Where to Plant. How to Plant. What to Plant.

May 23, 2024

If you have trees and overhead lines on your property, Stearns Electric has likely talked with you about trimming or removing trees as part of our Right-of-Way (ROW) tree clearing program. Trees growing into power lines can not only impact electric reliability, but also be very dangerous.

We love trees, just not when they grow into our lines. We hope this helps you better know where and what to plant so you can enjoy nature’s beauty, and have access to reliable energy.


Many people are told to plant their trees 10 feet from power lines, but they might not realize that means 10 feet away once the tree is mature. The distance will be different for each tree species (see table.)

For example, an American Linden, or Basswood, may reach over 50 feet in height with a width of over 30 feet. We can expect the tree to grow out 15 feet on one side. Therefore, this young tree should be planted 25 feet away from power lines to ensure a 10-foot clearing distance.

If you decide to plant a fruit tree or a small, ornamental tree such as a Japanese Lilac Tree, it may grow over 15 feet tall and may have a width of over 15 feet. Therefore, this small tree should be planted at least 17 feet away from the power lines.

We encourage you to not even plant small trees or shrubs directly under power lines as line crews may need to access the ROW at any time with trucks, which could damage or kill your trees. Additionally, keep those green transformer and junction boxes free and clear of any trees or shrubs to keep our line crews safe and help ensure reliability of our electrical distribution system.


  1.  Choose a good spot for your tree. Don’t forget its mature size.
  2. Call Before you Dig! Remember, it’s the law.
  3. Measure the root ball of the tree, then dig a hole two times as wide as the root ball and as deep as the root ball. If roots are container-bound, make a few cuts on the underside of the root ball and make sure to cut out any roots that encircle the root ball.
  4. Plant the tree at the right depth. Remove the excess soil from the root ball until you find the first main root. Planting the first root at or slightly below the soil surface is the correct planting depth.
  5. Remove any burlap, synthetic wrappings or fastenings, labels and tags.
  6. Add more soil and press firmly to remove air pockets.
  7. Mulch with wood chips. Place chips three to four inches deep and from trunk out to drip line. Keep a small gap (1-3” wide) between the wood chips and the trunk to avoid damaging the trunk.
  8. Water the new tree deeply and regularly, every 7-10 days. This is very important during dry periods for the first three years.
  9. You do not need to fertilizer If trees are planted in fertile soil.
  10. Stake only unstable newly planted trees. After one year, most stakes can be removed.


Now for the fun part…choosing your new tree.

Know your tree facts. Tree size (full grown); height; width; common tree diseases or issues per species; preferred soil conditions. • Know your location. Soil quality; distance from overhead lines; buildings; sidewalks; neighbors’ property. • Purchase your tree from a local tree distributor. They know what trees do well in your particular zone.

Here is a list of smaller ornamental shrubs and fruit trees common in our area. These trees would all be best planted 15-20 feet away from the power lines. If your heart is set on a larger shade tree, please research the tree thoroughly and keep the electric lines a priority in your location planning.