Tree Maintenance

There are different rules and services for taking care of private and public trees.

Public and private trees

Trees on private property

How to tell if a tree is on private property

Trees with more than half of their trunk diameter on private property, at ground level, are considered private trees.

Contact Access Richmond Hill if you are unsure of the ownership of a tree.

Removing trees from private property

You need a permit to injure or destroy a private tree prior to removing any trees larger than 20 cm Diameter at Breast Height (*DBH) on private property.

*DBH refers to the tree diameter measured at 4.5 feet above ground

Private Tree By-law
Learn about Richmond Hill's Private Tree By-law.

Trees on public property

How to tell if a tree is on public property 
Trees with more than half of their trunk on public property, at ground level, are considered to be public trees.
Who takes care of public trees?

Richmond Hill's Urban Forestry Section is responsible for the protection, planting, maintenance and removal of public trees. Residents should not interfere or perform any work on Richmond Hill-owned trees.

Contact Access Richmond Hill to let us know about any public trees that needs attention.

Tree health and maintenance

The health and maintenance of trees in the community is very important for Richmond Hill's ecosystem. There are a number of activities and services our staff perform to keep our trees healthy for future generations to enjoy.

Tree pruning

What is tree pruning?
Tree pruning includes the removal of branches to improve structure, removing dead wood and removing lower limbs to provide clearance over sidewalks, lawns and roadways.
Tree pruning schedule

Richmond Hill's tree pruning schedule is based on a 10 -year cycle, meaning all Richmond Hill-owned trees will be pruned at least once every 10 years.

Watering trees

Why do trees need to be watered? 
Trees need water to help roots absorb nutrients. This keeps trees healthy and strong, making them less likely to be infested by insects or diseases.
Signs of stress
Your lawn and trees may show signs of stress during drought including:
  • Lawns become yellow and brittle
  • Exposed soil has surface cracks and is hard packed
  • Leaves on trees and shrubs wilt or droop
  • Leaves turn brown around edges and may drop
When to water
You should water trees:
  • When there's little or no precipitation
  • When there's notable high daytime temperatures
  • Early in the morning or in the evening
  • Before the ground freezes in fall (Spruces, Cedars and Pines)
  • According to the Outdoor Water-Use Guidelines and Water Conversation By-law.
Where to water
You should water any lawn under the spread of the tree branches. Avoid watering leaves to help reduce fungal infections.
How to water

Water smaller or recently planted trees by slowly pouring two to three pails of water around the base. You can also use a garden hose to trickle water slowly at the base of the truck for one to two hours.

Water larger trees using a sprinkler. Run the sprinkler under the tree for one to two hours or until a rain gauge placed on the lawn reaches 2.5 cm of water. Stop watering if run-off occurs and wait an hour before you start watering the tree again.

Tree preservation

How does Richmond Hill preserve our trees? 
Learn about our tree preservation by-laws and tree removal permits.


Planting trees in new subdivisions
Trees are planted in new subdivisions after curbs are poured and sod has been laid. We inspect the area for possible planting sites. Richmond Hill or the developer will plant trees in either the spring or fall.

Tree planting guidelines 

Street trees must follow planting guidelines, including:
  • Minimum of 6 m away from streetlights and hydro poles
  • Minimum of 8 m between trees
  • Minimum of 2 m away from fire hydrants, communications or cable pedestals, hydro underground vault transformers and Canada Post Superboxes
  • Minimum of 12.2 m away from road intersections
  • Minimum of 1.2 m away from driveways
  • Minimum of 2.5 m away from pillars and fences
  • Avoid planting in areas that create a gutter of land due to excess water

Note: These are guidelines only. Alterations to these distances may be done under unique circumstances.

Contact Access Richmond Hill for more information.

Planting shrubs or hedges
You are responsible for keeping your plants trimmed so they don't overhang or cause problems on public property such as roads, sidewalks and utilities. Richmond Hill can remove shrubs or hedges on City boulevards or any other City-owned property where they are not maintained and cause issues or reduce sightlines at intersections or driveways. There is no compensation for these removals.

Girdling roots

What are girdling roots?
Girdling roots are roots that encircle another root or tree trunk. This restricts the flow of water and nutrients to the tree being encircled. If left untreated or if the roots are too large to remove, the tree may slowly die off.
Signs of girdling roots
Some signs of girdling roots include:
  • Visible roots growing against the trunk of the tree
  • Bronze or purple tones of leaves
  • Branches dying in parts of the tree crown
  • Cracks or open wounds on the trunk or larger tree limbs
  • Flat siding of the trunk at the roots flare out as it approaches the ground level
  • Lack of growth or very little leaf coverage compared to other trees in the same area
Inspections for girdling roots
Contact Access Richmond Hill 905-771-8800 to have a tree on public property inspected for girdling roots.

Soil around trees

Soil mounding and gardening
Soil mounding and gardening around trees is not good for the tree. The soil around trees should be left alone. Digging and excavating around the base of the tree and under the crown can sever or damage the roots required to provide the tree with water and nutrients.
Using mulch
Use wood or bark mulch around trees instead of mounds of soil. This prevents the growth of weeds and grass around the base of the tree, slows the drying of soil and maximizes moisture for the tree roots. You can add mulch every two years as the existing mulch breaks down, adding nutrients to the soil. Place woodchips approximately 75 mm (almost 3 inches) from the actual trunk of the tree.

Tree damage

What causes tree damage?
Avoid using string grass trimmers around the base of trees. Trimmers slice the thin bark and the layers underneath. This breaks the flow of water and nutrients up and down the tree trunk. Damage around the entire trunk will probably cause the tree to die or, at the very least, the tree will be in poor condition and susceptible to fungal and insect damage.
Tree wounds
Don't apply any tree wound dressing or paint to damaged trees. This interferes with the natural healing process. Trees cover wounds naturally by growing over the cut or injured area. Richmond Hill staff trim torn or damaged bark on municipal trees to clean the edges of the wound for improved growth over the affected area.
Report tree damage
Please report damaged or destroyed trees on public property by calling Access Richmond Hill at 905-771-8800 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday. Be sure to provide as much information as possible about the cause of the damage if you saw it happen. 
Branches touching hydro wires
Tree branches touching hydro wires are hazardous. Hydro wires are usually at the top of hydro poles, above the utility wires. Call Alectra Utilities at 1-877-963-6900 to report any branches touching hydro wires in your area.

Tree diseases/pests

Common tree diseases and pests

There are a number of diseases and insects that affect trees. Residents should not perform any work to trees on Richmond Hill property. To report a damaged tree or request an inspection of a tree, contact Access Richmond Hill at 905-771-8800. 

Learn more about common tree diseases and pests.

Wood disposal

Wood in natural areas

Wood and branches from trees cut down in Richmond Hill's natural areas is left onsite. The pieces decompose naturally, giving back nutrients to our natural areas.