Planting Tips for Healthy Trees and Shrubs
A worthwhile investment, trees and shrubs require some special care and attention as they establish themselves. A little extra love upfront will ensure a happy, healthy, and carefree plant for many years to come!
Unsure of what tree or shrub is right for you? Check out our blog on Tree Selection and our Shrub Spotlight to find the perfect plant for your space!
Quick Planting Guide
- Prepare your site: Plan to prepare the planting site a day in advance of planting. Make sure the tree/shrub is evenly moist. Dig a hole as deep as the root ball and twice as wide. Fill the hole with water and let drain completely before continuing to step two.
- Prepare your plant: Press on the sides of the container to loosen the root ball and pull out the plant. Take a garden knife or root saw and shallowly trim around the entire circumference of the root ball to free circling roots.
- Put it in the ground: Place the root ball in the hole, ensuring the roots are spread out and laid straight, not bent or circling. Backfill the hole with a mixture of one part compost or planting mix and two parts native soil (the soil you dug out) and a starter fertilizer like Espoma Biotone to encourage healthy new root growth. Make sure trees are planted with their root flare above the soil—when in doubt, plant shallower, not deeper.
- Take care! Lightly tamp down the soil to remove any air pockets and water thoroughly with a garden hose or soaker hose. Mulch around the tree, keeping at least a three-inch gap between the mulch and trunk. Be sure to water your new tree or shrub regularly and thoroughly until the ground freezes in the late fall. Water, water, water!
Detailed Planting Tips
Prepare your site:
- Prepare a day in advance of planting. Keep plants evenly moist, not dripping wet or dry. Plan to plant in the morning or evening, or on a cloudy day.
- Dig a hole as deep as the root ball and twice as wide. The root ball should be even or slightly above the ground when planted, never below.
- Fill the hole with water and let it drain completely before continuing. This will help to eliminate air pockets and provide needed moisture.
- If the hole does not drain within 24 hours, the soil is poorly drained and may warrant a shallow planting with up to one third of the root ball positioned above ground level to prevent root rot. Amend with compost.
- When planting trees:
- Dig down in the container until you find the first pencil-sized root to locate the crown and root flare.
- Dig the hole so that the root flare sits just above soil level. A slight flare of the trunk should be visible on the tree when planted.
- When in doubt, opt for a shallower planting.
Prepare your plant:
- Remove the plant from the container and gently release the roots from the tight root ball. Use a garden knife or root saw to shallowly trim around the entire circumference of the root ball. This will free up roots and ensure they are sprouting outward, not inward or circling the plant.
Put it in the ground:
- Place the root ball in the hole and evenly spread out the roots so they are straight, not bent or doubled over.
- Make sure trees are situated with their root flare just above the soil before backfilling. Remember, when in doubt go shallow, not deep!
- Backfill with a mixture of one part compost or planting mix, two parts native soil (the soil dug out of the hole), and a starter fertilizer like Espoma Biotone to provide a light feeding for new growth.
- Lightly tamp down the soil to remove air pockets, and water in thoroughly.
- Water, water, water! New trees and shrubs will need thorough, regular watering to establish strong, deep root systems. Keep your new planting moist, watering with a garden or soaker hose to penetrate deep into the soil-a sprinkler alone will not water deeply enough. Keep watering until the ground freezes in the fall.
- Mulch with a high-quality shredded mulch using the 3:3:3 rule—mulch 3 feet in diameter, 3 inches deep, and at least 3 inches away from the trunk.
- Fertilize once or twice annually in early spring and early to mid-summer.
- Protect trunks of tender trees and shrubs with hard plastic tubing or fencing to prevent winter feeding damage and sunscald.
- Consider wrapping new evergreen plantings in burlap for the winter, especially young Boxwood and Arborvitae plants.