Georgia is divided between the mountainous and Piedmont regions that descend from the Appalachian Mountains down to the sedimentary region of the coastal plain. There are over 250 species of trees native to Georgia, according to the Southern Regional Extension Forestry Service. These trees are spread between USDA hardiness zones 6 through 8. In zones 6 and 7 in the northern part of the state, native trees include hardwoods such as buckeye and northern red oak. In the southern part of Georgia, which falls in zone 8, subtropical trees such as pecan and Cyprus grow well.
Read over a registry that lists native tree species for Georgia to help you determine which of the 250 native tree species you wish to purchase. The Southern Region Extension Forestry Service lists 92 of these species. The University of Georgia Agricultural Extension Service carries a more complete list. You can access this list and consult an agent knowledgeable about which tree species grow best in your local microclimate. For example, cypress grow well in the eastern part of the state, but may not thrive in the northwestern part of the state where the soil is rocky and mountainous.
Contact a Georgia nursery that specializes in native trees to determine if they carry the species you want. If you live near the nursery, you can examine the stock tree seedlings before purchase. If you purchase the tree seedling in advance and have it shipped, you should examine the tree before taking possession of it from the shipper. Refuse delivery of damaged, diseased or insect-infested plants. Trees typically shipped are small, bareroot seedlings. Trees that you may transport yourself or that the nursery will transport for you include bare root, containerized, balled and burlapped or tree-spaded trees that are dug up right before transplant.
Run your hands over the trunk of the tree to feel for mechanical injuries, such as a scrape from a string trimmer or a shovel from digging the tree up. Also look for signs of natural damage, such as sunscald, which appears as discolored bark. Look for tiny holes where insects such as borers may have entered the bark, or trunk wraps that may be hiding injuries. Peel back the burlap of a tree to look for trunk injuries that may be hiding beneath the covering. Also scan the trunk for cracks beneath branches which may indicate future limbs falling from the tree. Avoid purchasing or receiving trees with trunk injury. Such injuries weaken a tree.
Peel back the burlap on a burlapped and balled tree, unwrap bare root seedlings or lift a container tree from its container so that you can examine the roots. Roots of a tree should be white and succulent. If a tree's roots are brown or brittle, this is a sign of drying from lack of water or heat stress. Compare the size of the root ball to the tree's canopy. If a tree's root ball is smaller than the canopy, this may be a sign of improper root pruning in tree spaded trees or container seedlings. Avoid purchasing trees with root damage.
Step away from the tree and look over its canopy and shape from a distance. Tree limbs should not be spaced too closely together and should not rub against one another or grow across the center of the canopy. A tree with these characteristics will need to be pruned immediately after purchasing; if you choose a tree without these characteristics, you will not need to prune the tree. Also look for signs that the tree has been roughly handled, such as broken or twisted branches.