How to Plant a Tree Seedling


Planting tree seedlings is an inexpensive way to add shade or ornamental trees to your landscaping. While it takes the seedlings more time to reach full height than if you planted a mature tree, the cost savings are worth waiting an extra few years. Plant young seedlings soon after purchasing them in early spring after the ground thaws out. Seedlings come as bare-root transplants, which have no soil attached to the roots, or as small trees in tubes with soil.

Step 1

Dig a hole with a spade that is as deep and as wide as the roots on the bare-root tree seedlings. Make a hole with a special tool called a dibble, available at hardware stores, for tube-grown seedlings.

Step 2

Set the bare-root tree into the hole, spreading the roots out. Ensure that none of the roots bend upward. Remove the tube from the seedling, if applicable, and set the soil ball into the hole so the tree is upright. Be sure that the tree is sitting in the planting hole with the root collar, or top of the roots, just beneath the soil surface.

Step 3

Refill the planting hole with soil. Firm it around the tree with your foot, taking care not to step on the tree itself.

Step 4

Water the soil around the tree thoroughly immediately after planting. Thereafter, follow the watering schedule detailed on the plant label for that tree variety.

Step 5

Weed the area around the seedling regularly. Remove any weeds within a 3-foot radius of the tree so the weeds don't overshadow the seedling and rob it of nutrients and sunlight.

Tips and Warnings

  • Wrap the roots of seedlings in moist burlap while digging the planting holes so the trees don't dry out and die. Tree seedlings may die after planting, from transplant shock. Others may grow slowly at first, but this is because they are using their energy to grow a healthy root system.

Things You'll Need

  • Spade
  • Dibble


  • University of New Hampshire: Care and Planting of Tree Seedlings
Keywords: plant tree seedlings, growing trees, bare-root tree seedlings

About this Author

Jenny Harrington is a freelance writer of more than five years' experience. Her work has appeared in "Dollar Stretcher" and various blogs. Previously, she owned her own business for four years, selling handmade items online, wholesale and via the crafts fair circuit. Her specialties are small business, crafting, decorating and gardening.