How to Plant a Shade Tree After the Buds Begin to Swell


Shade trees are purchased while growing in a pot or bare root after they've been dug and the roots wrapped in burlap or plastic. Bare root trees are planted in the winter when they are dormant but potted trees can be planted anytime of the year. If a tree is purchased in early spring when the leaf buds are beginning to swell and the tree is coming out of dormancy you should plant the tree immediately. If you are planting a bare root tree, soak the tree's roots in water for 24 hours before planting.

How to Plant a Shade Tree After the Buds Begin to Swell

Step 1

Locate a well-drained area in the garden that receives 6 hours or more of sun each day and is located near a source of supplemental water. Also, the space should be big enough for the tree to grow to maturity without interference or competition from other plants. Don't plant a shade tree under utility lines.

Step 2

Dig a hole with the shovel wide enough to accommodate the roots of the tree and deep enough that the tree is at or slightly below the depth it is planted in the nursery pot or was previously planted in the nursery. Look for a soil line at the base of the trunk to find where the tree was previously planted if you are planting a bare root tree.

Step 3

Spread out any roots that are circling or girdling the root base of the tree before refilling hole with native soil.

Step 4

Refill the planting hole with native soil that was removed from the hole. Don't add any amendments as the tree must quickly adapt to the soil where it will live. Add water to the soil while refilling the planting hole so air spaces cannot form around the roots. Cover the root base with a two-inch layer of mulch leaving a one-inch gap between the mulch and the tree trunk so fungal diseases cannot move into the tree as the mulch decomposes.

Step 5

Soak the tree every week by setting the water hose over the root base and letting a stream of water as big as a pencil run into the root base for 30 minutes to one hour. Water regularly in this matter until the tree is established, usually by the following autumn.

Things You'll Need

  • Tree
  • Shovel
  • Mulch
  • Source of water


  • Missouri Extension: Pruning and Care of Shade Trees
  • U of Massachusetts: Bare Root Tree Planting
  • Tree Planting: Planting a Tree
Keywords: tree planting, planting a tree with swollen leaf buds, how to plant a shade tree

About this Author

Based in Rockdale Texas, Jim Gober has been writing garden-related articles for 25 years. His articles appear in several Texas newspapers including The Rockdale Reporter, The Lexington Leader, The Cameron Herald and The Hearne Democrat. He is a Master Gardener and Certified Texas Nursery and Landscape Professional. He holds bachelor degrees in English Writing from St. Edward's University and Finance from Lamar University.