How to Plant a Tree in Minnesota


For most people, trees are an essential element of any landscape. In Minnesota, where plant hardiness zones range from 2b in the north to 4b in the south, virtually any type of coniferous tree will grow well. However, deciduous trees should be selected based on proven success in these hardiness zones. The University of Minnesota Extension has published detailed tree recommendations for each part of the state.

Step 1

Plant your tree in an area with sandy, well-drained soil with enough organics to make the soil slightly acidic. Envision the spread of the tree when it matures. Consider potential problems that may arise, such as interference with power lines, structures or encroachment onto adjacent properties.

Step 2

Measure the depth and diameter of the root ball or the maximum width of the roots if you have a bare-root tree. Dig a hole twice as wide as the width of the root ball, using the round-point shovel. For depth, use the flare of the trunk as a guideline. This is the spot where the trunk widens just above the root ball. After planting, the flare should be about 2 inches above the ground level. Roughen the sides of the hole with the shovel to make sure the roots can penetrate the soil easily.

Step 3

Remove any twine from around the trunk and branches before planting. Lower the root ball into the hole, ensuring the tree is well centered. Check that the depth is correct. Cut the string or twine around the burlap, using scissors. If a metal basket is around the root ball, bend and push back the ends so that they will be below the surface after planting. The twine, basket and burlap can be left in the ground.

Step 4

Fill the hole with soil by adding roughly 6 inches at a time and tamping it down firmly with your foot. This will make sure the root ball is held securely in place. Have one person hold the tree upright while the other backfills the hole with the shovel. Make a ring of soil around the hole that will help to hold water close to the tree.

Step 5

Pound in two or three wooden planting stakes about 12 inches from the trunk, using the sledgehammer and making sure the stakes are evenly spaced. Check the spacing with a measuring tape. Stakes for small trees should be about 4 feet long, while those for larger trees should be at least 6 feet long.

Step 6

Cut the strapping into 36-inch pieces, using scissors. Loop the strapping around the trunk and secure it to the stake by tying or nailing it on. Cut off any excess. Straps should be taut but not enough to pull the tree out of alignment.

Step 7

Water the tree thoroughly after planting. Spread a layer of mulch several inches deep around the tree to warm the soil and keep weeds down. Do not let the mulch touch the trunk. Water regularly, but allow the soil to drain fully between watering.

Tips and Warnings

  • Trees are invariably heavier than they look. Have at least two people available for planting and observe all safety precautions related to lifting heavy objects. Trees with a root ball can usually be rolled into the hole and pivoted to establish the correct positioning.

Things You'll Need

  • Round-point shovel
  • Scissors
  • Measuring tape
  • 3 planting stakes (4 feet long)
  • Sledgehammer
  • Tie straps


  • The United States National Arboretum: USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: North-Midwest US
  • University of Minnesota Extension: Planting and Transplanting Trees and Shrubs
  • Trees are Good: Tree Care Information

Who Can Help

  • Arbor Day Foundation: Trees
Keywords: plant trees minnesota, planting trees minnesota, tree planting minnesota

About this Author

Based in Surrey, British Columbia, Stephen Oakley is a freelance writer focusing on environmental issues, travel and all things outdoors. His background includes many years spent working in the Canadian wilderness and traveling worldwide.