Ornamental trees add color and interest to the landscape and are primarily used as specimen plants that serve as a focal point in the garden. Who hasn’t been pleased by a flowering crab apple or cherry tree in spring? Or the graceful form of a Japanese maple in summer? There are ornamental trees for every situation. With careful site evaluation and proper planting techniques, an ornamental tree can be successfully planted.
Evaluate the planting location. Choose a spot large enough to accommodate the mature size of the tree. Most ornamentals require six to eight hours of direct sun each day and well-drained soil of average fertility. Other important factors include winter temperature and drought tolerance. Purchase a tree that will thrive in the chosen location.
Dig a hole twice as wide as the root ball and as deep as the container or balled and burlaped roots of the tree. The tree should sit at the same level as it did in its container. Mix some organic material (peat moss, leaf mold, manure or compost) into the soil that has been removed. The ratio should be a one-third organic matter to two-thirds soil.
Remove the plant from its container. If the roots are a dense mass score the root ball deeply in 3 places with the pruning saw. This will help prevent girdling. Girdling occurs when the roots of a container-grown plant circle the trunk instead of naturally growing outward. Over time, the girdled roots restrict development and can eventually kill the tree. Prune any visibly damaged roots. If the plant is balled and burlaped, place the tree in the hole before removing the wrapping. Remove as much of the wrapping as you can and remove all the strings. What is left of the burlap will disintegrate over time.
Fill in around roots with the mix. When you have filled in the hole half way, fill the planting hole with water. As the water drains, the planting mix will settle around the roots. Continue filling in the hole and water again.
If the ornamental tree is grafted onto the root stock of another cultivar, remove any shoots that emerge from below the bud union. The bud union can be recognized by the bulbous swelling at the base of the tree. In the case of an ornamental with a weeping form, this graft will be located just below the weeping branches. Shoots that emerge from the root stock are less desirable and will rob the tree of nutrition.