25th annual Tree Fest giving away free plants

Published: Jan. 20, 2023 at 9:14 AM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - You can receive up to five free plants per household at the 25th annual Tree Fest on Friday, Jan. 20, and Saturday, Jan. 21. It’s being held at Independence Mall from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. both Friday and Saturday.

Tree Fest originated in 1997 after hurricanes Bertha and Fran wiped out most of the vegetation in the Cape Fear area.

Wilmington also has seen a large change over the past few years with development and that begins with clearing trees for the land. That’s why Tree Fest is encouraging people to replant grass and trees in their front yards to bring the greenery back.

Organizers said they did not meet their inventory this year. Originally, they expected 3,600 trees but only received 1,300. With the plants in high demand and with it being first come, first serve, you’re encouraged to show up early.

Before you head out the door, there are things you should do at home beforehand. Although there will be experts on site to help you, you should know certain things about your yard. Some things to think about are: where the right of way starts, HOA rules if your soil is wet or dry and sandy and where your power and cable lines are underground.

All plants come as seedlings and they’re giving away nine different trees and four different types of grass. Below is the list of plants:


  • Cedar, Eastern Red
  • Pine, Longleaf
  • Birch, River
  • Hickory, Red
  • Oak, Chestnut
  • Oak, Live
  • Redbud
  • Silky Dogwood (shrub)
  • Sugarberry


  • Big Bluestem
  • Little Bluestem
  • Indian Grass
  • Wiregrass

Experts say you should plant the trees or grass 24 to 48 hours before getting them from Tree Fest. The roots are at risk of drying out and growing mold after that timeframe which can eventually kill the plant.

If you need longer than 48 hours to plant it where you desire, put the plant into a pot and let it grow in there until it’s time to transfer it to its final location. All of these plants are being transported from the North Carolina Forest Service in Goldsboro.

Not only will more landscaping add beauty and privacy, but planting the right tree in the right place can save you money. Providing shade over your house in the summer can lower the AC bill. Planting trees in a straight row can serve as a wind block and lower your heat bill in the winter. To learn more about planting trees for energy conservation, visit this article posted by Utah State University.

Again, households may choose up to five free trees or grasses from the available selection for free, but a $5 donation is suggested.