Planting a Tree: What You Should Know

Share this post!

When it comes to planting a tree, you are making a lifelong investment. How well your investment grows will greatly depend on the tree that you select, the location that you plant it, the care that you provide when you plant it, and the follow-up care that you provide after you plant it. You will want to ensure that your tree gets off to a healthy start, as this helps the tree mature to its full size and that it is able to provide environmental, social, and economic benefits throughout its life.

When to Plant

Ultimately, trees should be planted during the dormant season, which is early spring prior to the buds breaking or the fall after the leaves drop. Weather conditions tend to be cool, allowing plants to fully establish roots in their new location before rains and heat stimulate the growth of the new top. Healthy balled and burlapped or container trees, though, can generally be planted during the growing season as long as they are provided the proper care. In subtropical and tropical climates where trees are able to grow year-round, a tree can be planted any time as long as sufficient water is accessible.

Planting Stressors

Burlapped and balled trees can lose a considerable portion of their root system when they are dug up at the nursery, and as a result of this, trees frequently exhibit what is referred to as transplant shock. This is a state of reduced vitality and slowed growth following the transplant process. It is possible for container trees to also experience this, especially if the trees have kinked or circling roots that need to be cut. Transplant shock can be reduced by preparing the site properly, handling the tree (particularly the roots) carefully to prevent further damage, and following proper follow-up procedures; this will promote faster recovery as well.

Steps for Planting

  • Locate underground utilities before digging.
  • Identify trunk flare – The trunk flare is the location at which the trunk expands near the tree’s base. This point is generally partially visible once the tree has been planted.
  • Dig a broad, yet shallow planting hole – This hole should two to three times wider than the root ball, but it should not be deeper than the root ball.
  • Remove containers/cut the wire basket – Examine container tree root balls for any signs of circling roots. If they are present, straighten, cut, or remove them.
  • Place the tree at the appropriate height – Take special in digging the hole to the suitable depth—and no more than that. If you plant the tree too deep, then the new roots will have problems developing due to the lack of adequate oxygen.
  • Straighten the tree in the hole – Prior to backfilling, get someone to view the tree from several different directions to make sure that the tree is straight.
  • Gently, yet firmly fill the hole – Pack soil around the root ball’s base in order to stabilize it. Fill the rest of the hole, packing the soil firmly in order to eliminate any air pockets that could potentially dry out the roots.
  • Stake the tree, if needed – Some studies have shown that trees are able to establish quicker and develop a stronger trunk and root system if they’re not staked when planted.
  • Place mulch at the tree’s base – Mulch is a type of organic matter that is often spread at the tree’s base to retain moisture, moderate temperature extremes with the soil, and reduce competition with weeds and grass.
  • Provide follow-up care – You will want to keep the soil moist, but you don’t want it to be water-logged. Water your trees once a week—at minimum—barring rain, and when the weather is hot and windy, water more frequently.

Right Tree in the Right Place

By taking the time to plan before you plant, you can ensure that you will plant the right tree in the right place. Proper selection and placement of a tree can enhance the value of your property and prevent expensive maintenance trimming and damage to the home. If you have any questions, you can contact a local tree care professional, nursery, utility company, county extension office, or ISA Certified Arborist.


Mulch is organic material that is placed over the surface of the soil to help retain moisture and improve the condition of the soil. Mulching is a beneficial act that a homeowner can do to maintain the health of a tree. However, if you use improper materials or practices of mulching, you can have little to no, or even a negative, impact on the trees.

Avoiding Conflicts with Trees and Utilities

A decision that you should never take lightly is where you will plant a tree. There are numerous factors that you should take into consideration before planting. When planning the type of tree to plant, don’t forget to look up and down to identify the location of the tree in relation to overhead and underground utility lines.

Overhead Lines

Overhead lines are easy to see, but they tend to be overlooked. If you plant tall-growing trees near or under these lines, it will eventually require the utility provider to trim them to maintain safe clearance from the lines. Unfortunately, this trimming can result in your tree having an unnatural, and unsightly, appearance. Periodic trimming can lead to a shortened lifespan as well.

In the event that these trees get in contact with the utility lines, it can cause eservice interruptions. Children or adults that climb these trees and come in contact with the tires may become severely injured or killed. Therefore, the proper selection and placement of trees near overhead utility lines can eliminate potential hazards with public safety, reduce expenses for utility companies and their customers, and improve the appearance of your landscape.

Underground Lines

There is much more to trees than what you can see above the ground. Oftentimes, the root area that is found below the ground is larger than the width of the branch spread. Most of the utility services that are provided now run below the ground. Underground lines and tree roots tend to coexist with no issues. However, trees that are planted close to underground lines may suffer root damage if these utility lines need to be dug up for any repairs.

The most significant danger to underground utilizes is when the tree is initially planted. Prior to planting, make sure that you know where unground utilities are located. To ensure that you don’t accidentally dig into any utility lines and risk a costly service interruption or serious injury, first contact your local utility company or a company that locates utilities. Don’t ever simply assume that the lines are buried deeper than you intend on digging.

For more information, reach out to us at Earthscapes Landscaping and Lawn Care in Huntsville, AL.