These Organizations Are Giving Out Free Trees and Seedlings for Arbor Day


Apr. 28 2023, Updated 12:45 p.m. ET

A boy plants a tree in the grass.
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Arbor Day was first celebrated in the U.S. in 1872. Its creator, J. Sterling Morton, had dreamt of a holiday that allowed others to share in his love of trees. The concept worked, and Arbor Day inspired people around the country to plant trees and celebrate their importance. Luckily, you don't always have to buy trees to plant every last Friday in April — not if you can find out which organizations might be giving away free trees near you this Arbor Day.

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Where to find free trees this Arbor Day:

A couple plants a tree outside
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Arbor Day takes place on Friday, April 28, 2023, and there are several ways to get in on the tree planting without having to spend a ton. After all, it's not as if money grows on trees. Here are a few solid ways to get free trees this Arbor Day.

Become a member of the Arbor Day Foundation.

According to the Arbor Day Foundation website, those who sign up for membership (which costs $10) will be rewarded with 10 free trees. Members can choose from many varieties and select 10 trees that typically grow in their climate. Once the tree species have been selected, the Arbor Day Foundation will mail members their 6-to-12-inch trees to plant in their yards; for those who don’t want all the trees themselves, the foundation will plant trees in a forest in need in your honor, through its network of planting partners.

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This is honestly the best method for getting (practically) free trees out there today, and it directly supports an organization whose main intentions are fighting for trees wherever it finds them threatened.

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Plan or join a tree planting event.

According to The Spruce, if you have a group of people who want to plant trees in your community but don’t have the trees themselves, you can reach out to the National Wildlife Federation and apply for the organization to send you native tree seedlings. As of Arbor Day 2023, the NWF is no longer accepting applications for the spring 2023 season, but you can check the site back towards the end of the year to start planning for Arbor Day 2024.

Oftentimes, organizations like the NWF will also send additional resources to help organize and run a community planting event.

Shop at hardware stores or garden centers.

Every so often, if you’re lucky, hardware and garden stores might get involved in the Arbor Day festivities by offering deals, offers, or free giveaways. Smaller, local nurseries may have their own promotions, and even if they aren’t free, you might be able to find seedlings at a discount during the eco holiday season.

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A mother and child plant a tree outside
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Contact local governments or parks departments.

Call your local municipality or check its website, and find out what it is doing for Arbor Day. You'll learn if your town has any free tree programs going on, or if there are any local planting activities planned. Local municipalities will often give out trees to interested citizens on Arbor Day.

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For instance, on Arbor Day 2023, a nonprofit called Keep Evansville Beautiful is giving out 300 free trees to Evansville, Ind. residents; and on Saturday, April 30, the Old Lyme Tree Commission is giving free native tree seedlings to residents of Old Lyme, Conn.

This isn’t always the case, though — not even in Nebraska City, Nebr., the very birthplace of Arbor Day!

Separate organizations, often affiliated with government entities might have solutions for this, however. According to The Spruce, Los Angeles-based City Plants, either delivers free plants to LA residents' homes, or comes and plants them on an applicant's street if they need assistance.

At the same time, even if you can’t get trees from your local government, many municipalities are offering suggestions on fun Arbor Day activities.

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The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation website suggests that, short of planting new trees, homeowners can inspect the trees in their own backyards to make sure that they are healthy and free of cracks, wilting, fungus, or broken branches. Eco-conscious individuals can even take to the local parks and streets, picking up trash and admiring all the trees around them.

"Plant a Billion Trees."

The Nature Conservancy appropriately named "Plant a Billion Trees" campaign collects donations which it then uses to plant trees and help fight deforestation.

If you can’t find a way to get any free trees this Arbor Day, if you can’t join a planting celebration. And, if you still want to help, remember that you could always donate to a worthy conservation charity, such as the Arbor Day Foundation, or MrBeast's #TeamTrees, which partners with the Arbor Day Foundation to plant trees. That way, at least trees will still get planted on your behalf.

This article, originally published on April 28, 2021, has been updated to reflect Arbor Day 2023.

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