To add to Bellevue's tree canopy, the city has given away free trees to residents and organizations in 2021, 2022 and 2023. Varieties of trees given away have included fruit trees, small flowering trees, shade trees and small and large evergreens.
The application period for the 2024 giveaway will start in the summer, likely in July.
The city has a goal of 40% tree canopy by 2050. To achieve that goal, we need to plant 75,000 trees over the next 30 years and preserve our existing trees. If every household in Bellevue plants a tree, we will be well on our way to achieving our goal!
The city gave away close to 700 trees in 2021, 1,000 in 2022 and 800 in 2023 to support our character as "a city in a park." When you participate in our Tree Giveaway you receive:
- Free trees (up to two for residents and up to 20 for community organizations)
- Training on proper planting and care
- Reminders about tree care
- Optional watering bag, mulch and "We Love Our Trees" yard sign
The application period will be in the summer, exact dates to be determined. Applicants receive an email in September informing them if they've been selected to receive a tree and allowing them to select pickup times.
Comments from Tree Giveaway participants
"I can select trees, contribute to nature and receive planting instructions all in one package!"
"Having the experts select the most appropriate tree for different neighborhoods increase tree diversities and gives more confidence to residents who otherwise hesitated on what to plant in their yards."
Choosing the Right Tree(s)
How to Plant a Tree Guide and Video
Learn about how to plant a tree the right way before you take home your tree. Check out our illustrated guide on how to plant a tree and use a watering bag.
We are offering a variety of trees, from the following categories of trees: fruit, small flowering, deciduous shade, medium-sized conifers and large conifers. We choose our trees based on a variety of factors: native plants, current and future climate conditions, ease of maintenance, disease and insect resistance, adaptability to a variety of conditions, easy growing, appearance, regional availability, and low likelihood of limb failure. Applicants can designate their first, second and third choices.
Get up to 2 Free Trees
Bellevue residents are eligible to receive up to two free trees per household to plant in their yard.
These trees are intended to be planted on the applicant's property, not along the street or in public space.
We will offer limited delivery and planting assistance for people who cannot pick up their tree or have mobility challenges and are unable to plant their tree. Assistance with tree planting will be available during the month of October from our volunteers.
Apply for trees through the resident application.
Individual Renter Households get up to 2 Free Trees, Multifamily Properties get up to 20 Free Trees
Renters living in a single-family home or multifamily buildings, such as a condo, townhome, or apartment, can apply through the resident application. Written consent from the property manager or owner will need to be submitted. Residents can receive up to two trees per household.
Multifamily housing property owners or managers can apply through the organization application. Multifamily properties can receive up to 20 trees.
Community Organizations and Schools
Get up to 20 Free Trees
Trees are also available for local businesses, schools, and community organizations. Eligible community organizations include places of worship, non-profits, small businesses, schools, and other organizations providing a community benefit. Community organizations may receive up to 20 trees for their properties. Bellevue's urban forestry team can work with you to help determine the right number and type of trees for your available space.
We're happy to answer any questions. Contact us directly or indicate on your application if you would like a consultation and to schedule a site visit. During our consultation we can review site conditions (amount of space, any obstacles, etc.) as well as summer watering and maintenance plans.
Is your group interested in learning more about trees and the environment? Contact trees@BellevueWA.gov to schedule a workshop.
Tree Care and Requirements
Tree Care and Requirements
Trees are living, growing things and require some ongoing care to thrive. We will provide resources on tree planting and care for young trees as well as summer watering reminders to help you succeed. To ensure your tree has the best chance of growing up healthy, we ask that you commit to the following actions to prepare to adopt a new tree:
- Choose the right tree for the right place. If you have a larger space, consider planting a larger tree.
- Properly plant your tree, water your tree each summer for 3-5 years and care for your tree for its life
- Assume all future responsibility for maintenance, including summer watering, pruning, raking, etc.
- View our training resources on tree planting and learn about the basics of tree care to help your tree thrive
Volunteer to Help
Help Us Plant Trees
We will need assistance from volunteers when we distribute trees, as well as help with delivery and planting for selected residents and community organizations. If you'd like to volunteer to help at our distribution event or plant trees for people who need assistance, sign-ups will be available in September to help. No experience is necessary, and we will provide training. Volunteers must be age 14 or over.
Our commitment to creating inclusive and equitable opportunities in Bellevue as part of our Diversity Advantage Initiative applies to our urban forest along with other city programs. The Diversity Advantage Plan guides city programs through a set of actions that help our city and city programs grow in cultural competency and appeal to more of our communities.
We studied other tree giveaways around the country (major articles here and here) and discovered that community members most in need were the least likely to receive trees. This means that people who live in areas with high existing tree canopy and high community investment were more likely to participate in tree giveaways than diverse communities. The intent of free giveaways is to help people plant trees, increase tree canopy overall, and help people learn about nature. If most of the trees are going to areas with already high tree canopy and resources, the gap in access to environmental resources continues to widen. In Bellevue, neighborhoods with the lowest canopy cover are also our most diverse. We know that trees won't eliminate disparities and access to resources by themselves, but they are a step toward equitable access to programs and resources in our city.
In Bellevue, income level, immigration status, race, and a myriad of other reasons determine where people live. Where we live has a huge impact on every part of our lives and tree canopy impacts many of them. In general, people who live near trees experience less stress, are less likely to develop heart disease, are less likely to develop a mental illness, do better in school, have more community connections, are less likely to live in an under-resourced or under-served community, and much, much more. Trees are good for us but are just one indicator of investment in communities. This program's aim is to give all our communities additional environmental resources for a healthy, sustainable and equitable future.
There are multiple barriers for many to participate in this kind of program. Sometimes people may not hear about a program because they speak a different language, use different social media, or participate in different projects that our traditional outreach methods haven't served. Some issues, like a lack of trust in government services, can require more nuance to resolve. To start addressing these issues, we are taking the following steps:
- Working with a consultant who has experience working with diverse groups to build community relationships
- Focusing additional resources on reach diverse Bellevue community members
- Trying new outreach strategies
- Offering smaller, flowering and fruiting trees that are more appropriate for small spaces
- Offering trees that are similar to those seen in Latin America and China (our target language outreach groups)
- Providing tree education to help address gaps in tree knowledge and tree care
- If demand outpaces supply, we will weight applications based on the applicant's Tree Equity Score and language(s) spoken to ensure diverse applicants receive trees