Preparing the site.

Preparing the Site

The tree and site must be compatible. Find out how big your little tree will become, and know what its soil, water and light requirements are.

The hole you dig (once you've contacted the proper utilities to ensure there isn't anything vital in the way) should be wide and deep enough to allow the roots to fit without being cramped.

Planting the seedling.

Preparing the Seedling

If your tree is a bare-root tree, you must take care that the roots do not dry out. If weather conditions make it impossible for you to plant your tree right away, keep the roots moist (but not wet) and store the tree in a cool place. If weather conditions are right, soak the roots in water for 6 to 12 hours prior to planting.

If your tree is a container-grown tree, remove it from its container and prune any damaged roots. Balled-and-burlapped trees need little preparation prior to planting. Simply remove any plastic tags, rope or twine. Because natural burlap is biodegradable, it may be left in the hole, but synthetic wraps should be removed once the root ball is set in the hole.

Planting the Seedling

The time to plant depends on the type of stock you purchased. A bare-root tree may be planted from late fall to early spring, providing the ground is not frozen. Balled-and-burlapped trees can be planted in the spring or fall. Container-grown trees can be planted at any time.

Trees should be planted at the same depth as they were at the nursery. It is helpful to have someone hold the seedling while another person is carefully adding soil and packing it firmly around the roots. Once the seedling is stable, backfill half the hole, and add water to remove air pockets. Once the water has drained, resume backfilling. Ensure that the soil is packed firmly in place, and water again. Apply mulch to preserve moisture, but keep it a few inches away from the trunk.

Left: Water ring. Right: Water spike.


Give your newly planted tree plenty of water - not just immediately after planting, but throughout its first year (at the very least) until it gets established in its new site. A trench dug around your tree immediately after planting and filled with water keeps the soil moist, but the trench must be topped up many times. Water rings placed under a 2-inch deep layer of mulch will keep your seedling fully watered for up to two weeks. For deep watering, a root feeder attached to a garden hose and inserted into the soil around a tree works like a syringe to inject water and fertilizers right into the root zone. Fertilizers encourage deep root growth, which not only maximizes top growth, but also resists the effects of drought.

Left: Water ring.

Right: Watering spike.

Tree support stake

Tall trees, top-heavy trees and trees planted in a windy location can benefit from being staked over the course of their first year. A stake prevents such trees from falling over and holds them in place while the roots establish themselves. A stake is best added while the tree is being planted because it minimizes root damage. The stake should be attached to the trunk with a tie, leaving enough room for annual growth.

Trunk guard

Loose-fitting tree wraps may be used to protect the lower part of the trunk from lawnmower and rodent damage.

A well-planted tree given reasonable care will reward you with healthy growth.

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