How Do I Select a Landscape Tree from a Nursery?

You finally selected the planting location and tree species for our landscaping project! Congratulations! Now what? Contact local nurseries to see who carries what you are looking for. Familiarize yourself with Florida Grades and Standards for Nurseries Plans developed by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service (FDACS). Understanding of the grades as they relate to trees allows you to ask informed questions when talking with the nursery experts. Grades are determined based on plant structure.


While grading is subjective, there are general guidelines for each grade.

This Sycamore is a good example of a Florida Fancy Grade. Photo Credit: J. Daugherty UF/IFAS


Florida Fancy: One dominant trunk (leader) through the canopy with branches no more than 2/3 the size of the trunk above the branch union. Anything larger could be considered a second leader, thus reducing the grade. Exhibits a healthy canopy free of nutrient issues or disease. No corrective pruning needed.



This Maple is an example of a Florida No. 1. The canopy is not even, and the branch structure needs work. Photo Credit: J. Daugherty UF/IFAS



Florida No. 1: To develop a healthy branch and trunk structure, some corrective pruning may be required. Minor defects or injuries may be present in the trunk. Corrective pruning at planting and within the first year can correct these defects.





This is a Florida No. 2 that has reached adulthood. Sycamores typically have a single leader. Photo Credit: J. Daugherty



Florida No. 2: These plants require more corrective pruning; some could be major. The tree could be misshaped resulting in years of corrective pruning. Plants with double leaders are automatically a No. 2.






Cull: Plant defects may require years of work or may not be correctable. Defects can include an overall lack of vigor, circling roots, poor branch attachments, large wounds, and more. These are not typically offered for sale by nurseries.

What Should I pick?

The grade that you should chose depends on the planting location and the goal of the landscape. The most manicures lawns can be achieved with a Florida Fancy or a Florida No. 1. A landscape designed to be more in line with restoration plantings may find that Florida No. 2 plants will work well. When restoring natural area, there is less need for structurally perfect plants.


In the end, communicating your goals with the nursery is key. Take your time during plant selection.

  • Call around to locate the plant species that you are looking for.
  • Select a plant that works for your landscape goals.
  • Ask questions.

*for more specifics about grades including root considerations and exceptions, see the full Florida Grades and Standards document here.

Additional Information:




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Posted: November 29, 2021

Category: Florida-Friendly Landscaping, HOME LANDSCAPES, Lawn
Tags: Florida Grades And Standards, Florida-Friendly Landscaping, Gardening, Tree, Tree Selection, Trees In Landscapes

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