Plant Care Resources

Choosing an Arborist

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Choosing an arborist is similar to choosing any contractor. You should do some research and consider everything from the first impression to the final cost. A tree that takes decades to grow can be destroyed or disfigured in minutes if the arborist is not qualified. Commercial arborists in Illinois can be found through the Illinois Arborist Association. The following list suggests questions to ask and things to consider when choosing an arborist.


Arboriculture training can be obtained in several ways. Colleges and universities have degree programs. Many learn from on-the-job experience and through continuing education classes. Pruning takes training and experience, which is different from problem-solving. Make sure the arborist you choose has the training for the job to be performed. Certification through the Illinois Arborist Association is one measure of arboriculture knowledge. Length of time in the business is also a useful criterion. Pesticide application requires certification from the State of Illinois.

Professional Association Membership

All reputable professionals should belong to at least one association. Arboriculture professional associations include the Illinois Arborist Association, the International Society of Arboriculture, the National Arborist Association, and the American Society of Consulting Arborists.


Ask to see copies of the company’s certificate of insurance and workmen’s compensation.


Does the company representative present himself or herself in a professional manner? Is their equipment in good repair? Are the arborists neatly and safely dressed? Did you call them or did they contact you? Beware of the “Our crews are working in the neighborhood…” approach.


Ask for references and follow through. Reference questions to ask include did the arborist perform the job in a timely fashion and was the crew courteous? Did they do any damage to the house, wires, or lawn, or to other plants? Did they clean up thoroughly and complete everything as promised? You might also wish to contact the Better Business Bureau for information about the company.

Seek Advice

There may be more than one interpretation for any given situation. Get more than one opinion. Some problems require no action at all. For a nominal fee, advice can be obtained from representatives of tree care firms and private consultants. Some garden centers may have qualified persons to answer tree care questions, but be sure to check their credentials as you would with anyone.


Get more than one. Cost is always an important consideration, but the low bid is not always the best. Understand how each contractor plans to do the job and make sure he has the right equipment available.

Written Proposal or Contract

Make sure everything is detailed in writing, including a statement regarding when work will be done, exactly what work will be done (including specific chemicals to be sprayed and their environmental impact), and the total dollar amount. Never pay in advance.