy trees in our common area surrounding out home. I’m willing to give it another go!
    Thank you and thank you ARBOR Day folks!

  3. Lauren Tweeton

    I made a donation to Arbor Day Foundation in 2013. The 12 sticks, painted in little spots, identified themselves. The instructions were to plant immediately or to lay them down in the soil somewhere to facilitate root growth until I could actually plant them. They arrived on my birthday, when I’m getting ready for Christmas and getting ready for overnight holiday company. Plus, busy with my job, and of course it’s getting colder and colder. I don’t want them to croak because I’m too busy to bother, so I actually plant them. I then drew a map that located each of them in my garden with tree ID included. The next spring I was delighted to find that half of them survived the winter. Both Crepe Myrtles, one each of the Redbud, Dogwood, Crabapple, and Washington Hawthorns. Neither Golden Rain Trees survived, which did not distress me as they are one of my least favorite trees. After 5 years, we needed to replant some of these trees due to lack of space in the original garden area where they had been planted. We moved the Crepe Myrtles and the Hawthorn. The Hawthorn didn’t make it, but the Crepes have done well. Meanwhile, the Crabapple looks odd, but is thriving. The Dogwood is doing very well. The Redbud is the centerpiece show-stopper of our garden! Overall, for a small donation, I’d say it was a fantastic investment!


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *