According to the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, between 2008 and 2018, Philly lost 1,095 acres of tree canopy — the equivalent of 1,000 football fields.

Trees help reduce the city’s temperature and pollution levels, as well as improve the health and well-being of people who live here. According to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy tree mapping, trees save Pennsylvania $4,356,390 by reducing energy costs, filtering stormwater, improving air quality, and absorbing carbon dioxide.

You can help increase the number of trees by planting one in your yard (or on your street). And you can get one for free.

Here are some programs that can help you get free trees.

Why you should plant a tree

According to the National Wildlife Federation, trees are important because they:

  • improve air quality
  • improve water quality, reducing flooding and erosion
  • temper climate
  • are good for the economy
  • provide a habitat for plants and animals
  • improve health
  • reduce crime
  • reduce noise pollution
  • promote community
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Free tree programs in Philadelphia

TreePhilly

Created in 2011, TreePhilly is a citywide program from Parks and Recreation and the Fairmount Park Conservancy that helps people in Philly plant and take care of trees, especially in areas that have a higher risk of environmental health hazards and where tree canopies are disappearing. Since 2012, the program has given away more than 25,000 trees through seasonal giveaways and partnerships with neighborhood organizations. In 2022, TreePhilly will give away 850 free yard trees to Philadelphia residents. Willow oak, fig, and witch hazel are among some the tree species available this season.

No matter where you live in the city, you can get a free tree at one of the following events (just make sure to register first):

Help make this guide better
See something missing? If you spot an error or omission in any of our guides, please let us know by emailing us at phillytips@inquirer.com

If you live in North, Northwest, Northeast, West, or Southwest Philly, there are also community-specific events. Sign up for your tree at treephilly.org.

Delivery is available, however, it’s meant for older people and those without cars. TreePhilly also can help you plant your tree.

📞 215-683-0217, 🌐 treephilly.org

Do I have space for a tree?

You have enough space for a tree if your space:

  • is at least 3x3 feet wide and deep.
  • doesn't have an existing tree that would need to be removed.
  • is 15-30 feet away from other trees (depending on the tree).
  • is at least five feet from maintenance hole covers, storm drains, crosswalks, street signs, and main utility lines.
  • isn't within 18 inches of utility lines. 
  • is at least 10 feet from driveways.
  • isn't in front of steps, doorways, alleyways, or between accessibility parking signs.
  • is at least three feet from steps, stoops, or walls to allow space for unobstructed sidewalks.
  • isn't in front of a new or in-progress construction.
  • isn't in front of homes that are for sale.
  • is at least 15 feet from light poles, utility poles, and fire hydrants.
  • is at least 15 feet from an intersection, or at least 30 feet from an intersection with stop signs or traffic lights.
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Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS)

If you are a homeowner and want a tree in your neighborhood but don’t have a yard or space to plant one, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society will give you up to three free street trees per season.

How to apply: Fill out the property owner request form online. An urban forestry technician from Parks and Recreation will come by to inspect; if you get approved, an expert will determine the best species for your sidewalk.

You may have to wait for your tree. Trees are planted in April and November. Depending on the volume of applications, trees requested after May might not be planted until the following April; those submitted after November might not be planted until the following November.

📞 215-988-8795, ✉️ jsamaha@pennhort.org, 🌐 phsonline.org

Parks and Recreation

Like PHS, Parks and Recreation also has a free street tree program, open to homeowners, commercial property owners, and renters (with the permission of the owner).

How to apply: You can request a tree at any time, but most are planted from April to June and October to November. Register at phila.gov. The average wait time is about 18 months.

📞 215-685-4363 or 215-685-4362, 🌐 phila.gov

Street trees: homeowner responsibilities

Street trees are the joint responsibility of you and the city. Here's what your obligations are:

  • Fixing damage to the sidewalk in front of your house. So if you are approved and change your mind, you are responsible for replacing the sidewalk if it gets cut for a tree.
  • Watering your tree: Once you have your new tree, you have to water the tree once a week (twice during summer), for two years. Your tree will need 15 to 20 gallons per week. You are also in charge of  weeding, cleaning, and protecting your street tree from damage from cars or lawn mowers.
  • Reporting any damage or sickness: Only Parks and Recreation can plant, prune, or remove street trees. So, if your tree seems sick or damaged, it is your responsibility to notify Parks and Recreation.
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Free tree programs in Pennsylvania

If you live outside of Philadelphia, here is where you can get a free tree:

Arbor Day Foundation

Created in 1972, there Arbor Day Foundation is a U.S.-based organization dedicated to planting trees around the world. It’s not free, but if you become a member (by donating at least $10), the group will give you 10 free trees to plant in your yard. (And your donation is tax-deductible.)

🌐 arborday.org

Free tree programs in New Jersey

New Jersey Forest Service

Each year, the New Jersey Forest Service (NJFS) partners with the Arbor Day Foundation Program to give away free trees. You can find tree giveaways near you on the NJFS website, or watch for events on the NJFS Facebook page.

🌐 nj.gov

Municipal tree programs

If you live in New Jersey, contact your municipality to find out about local free tree programs. For example, Union County gives free trees to schools on a first-come-first-served basis in March while supplies last. Find the contact info for your municipality here.

🌐 nj.gov