How to Plant a Containerized Tree

Fall is a perfect time of year to plant trees. The cooler outdoor temperatures and warm soil coax the tree into focusing on growing strong roots as opposed to leaves and this is a great way to ensure a healthy plant come spring. If you purchase a tree from a local nursery it is likely to be growing in a container and if you’ve never planted a tree before you might not know how to get started. If you follow these steps you’ll get your tree off to a great start:

  • The first step is to prepare the hole for planting. It should be 3 to 4 times as wide as your container and the depth of the hole should be just about at the top of the container.
  • Place the tree on its side and gently remove the tree from the container. You may have to tap the sides of the container to loosen the roots and pull the container off rather than yank the tree out as this will help protect the roots and trunk of the tree from potential injury. If the tree has been in the container for a lengthy period of time the roots might have be wrapped around one another. You can take a sharp knife and slice the roots down the side of the root ball to loosen them up. You may need to also use the knife on the bottom of the root ball as well.
  • Now set the tree in the middle of the hole. You don’t want to plant the tree too deeply. The area where the trunk meets the soil line is known as the root collar and this should just above the soil line when the hole is filled in. Once you have the tree in a position where it is straight you can start to add soil around the root ball to keep it in place. Slowly fill the rest of the hole with soil and tamp it down as you go to avoid air pockets.
  • Once all the soil is in place give the tree a good soaking with the hose and then spread a layer of mulch about 2 to 4 inches thick but make sure the mulch isn’t piled up against the trunk of the tree. The soil and mulch should be kept moist but not saturated. If you have dry weather you may have to water the tree every 7 to 10 days during the first year.
  • Finally, prune any damaged branches and remove tags and labels from the tree that can impact its growth over time. Don’t fertilizer your tree now as it could cause the plant to attempt to grow leaves which could get damaged during the winter and weaken the tree while it is trying to establish itself.

If you have questions about planting trees please feel free to contact us or go to The Arbor Day Foundation website for more information on growing trees. 

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