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RiverSmart Homes - Shade Tree Planting

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Shade Trees   |   How to Get Shade Trees   |   Shade Tree Maintenance

Shade trees are large trees with wide, dense canopies. When mature, a shade tree is taller than 25 feet. Trees help control stormwater runoff by capturing large amounts of water during a rain storm and keeping it out of local rivers and streams. 

The District is promoting shade trees because they improve the health of local streams and waterways by reducing stormwater runoff and erosion.

Trees also: 

  • Improve air quality by removing small pollutant particulates (i.e. sulfur dioxide, ozone, etc.) 
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by taking up carbon dioxide 
  • Provide habitat for beneficial plants and animals 
  • Mitigate the urban heat-island effect by shading our homes and streets 
  • Decrease heating bills up to 15% and decrease cooling bills up to 50% 
  • Improve health by reducing stress, asthma, and cancers caused by sun exposure 
  • Provide privacy and noise cancellation 

RiverSmart Homes Shade Trees 

RiverSmart Homes will plant shade trees for residents for free. There is no cost and no limit to the number of trees a resident can have planted on their property through RiverSmart Homes.  

RiverSmart Homes plants trees in the spring and fall of each year. Check the latest list of trees that are offered to residents. 

If you would like to plant a different kind of tree on your property, please check out the Tree Rebate Program.

Participants should note that RiverSmart Homes will not plant shade trees in the tree box (the area between the sidewalk and street). To request a tree be planted in the tree box, residents should call 311 or submit a request with the Urban Forestry Administration. For street tree inspection, planting, pruning, or removal go to

For more information about DC Trees tree planting goals visit Trees in the District.

How to get a Shade Tree Through RiverSmart Homes 

RiverSmart Homes will plant shade trees on residential properties for free. The steps for getting trees planted on your property through RiverSmart Homes are: 

  1. Sign Up for a RiverSmart Homes audit. 

    - Once the application is submitted, participants are added to a waitlist. Participants will be contacted when they are at the top of the waitlist to schedule their RiverSmart Homes audit.
  2. A RiverSmart Homes auditor will schedule a time to visit the property and conduct an audit. This audit will determine if it is possible to plant shade trees, or install other features offered through RiverSmart Homes, on the property. 
  3. If an auditor determines shade trees are possible on your property, you can sign up through your auditor to have trees planted.

    - The auditor will then add you to a waitlist for shade trees. When at the top of the waitlist, you will be paired with an arborist. 
  4. Once paired, the arborist will schedule a shade tree consultation for the property. During this consultation, the arborist will let you know where trees can be planted safely, how many trees can be planted on the property, and what kind of trees are best suited for the property.  

    - You will let the arborist know which trees you would like planted on the property and then a crew will come out and plant the trees the following fall or spring. 
    - If you would like to plant trees on your own, or if you prefer a type of tree that is not offered through RiverSmart Homes, participants can take advantage of the Tree Rebate Program.  
  5. After trees are planted, it is the participant’s responsibility to properly maintain the tree. 

Shade Tree Maintenance 

Once RiverSmart Homes plants a shade tree on a property, the program participant is the owner of the tree. Program participants are responsible for properly maintaining their shade trees. Shade trees require ongoing maintenance, especially during the first two years after planting. 

Maintenance for shade trees includes: 

  • Water trees regularly if there hasn’t been enough rain  
  • Cover bare roots around trees with mulch 
  • Weed the area around planted trees as needed (at least 4 times a year) 
  • Pruning dead branches from trees 

Please watch the video series below to learn more on how to properly maintain a shade tree! 

You can find more information on how to maintain shade trees by  going to 

If you have any questions or comments about RiverSmart Homes shade trees, please contact Erica Carlsson at [email protected] or 202-535-2252.

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