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City of Philadelphia

Street Trees

What is a Street Tree?

Street trees are located in the strip of land between sidewalks and curbs, or in planting sites cut into sidewalks next to a curb. They range from newly planted maple trees to the mighty oak trees planted in the 1920s. A tree growing in your yard is not a street tree even though its branches might be hanging over into the sidewalk or street.

Who owns the street trees?

The City of Philadelphia has jurisdiction over street trees, but the trees are owned by the property owner.

Who is responsible for street trees?

PPR manages all street trees (as well as park trees) in the city of Philadelphia and is responsible for planting, pruning and removing street trees. Most of this work is done by contracted arborists overseen by PPR.

What are some of the benefits of street trees?

Street trees provide shade from the hot rays of the sun. The temperature is always several degrees cooler under the shade of a tree! Trees muffle noise from traffic and construction, help filter dust and pollution particles from the air (the air is actually cleaner and healthier beneath and around trees!), help reduce flooding from storm water runoff, and provide habitat for wildlife. Trees give beauty and charm to neighborhoods, can increase property values by 10-15%, and reduce energy costs.

Who do I call to get a street tree planted?

Call PPR’s Street Tree Management Division at 215-685-4363 or 215-685-4362, or request a street tree online.

Property owners for both residential and commercial properties can request street trees.

How long does it take to get a street tree planted?

The wait to get your street tree planted can be one year or longer, depending on resources. PPR plants street trees in spring and fall. Spring planting begins mid-March; fall planting begins at the end of October. The planting schedule depends on weather conditions and when the vendor can get trees.

Who chooses the street tree?

The resident can request a particular species, but the PPR arborist who visits the site makes the final determination. There are many factors that go into choosing a street tree: PPR chooses a variety of species so that they don’t create a monoculture and looks at the surroundings--are there overhead wires, telephone poles, driveways?--all of which determine what the species will be and whether the species should be large, medium, small or columnar. Check out the City of Philadelphia’s recommended street tree list.

What is the process for planting a street tree?

A large hole, called a tree pit, is dug for the new street tree. The minimum tree pit size is 3’x3’ and depends on the site conditions. After the tree is planted, the contractor mulches the tree pit area, stakes the new tree, and waters it. 

If your new street tree planted by PPR dies within one year of planting, we will remove and replace it during the next planting season.

What are some of the stresses on street trees?

The biggest stress on new trees is not getting enough water. Stresses on street trees in general include car doors banging into the tree’s trunk, branches getting torn off (wounds allow insects and disease to enter), road salt, dog feces (dog feces are high in acidity and nitrates which are harmful to trees), pollution, harmful insects and disease.

What can residents do to help care for their street tree?

Residents can water their new street trees with 10-15 gallons of water each week between April and December, but not if the soil is frozen. A slow, deep soaking of the soil around the tree is best. One of the biggest stresses on newly planted street trees is not getting enough water. Residents can also remove weeds from the tree pit and should not plant anything (other than the tree) in the tree pit. Weeds, flowers and ground cover compete for water, nutrients and root space and can put stress on your street tree. Residents can help by being careful with car doors and bikes, which can damage the protective bark. To do anything more to your street trees, such as major pruning or removing, you must obtain a permit. Contact PPR when you observe a problem.

Who do I call when there is a problem?

To report a problem with your street tree, submit a service request through Philly 311 or call PPR’s Street Tree Management Division at 215-685-4363 or 215-685-4362. If it is after normal working hours, leave a voice mail message. PPR will send someone out within 7-10 working days to look at it. Hours are 7:00 am-3:30 pm, Monday through Friday, except City holidays.

If it is an emergency, call 911. Examples of emergencies are a tree or branch falls and is blocking access to the sidewalk or street; a tree or branch falls on your roof or car. Someone from PPR will be dispatched through radio.

Will PPR remove a tree I don’t like?

No. PPR does not remove healthy, living trees. There has to be a valid problem for the tree to be removed.

What if the tree is breaking up my sidewalk?

The Philadelphia Code states that the property owner is responsible for maintaining their sidewalks in a safe condition (please see Section 11-505(1) and Section 10-611(6)). There are no exceptions for damage to sidewalks caused by tree roots. If a street tree is breaking up the sidewalk, PPR will come out to look at it. PPR will make a decision on a case-by-case basis, according to the condition of the tree and what’s going on around it. If healthy, the tree will not be replaced. If unhealthy, it may be listed for removal and/or replacement. The removal of the tree may take some time. A property owner can contract to remove a tree before that time with a PPR-approved contractor.

Often the solution is for the property owner to replace the paving. If a property owner wishes to repair a sidewalk block without the removal of the tree, he or she can do so provided that the roots of the tree are not damaged.

Will PPR take care of a problem with a tree in my yard?

No. PPR is not responsible for trees growing in yards. Trees growing in the yard are the property owner’s responsibility.

What about trees growing in alleyways?

Trees growing in alleyways are the property owner’s responsibility.
About the Urban Forestry Contract and Inspection Management Work Unit
PPR's Urban Forestry Contract and Inspection Management unit manages the component of the urban forest (curbside/street trees) along streets in the city. It is responsible for the following:
  • inspecting and recommending plantings on all park and recreation land with the exception of the watershed parks 
  • inspecting trees for signs of proper maintenance and care 
  • diagnosing tree diseases, pests and environmental stresses 
  • determining sites and species for tree planting requests 
  • performing hazardous tree evaluations for tree removal requests 
  • performing block inspections for inventory purposes 
  • managing contracts for tree planting, pruning and removals 
  • reviewing and managing all requests for tree services, including
    responding to emergency calls of fallen trees on roadways, homes or cars 
  • reviewing construction plans and recommending preservation of existing trees and preparing street tree plans for construction sites