A Complete Guide To Tree Removal and Maintenance In St. Petersburg Florida

A Complete Guide:  St Petersburg Tree Maintenance and Removal

Trees, flowering plants, and well-kept green spaces make St. Petersburg one of the most beautiful cities to call home. But, to keep it that way, there are guidelines every property owner in the city must follow.

Top Five Tips for Finding an Arborist

An arborist is a professional who helps take care of your trees, which means a longer lifespan of more mature vegetation.

The gold standard is an International Society of Arboricultural (ISA) certified arborist with an arboriculture, forestry, landscape architecture, or horticulture degree.

You want to find an experienced arborist who works for a credible landscaping company with sufficient insurance and all the required skills to improve your home’s landscape.

1.    Ask for references and check them

Neighbors will be happy to share their experiences and tips on what they learned along the way with the arborist.  You may also ask to see before and after pictures from previous jobs to help envision how a good pruning and canopy raising will improve the trees on your property.

2.    Get multiple estimates

Generally, you don’t want to take a rock bottom price, especially if the company doesn’t provide proof of proper insurance. However, you want to shop around, get different suggestions on the best way to improve your landscape and check out the different prices for the same jobs.

3.    Don’t allow excessive pruning

Expert arborists generally will not recommend lopping off the top of a tree or other drastic pruning. It can hurt the tree or make it unstable.

4.    Don’t allow climbing spikes

The arborist should be able to assess your trees and complete any pruning with ladders or other equipment that doesn’t poke holes in your vegetation. Those spike or spur holes open the tree to further damage from insects or disease.

5.    Check licensing and insurance

Reputable companies should have no problem showing you proof they’re appropriately licensed with the city and carry insurance in case of injury or property damage.

St Pete wants to help you find a certified arborist. You can begin by sending an email to trees@stpete.org.

The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) can also help you find an arborist and verify credentials.

What to Know Before Removing a Tree

St. Petersburg aims to protect and maintain a healthy urban forest for everyone’s enjoyment. The trees on your property make up some of that forest and are covered by local regulations that must be followed.

While you may not be allowed to clear-cut trees that are on the property you own, you can bring in your own professionals. Be sure whoever you hire is an arborist who is familiar with city rules. 

St. Petersburg also offers low-cost, certified arborist services for inspections and needed maintenance or removal.

Homeowners must submit a tree removal application along with a permit fee. The $25 initial inspection fee will be followed by the tree inspection within two business days.

Find out about getting necessary building permits on the City of St. Pete’s website

Protected, Grand, and Signature Trees

Certain trees are covered by additional layers of permitting and requirements based mainly on size and species.

The city provides the Protected, Grand, and Signature Tree brochure for residents who may not know all they have on their property or adjacent property.

Signature trees are in a category of non-native trees the city wants to help preserve. Banyan and kapok trees bigger than 30” in diameter and Jacaranda and Royal Poinciana 8” or larger are all in the signature category.

Protected trees fold in any shade tree with a 4” diameter or larger.

Grand trees have a higher level of protection and attention to preserving them. Grands are any code-protected tree that’s 30” in diameter or larger. (Laurel Oaks are exceptions to this protective category)

When Certified Tree Reports are Necessary

Also called an arborist report, a document is required with specific information about the tree’s condition, any safety issues, areas of damage, and pest or disease threats to the tree.

The city doesn’t want trees felled unless they pose a threat to residents or property.

Once a certified arborist or landscape architect completes the tree report, it should be emailed to trees@stpete.org so the city can track the progress. This prevents slowdowns caused by redundant inspections.

City-wide goals

City leaders are conducting an urban tree canopy assessment so they can prioritize areas to be planted, long-term goals combined with conservation efforts.

Tree Canopy and Conservation

St. Petersburg’s tree canopy covers just over 27% of all the land in the city. The valuable canopy counteracts the effects of CO2 emissions, removing enough greenhouse gas emissions to make up for driving 2,154 passenger vehicles for an entire year.

The city aims to keep and grow the canopy for both beauty and the city’s health.

Following the analysis and study of the existing vegetation, one goal is to increase the tree canopy over city land areas from 27% to 30%.

Every residential property in the city must have two shade trees to stay in compliance with a land development regulation.

There are also plans to plant new trees every year in city street rights of way and on other areas of public property.


St Petersburg city leaders have stringent rules and regulations because trees and other vegetation types are recognized as valuable resources.

Most trees in the city limits have some level of protection. The exception is damaged, diseased or dead trees, and the city has put a process in place to responsibly deal with any tree-related hazard.

Employing a certified arborist is the best way to ensure a homeowner is following the rules and keeping the city green and healthy.

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