Ornamental trees add height, shade and beauty to your garden landscape. It is difficult to propagate trees from seed. Most home gardeners will find it easiest to purchase trees as seedlings from a nursery. If you choose the right type of tree for your landscape and water it appropriately while it is young, you should be able to successfully grow your seedling into a mature tree.
Bringing a Seedling Home
Tree seedlings purchased at nurseries will either come in containers, burlap bags or will be bare roots. All seedlings should be planted in either the spring after the last frost or the fall before the first frost. If your seedling comes in a container, dig a hole twice the size of the container. Water the hole before planting the seedling. Seedlings in burlap should be planted with the burlap still around the roots. For bare root seedlings, dig a hole with a mound of soil at the bottom. Drape the seedling's roots over this mound and fill the hole with soil.
Proper watering of your seedling is perhaps the single most important factor in the healthy survival of your tree. Water your seedlings every other day for the first two weeks after planting. Then cut back to watering deeply once or twice a week. Throughout the summer, new seedlings need to be watered every week. On average, it will be three to five years before your new tree can go on a limited watering scheduling.
When selecting a location for your new tree, consider its mature features. How tall your tree will be at maturity is important, but so is what its root structure will look like. Trees have relatively shallow roots that extend no more than 2 feet below the soil surface. This means that trees with large roots may push against concrete surfaces, such as sidewalks, or compete with other nearby plantings. Tree roots can also spread to be up to three times wider than the height of the tree. Select a location for your seedling where it will have room to grow, both in height and in its roots.
Plant your seedlings in native soil with few amendments. The sooner your tree gets accustomed to the native soil the stronger it will be. If you want to add amendments to the seedling at the time of planting, add them to the hole before placing the seedling in it. This way roots will have immediate access to the added nutrients, encouraging strong growth. Trees do not need mulch or fertilizer. In general, allow trees to grow as naturally as possible, depending on their own roots and trunk system for strength.
As a matter of safety, whenever you are planting a tree check to make certain you are not digging above buried utility lines. Additionally, make sure that at full maturity, your tree will not interfere with aboveground utility lines and power poles.