Can Trees Help With Yard Drainage? Yes, And Here’s How!

With summer showers out in full force (and another strong hurricane season upon us), you may be dealing with muddy yards, pooling water, flooding, or other drainage issues. Did you know trees can be a part of the solution?

Here’s how saplings (and stronger stands) can help soak up the sop. 

Fighting Flooding

Thanks to their penetrative roots (both large and small), trees create pockets (or “macropores”)  in the soil around and underneath them. This means more water travels more deeply into the ground rather than contributing to flooding by simply streaming over the surface. According to the Institute of Chartered Foresters, “In compacted soils, tree roots have been shown to improve infiltration by 153% compared with unplanted controls.” 

Even though just one tree can make a measurable difference, be mindful about what you’re planting. The Michigan State University Extension indicates that several trees popular in the Southeast may not withstand heavy flooding as well as others. Their complete list of trees in this category entails:

  • Sugar maple (Acer saccharum)
  • Yellow buckeye (Aesculus flava)
  • Shagbark hickory (Carya ovata)
  • Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis)
  • Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida)
  • American beech (Fagus grandifolia)
  • Kentucky coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioicus)
  • Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana)
  • Junipers (Juniperus spp.)
  • Black walnut (Juglans nigra)
  • Tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera)
  • Pines (Pinus spp.)
  • Red oak (Quercus rubra)
  • White oak (Quercus alba)
  • Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)
  • American basswood (Tilia americana)

Relegating Runoff

Because urban areas have more “impenetrable” ground cover (such as highways, parking lots, and building complexes) they can be more prone to damaging floods. While a well-kept infrastructure of gutters, drains and sewer pipes is designed to move water to local streams, rivers, or lakes, heavy rain can overwhelm these systems. 

“Trees in urban areas can reduce these sudden waves . . . giving time for more water to infiltrate soils. This mitigates heavy rainfall by essentially spreading out the rain event, resulting in less and slower runoff,” Trees for Energy Conservation explains

Groups like Trees Atlanta are making efforts to not only plant more trees around the city, but to ensure the health of existing forests by removing invasive species and planting those that are more natively suited to the area and climate. 

Damage-Controlling Droplets 

Campaigns officer at 10:10 Climate Action, Emma Kemp, explained to the The Ecologist that “leaves intercept rainfall, slowing the rate that water flows into rivers and reducing the risk it’ll burst its banks.” As these drops trickle down the tree’s branches and trunk, some of that water also gets absorbed by the bark. 

Inevitably, a measurable amount of rainwater also remains on each leaf. “[A]nd when the sun comes out, that water evaporates without ever reaching the ground,” Beth Botts, staff writer for The Morton Arboretum told The Chicago Tribune

So from the very tops to their deepest depths, trees protect us from water damage in multiple ways. It’s why you’ll want to take good care of them during storm season — and why we want to help. Our specialists can also offer consultation on where else you might plant a few additional trees to improve water management. To discuss these options and more, call us at 404.252.6448 or reach out to us online.

Be a Georgia Tree Know-It-All: Southern Magnolia

Get to know Georgia’s beautiful array of trees and how you can take care of your own! Each month, we feature some of the most popular trees in the state, including the Devilwood tree, Butternut, and Two-Winged Silverbell tree

We are showcasing the Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora L.) — one of the South’s most beautiful staples! 


You may be surprised to learn that the Southern Magnolia is an evergreen. Its deep green, shiny, leathery leaves can range in length from five to ten inches. Despite its evergreen status, however, “If you can’t abide leaf drop, this isn’t the magnolia for you,” Southern Living warns, “because the leaves of M. grandiflora drop 365 days a year.”

While the Southern Magnolia normally reaches 50 feet in height, it can potentially grow up to 100 feet tall and 40 feet wide. 

Perhaps its most cherished characteristic, the magnolia’s fragrant blossoms are cup-shaped and eight inches in diameter. After their initial blossoming, these thick-petaled flowers open in the morning, then close in the evening for two to three days. This cycle continues (along with new blossoms) throughout the summer and into the fall. 

After the blooming season, Southern Magnolia’s flowers produce cone-like seedpods that contain the tree’s large red seeds.

Growing Conditions

The Southern Magnolia thrives in both full sun and partial shade. The Arbor Day Foundation recommends that it should receive a minimum of four hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day. 

In terms of soil quality and pest resistance, the Southern Magnolia is relatively flexible. “It grows well throughout Georgia, is widely adaptable to a variety of soils and has few pest problems,” the University of Georgia Extension confirms.

Once established, the Southern Magnolia can also be relatively drought-tolerant, but in the early stages of growth, they will need plenty of water. Rich, moist, well-drained soil will be ideal to help your Southern Magnolia thrive across hardiness zones 6 through 10. (Atlanta and North Georgia are in zone 7.)

Tree Care

A quick-growing tree, the Southern Magnolia should be pruned during the colder seasons, after blooming is complete. Dead, damaged or broken limbs need to be trimmed away to promote healthy growth.  

If you choose to handle pruning yourself, Garden Guides recommends making your cuts at the tree collar (the thickest section next to a joint shared with another limb) for maximum healing. For thicker, longer, or higher-up branches, we recommend bringing in a tree professional. 

In the northern areas of its hardiness range, the tree may require protection against winter winds and ice, which can cause branch breakage and bark damage. 

Signs of Distress

During dry spells, give your Southern Magnolia a thorough soaking, as prolonged drought can be a major stressor. Signs of water stress include wilting and drooping leaves at the top and center of the tree. An excessive amount of falling leaves and thinness throughout the tree could also suggest insufficient water. 

Verticillium wilt is another common issue in magnolias. The soil-borne fungus prevents nutrients from reaching the tree and causes branches to die off. Look for sudden wilting on one side of the tree, or browning along leaf edges. 

We want to help keep your majestic Southern Magnolias in good health throughout the year. For help with your trees’ pruning, trimming, or disease prevention care, reach out to us online or give us a call at 404.252.6448.