How to Plant a Tree for the Future

How to Plant a Tree for the Future

January is Tree Planting Time

The colder part of the year is the best time to install hardy trees and shrubs.  All their energy is in the root zone.  They will establish much faster than if you wait until they are actively growing leaves.

The shaved rootball (right) is smaller than the rootball before shaving (left). Photo: Shelia Dunning

However, planting them correctly is critical to their survival.  The top three mistakes that people make are: (1) installing too deeply, (2) leaving the rootball undisturbed, and (3) not applying enough water all the way through establishment of the root system.  Unfortunately, it may be years before the mistakes are noticed.

Here are the ten steps for successful planting:

1. Call 811 and have all underground utilities marked before digging the hole.

Hitting a line can be costly and life threatening.

2. Loosen all surrounding compacted soil within the potential root zone of the tree.

Tree roots are close to the surface and need to be able to push through the soil.

3. If the soil is extremely dry and sandy, amend with the entire area with organic material.

This is only needed in coastal regions.

4. Remove the container from the tree and find the top-most root.

All media covering the root flare must be removed.

5. Prepare the rootball by removing encircling roots and shaving the edges of the rootball.

The rootball should no longer be shaped like the container when complete.

6. Dig the hole slightly less shallow than the rootball.

Make sure the bottom of the hole is firm soil, so sinking will not occur.

7. Place the rootball in the ground with the main root showing just above the soil grade.

Oxygen must reach the roots for new roots to develop.

8. Back fill around the rootball with the surrounding loose soil.

Take care to not cover the root flare.

9. Mulch around the outside of the rootball without covering the rootball.

Apply at least 2-3 inches of organic mulch. No more than 4″.

10. Water immediately to settle soil and then on a regular schedule until established.

Minimum of 1 gal per 3 gal plant, every 2-4 days, for 20-28 weeks. Larger plants will require more water at each event.

Mulch should be spread about 3 inches thick around the rootball. No mulch should be spread over the rootball. Photo: Shelia Dunning

Friday, January 20, 2023 is Arbor Day in Florida.  Plant a tree for the next generation.  If it is installed correctly, it can live a good long life.  For more details refer to: and for more details.

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