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A row of trees with colourful autumn leaves
Deciduous trees are wonderful landscape assets, providing shade in summer, sunlight in winter, and in many cases colourful seasonal foliage.

What you need to know about deciduous trees

Name: various genus and species.

Height: 3m–20m+.

Plant type: deciduous tree.

Foliage: various forms.

Climate: generally warm and cold temperate however some grow into the sub-tropics.

Soil: generally free draining, moderately fertile.

Position: full sun

Feeding: feed in spring with a complete controlled release fertiliser.

Watering: as required when getting established and during extended dry periods.

Appearance and characteristics of deciduous trees

Every landscape needs a tree and these days there’s a variety to suit every situation, from a courtyard to an acreage. If you’re looking at adding a tree, consider whether you want an evergreen, which retains its leaves all year round, or a deciduous variety, which loses its leaves in winter. Deciduous trees can have many advantages including being extremely sustainable – in summer their deep shade can provide natural cooling for your home and garden, and in winter they let much-needed warming sunlight stream through.

The form and appearance will vary with the species and variety, so do your research into size and form. What they have in common is that they all lose their leaves over winter. Many put on a colourful foliage display in spring and autumn.

Close-up of colourful autumn leaves

Uses for deciduous trees

  • Deciduous trees can be significant landscape trees in your garden, adding a real feeling of seasonality.
  • They can be used to aid summer cooling and winter warmth of your house or outdoor areas.
  • They also provide excellent shelter for plants requiring summer shade. 

Preferred conditions

There are many Australian deciduous trees that thrive in our warm climate. The preferred conditions will vary with species however most will require full sun for best performance and a free-draining soil.  As the trees go dormant in winter, it is important that the soil does not stay wet, otherwise root rot can develop.

How to plant deciduous trees

  1. Ensure the position allows adequate room for growth.
  2. Prepare the planting hole to at least twice the pot width and slightly deeper than the pot.
  3. Improve the soil to suit the variety – check the label.
  4. Stake the tree until it’s established.

How to care for deciduous trees

Care tips and regular maintenance

  • Deciduous trees burn a lot of energy in spring, so fertilise with a quality controlled release fertiliser.
  • Spread fertiliser around the ‘drip-line’ –  the area of soil roughly beneath the edge of the canopy. This is where most of the feeder roots are.
  • Liquid feed with an organically boosted or seaweed-based product in spring as new growth appears.
  • In periods of extended dry and hot weather, you may need to provide extra water for trees less than 5 years of age.
  • Keep younger trees well mulched during summer.
  • Fallen leaves in autumn can be used as mulch directly beneath the canopy or added to the compost. Just run them through a garden shredder or blower-vac first. 

How to prune deciduous trees

  1. Most pruning can be conducted in winter when the framework of the tree can be clearly seen. Remove any dead, damaged or sick branches.
  2. Remove any crossing branches and, if necessary, remove branches to open up the centre of the tree a little. This will vary with the species.
  3. Prune as required to restrict size or remove nuisance branches.

Pest and diseases

These will vary with the species and variety.

How to propagate deciduous trees

Growing deciduous trees from seed

  1. Collect seeds as the tree matures, generally in late summer/early autumn
  2. Sow the seeds directly into a quality seed raising mix. 
  3. Keep this warm and moist.
  4. Seeds can also be stored in a container filled with clean, slightly moist (just off-dry) propagating sand in the fridge and then sown in spring. This will mimic a cold winter and can improve germination rates. 

Experts tips

The ultimate sustainable deciduous trees would have to be the stone fruits and apples. Amazing spring flowering displays, cooling summer shade, an abundance of delicious fruit, autumn foliage colour and warming winter sun. It doesn’t get any better than that!

Did you know?

Deciduous trees that display autumn leaf colour do so because their green chlorophyll is running out, revealing the colours beneath. Some also pump anthocyanin into the leaves to help extract nitrogen, which shows as reds and purples. They store this nitrogen to give them the energy they need for a big spring growth surge.

If you like this then try

How to plant a tree: top tips for success when planting your new tree.

Daffodils: these beautiful spring-flowering bulbs will naturalise underneath deciduous trees.

Cyclamen: fantastic fragrant winter colour underneath deciduous trees.

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Health & Safety

Please make sure you use all equipment appropriately and safely when following the advice in these D.I.Y. videos. You need to be familiar with how to use equipment safely and follow the instructions that came with the equipment. If you are unsure, you may feel it is safest to consult an expert, such as the manufacturer or an expert Bunnings Team Member.

Grave health hazards are linked to asbestos, which may be in homes built up to 1990. Health hazards may result from exposure to lead-based paints in older materials and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer. You can also use a simple test kit from Bunnings to indicate the presence of lead-based paint.