How to Plant a Tree


Planting a tree is typically not hard, but there are important steps to keep in mind. The planting or transplanting of a tree is likely to be the most stressful event in the tree's life. So taking care to do it properly is critical. Trees handled roughly may be harmed or even killed.

Planting a Tree

Step 1

Determine the species you desire and survey your lawn to find the most appropriate place. Planting a maple tree capable of growing 80 feet directly under a power line that is 20 feet off the ground, for example, may not be the best choice. Further, some species prefer shade while others like full sunlight.

Step 2

Wait until the risk of freezing is over or plant prior to freezing. The dormant period gives trees a better chance to establish themselves.

Step 3

Using a shovel, dig a hole three times the diameter of the root ball but no deeper than the tree was originally planted. This is easy to see because of dirt on the trunk. If the tree is potted, it is easier still.

Step 4

Break up the sides of the hole with a garden fork. When digging the hole with the shovel, a process known as glazing often occurs. This makes the sides harder, which can make root penetration much more difficult.

Step 5

Place the tree in the hole, being careful to watch the depth and root clearance. It is best to have someone hold the tree in place when inspecting the tree and moving to the next steps.

Step 6

Fill the hole one-third full of water and begin replacing the soil. Make sure to pack the soil well, trying to remove as much air as possible. Once the soil has been replaced, water again.

Step 7

Tie lines to the tree and stake them into the ground. This provides support for the tree as the roots establish themselves. It is especially important for top-heavy trees such as palms.

Step 8

Mulch around the tree. This helps prevent other vegetation from growing while promoting good oxygen circulation.

Tips and Warnings

  • Planting a tree too deep will cut roots off from their oxygen supply, leading to stunted growth or death. If possible, keep the mulch from touching the tree, as this could lead to fungal or other infections.

Things You'll Need

  • Tree
  • Shovel
  • Water
  • Stakes
  • Lines


  • Cornell Extension
  • Tree Planting Basics
  • North Carolina State University

Who Can Help

  • Tree Planting Tips
  • Nine Tree Facts
Keywords: planting a tree, dormant period, root ball

About this Author

Ken Black is a freelance writer and a staff writer for The Times Republican in Central Iowa. He has written extensively on a variety of topics, including business, politics, family life and travel.