Philly offering 850 free trees for residents to plant at home

Philly’s seasonal Community Yard Tree Giveaway aims to expand the city’s tree canopy. Here’s what you need to know.

Two people are seen among trees at a TreePhilly giveaway.

The city's seasonal giveaway aims to reverse the city’s unequal and declining tree canopy. (Philadelphia Parks & Recreation)

The onset of spring in Philadelphia means two things: it’s time for free Rita’s and free yard trees.

The latter may be lesser known than its Italian ice counterpart, but remains a spring staple.

Philly’s Community Yard Tree Giveaway is a seasonal offering from TreePhilly, a Philadelphia Parks & Recreation program run in partnership with the Fairmount Park Conservancy. This season, up to 850 residents will be able to receive a free tree to plant on their property.

TreePhilly is distributing grants to 17 community partners that will operate pickup sites in areas deemed high-priority for tree planting.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor
A young person is seen kneeling in front of free trees at a giveaway event
Philly is offering hundreds of free trees as part of its seasonal Community Yard Tree Giveaway. (Philadelphia Parks & Recreation)

Here’s what you need to know about the seasonal giveaway:

Who is eligible to receive a free tree?

All city residents are eligible to receive a tree, but with a major caveat: Trees must be planted in the ground on private property. That means renters are out of luck, and trees can’t be planted in a container or sidewalk.

Those interested can register for a free tree online.

Up to 400 trees will be available for all city residents through three regional pick-up events. The other 450 trees will be distributed through giveaways hosted by TreePhilly’s community partners, with event registration limited to a given community’s residents.

For residents who are in high-risk populations or who are unable to pick up a tree, door-to-door delivery service is available.

Organizers emphasize that trees are available while supplies last, and pre-registration is highly encouraged.

What kind of tree will I get?

Organizers say tree species are selected to meet residents’ needs and withstand the effects of climate change. For the spring, offerings include large shade trees, along with flowering magnolias and trees that yield fruit and medicinal products.

TreePhilly will provide residents with mulch and information about planting and caring for their tree, but residents are responsible for the actual planting.

A man wearing a TreePhilly apron is seen among free trees at an event
Since 2012, TreePhilly has distributed over 25,000 trees. (Philadelphia Parks & Recreation)

Why does the city give away trees every year?

Philly’s seasonal Community Yard Tree Giveaway aims to expand the city’s tree canopy.

“Trees make our Philadelphia communities healthier, safer, and more resilient to the devastating effects of climate change,” Parks & Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell explained.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

During the summer, heat disproportionately impacts low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. Areas like Hunting Park, where residents are predominantly Latino and Black, have surface temperatures up to 22 degrees higher than in the city’s leafier areas.

City officials acknowledge the disparate effects from heat largely stem from discriminatory practices like redlining, which led to decades of disinvestment in low-income communities nationwide.

Since 2012, TreePhilly has dolled out more than 25,000 trees in an effort to reverse the city’s unequal and declining tree canopy.

Maura McCarthy, Fairmount Park Conservancy’s director, said that “trees are essential to our livelihood,” adding that the group aims to ensure free yard trees are accessible to residents who most need them.

Who is involved?

Community partners hosting yard tree giveaways include longtime organizers like the Eastwick Friends and Neighbors Coalition in Southwest Philly and Heritage CDC in North Philadelphia, as well as environmental organizations like Bartram’s Garden, Philly Forests, and Tookany-Tacony Frankford Watershed Partnership.

TreePhilly itself does not plan volunteer efforts, but residents interested in volunteering are encouraged to join their local Park Friends Group or get involved with the PHS Tree Tenders group in their neighborhood.

An illustration breaks down where spring 2022 tree giveaways are taking place across the city.
An illustration breaks down where spring 2022 tree giveaways are taking place across the city. (TreePhilly)

When and where can I get my tree?

Registration for free yard trees is now open on a rolling basis. Below is a breakdown of TreePhilly’s regional pick-up events:

South Philly
Saturday 4/2 | 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
American Swedish Historical Museum, FDR Park
1900 Pattison Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19145
Register to attend by Tuesday, March 29

Northwest Philly
Saturday 4/23 | 12 p.m. – 3 p.m.
Partner: Philly Forests
Awbury Arboretum
6336 Ardleigh Street, Philadelphia, PA 19138
Register to attend by Tuesday, March 29

Northeast Philly
Saturday 5/14 | 12 p.m. – 3 p.m.
Partner: Riverfront North Partnerships
Frankford Boat Launch
Registration opens Tuesday, April 26, and ends Tuesday, May 10

Neighborhood events in North Philly, Northeast Philly, Northwest Philly, and West and Southwest Philly, will take place throughout the spring.

Saturdays just got more interesting.

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal