How to Plant a Tree Properly


Trees, like other plants, require certain conditions and elements to flourish and mature. Healthy trees enhance the visual appeal of a yard or landscape and offer tall foliage for shade or windbreaks. Many varieties of large trees, such as walnut trees and cypress trees, live well over 100 years in areas with suitable climates and soil conditions. Get your tree off to a healthy start by planting it properly in your landscape.

Step 1

Choose a suitable location in your landscape to plant your tree. Look for an area that receives a majority of daytime sunlight. Do not plant small specimens next to larger varieties. Although they may be the same size at the time of planting, the larger varieties may grow quickly and cast shade over the smaller ones, causing distress. Plant your trees on level ground or on gentle slopes. Avoid planting your trees on the tops of hills where they may be subject to high winds or in deep depressions that retain water after a rainfall.

Step 2

Test the soil before planting your new tree. These tests reveal the condition of your existing soil and recommend solutions to problem soils. Amend the soil to ensure adequate amounts of soil nutrients prior to planting your tree.

Step 3

Dig the hole for your new tree when the soil is dry or slightly moist, but not wet. Use a sturdy garden spade to dig a hole at least twice as wide as your tree's rootball. Make the hole just deep enough to maintain the planting depth of the container, keeping the surface of the rootball even with, or slightly above, the nearby surface. Use your spade to make numerous gouges in the soil on the bottom and sides of the hole to allow easy entry for the new roots.

Step 4

Remove your tree from its container. Hold the tree by the rootball to avoid damage to the trunk and limbs. Lay the tree on its side and examine the roots. Look for roots that encircle the outside of your tree's rootball. These roots can impede the growth and expansion of other roots. Unwind them or remove them with a pair of pruning shears.

Step 5

Set the rootball in the center of your prepared hole. Fill in the soil around the edges of your rootball, tamping it down to remove air pockets. Water your tree well after planting to moisten the roots and compact the surrounding soil. Shovel in more soil if the level sinks below the surrounding soil to ensure that there is no depression around your new tree.

Step 6

Spread a layer of mulch around your tree, extending the circle the same distance as the overhead canopy. Provide 2 or 3 inches of mulch to help the soil retain moisture around the roots. Leave a few inches of space between the trunk and the mulch to minimize mildew and diseases.

Tips and Warnings

  • Check with your utility companies before digging deep holes for large trees. Even if you have an idea where underground wires and pipes are located, be safe and call for permission or clearance before digging.

Things You'll Need

  • Soil test
  • Garden spade
  • Pruning shears
  • Mulch


  • North Carolina State University: Planting Techniques for Trees and Shrubs
  • USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service: Tree Planting
  • Texas A&M University Extension: Planting a Tree
Keywords: plant tree, tree care, tree planting

About this Author

Laura Dee is a writer, artist, and the co-owner of Wallace & Wallace Copywriting,an online business which specializes in providing marketing materials and copy to various companies. She has written for Demand Studios since 2008 and is currently working on a series of childrens' picture books.