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How to Plant Trees in a Planter Box

By Kelly Shetsky ; Updated September 21, 2017

Planting trees in a planter box might be your preferred method if you have limited outdoor space or want a tree to flank each side of your entrance way. It's doable, so long as the tree doesn't outgrow its container. Plant bare-root trees and balled-and-burlapped trees during the dormant season, which runs from late autumn to early spring. Container-grown trees can be put into planter boxes any time of year, but it's best to plant them in the fall or spring, to avoid the hottest temperatures.

Find a suitable planter box for the tree. Make sure it is large enough to fit the current root ball and allow for expansion. It needs to be at least the same size as the nursery container the tree came in.

Line the bottom of the planter box with a fiberglass or mesh plastic screen to keep the soil inside the container. Add 2 to 4 inches of broken pottery or gravel on top of the screen if you're worried about drainage. However, if you have a loose, well-draining soil and drill holes in the planting box, you're all set.

Add soil mixture to the bottom of the planter box so that the tree will sit evenly with the top of its roots in line with the top of the container. Test it out a few times to make sure you've laid down enough soil. Figure that watering will pack the soil down a couple of inches.

Water the tree thoroughly. Remove the packing material such as burlap, the planting container or plastic, depending on the type of tree you purchased.

Wiggle the roots gently if they are packed tightly. This will loosen them up and encourage them to spread better.

Place the tree in the planter box. If needed, have someone hold it in place. Shovel in the soil mixture around the root mass, adding water every few inches to eliminate air pockets. Continue until the planter box is filled.

Water the container until the water dribbles out the drainage holes at the bottom of the box. Add a liquid transplant fertilizer solution to the water, such as vitamin B1, to promote new roots and a strong, healthy tree.


Things You Will Need

  • Container
  • Fiberglass or mesh plastic screen
  • Gravel or broken pottery
  • Soil
  • Tree
  • Liquid transplant fertilizer


  • Make sure to water the container enough to reach the root mass, and not just the top few inches of soil.


  • Do not assume every tree will grow well in a container. Check with the nursery about which type of tree does best in planter boxes.
  • Do not let the tree dry out, which occurs relatively quickly with container plants.
  • Avoid using fertilizers high in nitrogen for the first year. This promotes foliage growth instead of root growth.

About the Author


Based in New York State, Kelly Shetsky started writing in 1999. She is a broadcast journalist-turned Director of Marketing and Public Relations and has experience researching, writing, producing and reporting. She writes for several websites, specializing in gardening, medical, health and fitness, entertainment and travel. Shetsky has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Marist College.