The lot you are planning to build your house on does not need to be barren.

Don’t cut down those trees already on the property: they could be an integral part of your home and its surroundings.

It’s usual to see owners chop down all the trees, which can be costly not only for your pocketbook but also for nature and the beauty of your home.

Architect Alberto Negrini says owners should have the trees evaluated in order to integrate them into the house and garden design.

People often forget about the benefits of trees and cut them down, thinking the house will look better. Negrini says people should take advantage of trees’ flowers and greenery.

Shade is one advantage trees offer. In addition to cooling and improving the climate, they provide homes for birds and other animals.

Professionals should consider how to integrate natural elements that will beautify the property. For example a large, healthy tree with strong branches can offer shade to a house. At the same time, the building should adapt itself to the tree so that falling leaves don’t land on the roof or in the gutters.

Evaluation: trees must be carefully appraised to avoid problems in the future.
The wrong tree, planted near the house, sidewalks or the street, could push up the surface, obstruct septic tanks, break water pipes and cause problems with electric cables.

To avoid problems, be very careful in choosing the tree you wish to plant. Consider the normal height of the tree and how its roots grow.

A tall tree should be 5 to 10 meters from the house because both branches and roots can cause problems.

(Editors note: we have added plant names in Latin and English, and descriptions when possible. We have kept all the names in Spanish so that the client will know what to ask for at local greenhouses).

Trees that should not be planted near a house include: araucarias, bala de cañon (Cannon ball), chirca, chirco, gallinazo, guachipelin (Diphysa robinioides – tree with very hard wood, used for the base of houses and bridges), higueron lira, ilan ilan, laurel de India (Indian laurel), malinche, manzana de agua, terciopelo, pupumjoche or tirucali, among others.

Fruit trees: If you have property you plan to build on later, you can gain months even years, by planting trees that offer shade and beauty to the property.

You can get a landscape designer to give ideas on where the house should be and how and where to plant trees that will embellish it.

In terms of landscaping, think of small forests with a combination of trees and lower plants. Bushes can also both decorate and offer privacy.

Flora: Decide if you want trees or flowers or boring concrete and remember that every green space offers a planting option.

In small areas (maximum 1 meter diameter) try acalifas (Acalypha diversifolia, copper-leaf, chenille plant), chirrites (Besleria princeps), claveles (carnations), crotus, jazmín de India (Indian jasmine), jazmín de cabo (Cape jasmine) and museandas.

In larger areas (from 1-3 meters diameter) plant poppies, arco (Arechanthera gigantea – from Guancaste, wood used by cabinet makers), cas (Psidium friedrichsthalianum – guava), citrus trees, clavelones (Tagetes erecta, pinks (flowers that resemble small carnations), gustomate, guayabo (guava tree), guisaro, guitite (Acnistus arborescens), jocote (Cashew), jorco (Rheedia edulis – a tree with edible fruit, not tall but straight and impervious to wood-boring insects), laurel de Guanacaste (Guanacaste laurel) or tiguilote (Varronia calyptrata ).

Large trees need a space at least 3-5 meters in diameter. Try aguacate, (avocado), almendra de playa (beach almond), chicasquil (Jatropha aconitifolia – a shrub), corteza negra (Tecoma leucoxylon – fine hard wood used by cabinet makers), corteza amarilla (Cortes amarillo), guachipelin, jacaranda (Jacaranda), modronyo, mango (Mango), nispero japones (Mespilus germanica, medlar tree, Chinese plum, loquat), orgullo de Burma (Pride of Burma) orgullo de India (Pride of India), paraiso (Melia azedarach, “tree of China” or “Chinese Tree,” chinaberry, Indian Lilac), pimenton rojo (Red pepper), pirul, roble de savana, (Savannah oak), zapote (sapodilla, generic name for various tropical American fruit trees).

In larger areas with 10 meters diameter, plant balsamo (balsalm), ceiba (Ceiba pentandra, bombax, five-leaved, silk-cotton-tree – source of kapok), cenizaro (Pithecolobium saman – fine hard wood tree with pink flowers, found in Puntarenas and Guanacaste), chilamate (ficus, large tree of the mulberry family), guanacaste (Enterolobium cyclocarpum, ear tree), guapinol (Hymenea courbaril, West Indian locust tree), guayaquil, higerones (fig trees).

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