How to Plant a Small Tree


Planting trees is beneficial to the environment and adds beauty to landscapes. A tree can be planted to commemorate a special occasion, or in memory of a loved one. Though large trees (more than 10 feet tall), are popular and readily available, small trees (less than 8 feet tall) or saplings (2 to 4 feet tall) hold charm for many growers, as they are generally more affordable, and often easier, to plant.

Step 1

Prepare the site. Clean the area of debris, and water thoroughly. If your tree has deep roots, plant far enough away from concrete driveways, sidewalks and your house, to allow roots to grow once the tree is mature. A mature tree with deep roots can invade sewer lines and crack foundations or concrete driveways and sidewalks. Don't plant a tree under power lines. A mature tree's branches can knock down or interfere with power lines, causing a fire hazard.

Step 2

Dig your hole. Always check with local utility companies before digging. Use a shovel or spade to dig a hole that is as deep as the container or root ball of the tree. The hole should be three and a half times the width of the container or root ball, to ensure roots have room to expand.

Step 3

Remove tree from container, or cut away burlap around root ball. Shake off excess soil. Use your fingers or a blunt instrument to gently loosen any roots that seem to be tightly wound.

Step 4

Place the tree in the center of the hole. Evenly back-fill dirt from the hole around the tree root. Gently tap down with the shovel when filled.

Step 5

Mulch around the tree. Spread organic mulch around the tree base, up to 4 inches deep.

Step 6

Water thoroughly. Trees require water to establish strong roots. Water the newly planted tree for at least 15 minutes if hand watering, or 1 hour if using an overhead sprinkler.

Step 7

Fertilize. Purchase a commercial fertilizer from your local garden center, and fertilize the newly planted tree following the manufacturer's directions.

Tips and Warnings

  • Always check with local utility companies before you dig, to avoid cutting a cable or gas line.

Things You'll Need

  • Tree
  • Spade or shovel
  • Fertilizer
  • Water


  • "Mother Earth News"; Best Trees for Your Yard; Jeff Ball; April/May 2010.
  • "Successful Tree Planting and Care: A Guide for Practitioners and Consumers"; George S. Stroempl; 2006.
Keywords: planting a tree, small trees, garden centers

About this Author

Carmel Perez Snyder is a freelance writer living in Florida. She attended the University of Missouri and has been a journalist for more than 12 years. Her work has appeared in the AARP Bulletin, the Oklahoma Gazette, the Amarillo Globe-News, and eHow.