Tree Planting 101 – Know the Basics

Trees are long lived organisms on the landscape and they can be an expensive investment, but they can also pay dividends. Proper planting and maintenance of a tree can increase property value, increase curb appeal, reduce energy bills, and relieve stress among other things.

Determine the Right Tree

To avoid wasting time and money when planting a tree, consider these things:

  • Type of tree
    • Will this tree survive in the local climate, soils, shade, available root zone etc.
    • What are the goals of the tree
      • shade
      • energy conservation
      • privacy
      • wind break
      • aesthetics
      • fruit/nut production/wildlife habitat
    • How resistant is the cultivar to disease and pests
  • Mature size of the tree (This is the biggest mistake in placement of the tree)
    • Know the shape, size, and structure of the mature tree
    • Do not plant too close to structures REMEMBER THE GOAL IS FOR THE TREE TO GROW!
    • Do not plant under power lines
    • How close will roots be to underground utilities
  • Type of planting
    • Balled and burlapped (B&B)
      • These are bigger trees that come with soil around the roots. They are packaged with burlap and wire around the root ball. These are the most common trees we plant.
    • Container
      • These trees come in containers of varying sizes. Check for wrapping or girdling roots because trees left in the containers too long tend to develop these problems.
        Girdling root
        Girdling root on a tree that came this way from the nursery. If left unaddressed this will eventually kill the tree.


    • Bare-root
      • These trees come with no soil around the roots. They are usually small and can easily dry out if not careful. These are often cheapest and easiest to transport and plant.

Planting the Tree

After determining the type of tree, and the location, it is important to mark all underground utilities before digging.

  • Identify the root flare
    • The root flare is where the trunk begins to expand into the roots. Sometimes when trees are being dug or re-potted in the nursery extra soil is added to the top of the root flare and if not removed the tree can be planted too deep leading to numerous problems such as girdling roots and root suffocation. The root flare should be visible after planting.
  • Dig the hole
    • The hole should only be as deep as the root ball! Planting the tree too deep or too shallow will eventually lead to tree death. Measure the depth of the root ball and make your hole that deep. Make the width of the hole twice as wide as the root ball. This allows for the roots to expand easily as most of the tree roots will grow laterally from the ball.
  • Remove the container
    • Inspect for circling roots and prune if necessary. Remove all packaging from the tree so nothing is
      Tree planting with basket
      This tree was planted with the wire cage and plastic tie still on the tree. There is a great watering system on the tree, but all the watering in the world will not save this tree.

      restricting root growth.

  • Place the tree in the hole
    • Plant the tree at the proper depth. For larger B&B trees, once it is in the hole it becomes very difficult to make adjustments.
  • Straighten the tree
    • Have someone hold the tree straight and check from all directions to make sure the tree is straight. Once the tree is straight begin to back-fill the hole.
  • Filling the hole
    • Minimize air pockets by filling with soil and watering at the same time. Large voids in the root zone will dry and kill roots. Pack the dirt firmly but gently to avoid unnecessary compaction.
  • Staking the tree
    • The trunk will grow stronger quicker if staking can be avoided due to the extra stimuli caused be the wind movement. Trees in a windy location require staking, which should be done with 2-3 t-posts placed 2-3ft from the trunk and a wide tie material. Do not tie in such a way that the tree becomes constricted, and remove stakes after one year.
  • Mulching and watering
    • Mulching prevents competition from weeds, eliminates mower and string trimmer damage, and helps maintain soil moisture levels. When mulching, wider is better deeper is not. Place mulch in a wide ring
      Volcano Mulch
      Improper mulching high on the trunk can lead to fungal pathogens, insect damage, and rodent damage.

      no more than 2-4in deep and 1-2in away from the trunk.  Water the tree with the use of a watering bag or a soaker hose system. The water should be delivered over a long period time in order to completely soak the root zone.

Wellnitz Tree Care Planting

If the thought of planting trees is daunting, let Wellnitz Tree Care plant trees for you. We source all of our trees from local nurseries ensuring the plants are acclimatized properly. The best time to plant trees is in the spring and fall, so make sure to let us know early so we can reserve stock! Contact us and we will plant a tree for you and for future generations to enjoy!

Wellnitz logo