How to Plant a Nursery Tree


Trees grown in nurseries are usually raised to be sold with either their roots bundled in a ball--in the case of a medium to large-sized tree--or in containers, as with shrubs and very young trees. Providing the young trees with a good start in their new home is essential for their survival and future growth. This procedure for planting a nursery-grown tree will work whether the tree arrives in a container or bundled.

Step 1

Soak the roots in water for several hours or overnight before planting the new tree in your yard. To do this, stand the tree up in a large container, bucket or barrel and fill the container with enough water to cover the root ball. Do not allow the roots to be exposed to the air or to dry out.

Step 2

Dig a hole that is larger than the root ball. The width should be at least twice the width of the root ball to keep from crowding the roots. Test the depth of the hole by temporarily placing the tree in the hole--the tree should be no deeper in the hole than it was when it was growing at the nursery.

Step 3

Fill the hole with water and allow to drain. Be certain that the soil drains well and is comprised of some organic matter to help retain some of the moisture. Using top soil for fill dirt is recommended.

Step 4

Mix the top soil with any granulated fertilizer, if desired, before adding it into the hole or mix with composted materials, if desired. These will help the plant in its transition from nursery to your yard. Check with the fertilizer manufacturer to determine which fertilizer is best for the particular species of tree.

Step 5

Stand the tree up in the hole, removing the bag or container, if applicable.

Step 6

Fill the hole with the mixed top soil or dirt. Tamp down the soil around the tree somewhat, but be sure not to compact the dirt too much--it should be firm but not hard.

Step 7

Gently grasp the trunk of the tree and test how securely the tree stands in the ground. If it feels too flimsy to withstand the wind or breezes in your area, stake the tree using a tall stake for support. Remove this stake after the tree has spread its root sufficiently to keep itself erect.

Step 8

Water the tree with several gallons of water carefully, taking precautions to not wash away the dirt from the base of the tree.

Step 9

Add mulch around the tree, if desired, but do not apply the mulch to the 6 inches surrounding the base of the tree.

Things You'll Need

  • Large container
  • Water
  • Shovel
  • Top soil
  • Fertilizer, optional
  • Mulch, optional


  • Planting Trees
  • Planting Techniques for Trees: North Carolina University
  • Planting Nursery Stock
Keywords: planting a nursery tree, planting a tree from a nursery, how to plant a new tree

About this Author

Robin Lewis Montanye is a freelance artist, designer and writer. Her articles have appeared in newspapers, national magazines and on several self-help areas of the web. Montanye specializes in gardening articles with information from several universities. She has Internet articles published on, and