Successfully Plant Trees

Tips on transplanting seedlings.

| March/April 2009

Arbor Day Honors J. Sterling Morton 

Pick the right tree for the right spot and then plant it properly.

  • Select a healthy plant that suits your region and fits your site and landscaping needs.
  • Don’t plant too deep. Dig your hole no deeper than the root ball and two or three times as wide. Gently pull topsoil away to locate the primary lateral roots; these should sit at, or just below, the soil surface.
  • Peel away the container and/or carefully remove any burlap and wiring. Set the tree in the hole and hold it at an upright angle.
  • Gently backfill with loose non-amended topsoil; do not tamp. As you backfill, break up soil clods that create large air pockets. When you’re about halfway there, water slowly to settle the soil around the rootball and then backfill the rest of the hole.
  • You shouldn’t need to stake but if you feel compelled, allow some natural sway. Use slightly slack or expandable ties.
  • Add two to four inches of mulch, but keep the mulch a few inches away from the tree trunk.
  • Slowly soak the tree.
  • Monitor your tree and provide water as needed. Take care not to over-water, particularly in heavy clay soil.
For more selection and planting information, visit 

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