By Lynsey Nielson, Red Butte Garden Horticulturist
Planting large trees near power lines can cause years of conflict between homeowners and utility service providers over issues such as maintaining power supply, aesthetics, safety and tree health. For safety reasons and to minimize power supply disruptions, utility providers are obligated to keep power lines clear of growth within 10 feet of the line, both below the line and side to side.
The guideline for trees planted under a power line is that mature height should be 16 feet or less. Trees planted in power line adjacent areas should have a mature height of 25 feet or less. Unfortunately, there are few options for trees that stay under 16 feet. One way to broaden your choices is to consider small conifers, large shrubs and pendulous or weeping cultivars that do not have a strong dominant leader, as they can be staked to the appropriate height and left to ramble. If desired, some large shrubs can be trained to resemble small trees.
For great options on small conifers, check out the Iseli Nursery website. They are a wholesale conifer grower that services many local garden centers and nurseries. While not all of their trees are small, they have an easy-to-navigate website where you can get some ideas. When choosing a tree, be cautious of the term ‘dwarf’, which only means that a cultivar is smaller relative to the size of its parent, and doesn’t necessarily mean it will remain small.
CLICK HERE for a printable list of small trees and shrubs that could be considered for planting in power line adjacent areas along the Wasatch Front. In selecting the option that is right for your location, be sure to consider its cultural needs in addition to its mature height, such as hardiness, sun/shade preference, water needs and soil preference.
A good resource for the Wasatch Front and beyond is Small Trees for Small Places published by Rocky Mountain Power. It covers multiple western states, so make sure you pay attention to the hardiness zone for your area.