How To Plant Trees
To Provide Years of Healthy Growth

In Spring, when the air warms and suburban greenery starts to bloom, homeowners survey their properties and envision planting trees to enhance the aesthetic and economic value of their landscapes. But, do you know how to plant trees?

There is common belief that anybody who can dig a hole can plant a tree. That's not true. Especially if the tree’s long-term health and beauty are considered. Incorrect planting can lead to major structural and nutritional problems for the tree, which can ultimately lead to hazards.

Planting a tree is not as simple as digging a hole large enough to stuff in the root ball. Proper planting involves preparing the entire site. Below are some of the key health determinants homeowners should consider:

Site selection ... Be very particular in considering a planting site. Select an area that is well removed from building structures and electric lines. Visualize the hindrances the tree will encounter after 10, 20 or 30 years of growth.

Tree selection ... Select the tree best suited for the climate in your area and the environmental conditions of the site. Many hybrid and ornamental trees sold to homeowners are at the extreme edge of their survivability zones. For example, some species may only survive if planted in sheltered areas of a property. Buy from a nursery that sells only high quality stock.

How to Plant Trees - Proper Planting Techniques ... Don't plant the tree too deep. If the roots are too far below the surface, they will suffocate or grow upward in an attempt to reach closer to the surface.

Make the hole large enough. Dig a wide planting hole, preferably twice as wide as the root ball. There’s an old arborist saying, “Don’t plant a $200 tree in a $20 hole!”

Loosen the soil around the edges of the hole, which will help the young roots grow outward.

Loosen the soil beyond the dripline of the tree.

Avoid making changes to soil unless truly needed. Generally, fertilization is not needed at the time of planting. Remove all wrappings, burlap, nylon rope, and wire from the tree trunk and branches. If there is a wire basket, remove the wire from, at the very least, the top half of the root ball. More is better. Removal of the entire basket, if possible. Try to remove all the wrappings possible without damaging the root ball. Do this after the tree has been placed in the hole.

Moisten the soil and remove dead branches before you plant. Apply a 3- to 4-inch layer of mulch over the root ball and slightly away from the trunk to help keep soil moist. Do not pile mulch against the trunk and do not apply more than 4 inches deep.

Guying or staking the tree... In general, homeowners should not stake or guy their trees. Brace the tree only if needed. It is not needed for trees with a trunk diameter of less than 5 or 6 inches, measured at 4 1/2 feet high on the trunk. Eventually the wires or straps strangle the bark, killing the tree. This condition is called girdling.

There are times when guying or staking a tree might be beneficial. If you think you need to guy or stake a tree, call us, we’ll explain.

We're often called to a property only to find an improperly planted tree. Knowing how to plant trees and ensuring you have a well planted tree can ensure years of healthy growth and benefits. Proper planting and maintenance is necessary for a long life.

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