Tree Planting Season: Tips for the Best Success

Waiting for warmer spring weather can be like watching grass grow – a slow, and tortuous process. While you wait for winter to finally melt away, think about the springtime tree planting. One of the first things to consider when selecting any plant for a landscape should be the functional role the plant will play in the overall landscape.

“Selection of trees for planting in a home landscape depends on several factors, including a suitable growing site and any function they are going to serve,” explains Tchukki Andersen, BCMA, CTSP* and staff arborist with the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA). “Will they attract birds to the area? Shade a patio? Screen an unsightly view? Enhance the appearance of the home? Trees can provide contrast and relief from surrounding buildings and create seasonal interest in areas near the home,” says Andersen.

Once you’ve determined what you want your tree to do, consider the following factors when selecting a tree to plant:

Planting Site Evaluation

Available Sunlight – The amount of sunlight a tree receives can limit the kind of tree that can be planted. Consider the tree species and the location in your yard in order to determine if there will be enough (or not too much) available sunlight.

Available Water –Make sure the new planting site will have enough available water for the new tree. Proper watering is the single most important aspect of the maintenance of newly transplanted trees. In the first year or two, it is important to keep the root ball moist but not over-watered.

Room to Grow- Consider any above and below ground space restrictions. Are there overhead electrical wires the tree may grow into? Are there water and power lines underground that could interfere with root growth? Growth of trees will be restricted in less than 20 years if there are less than 200 square feet of open soil around them, including those planted close to buildings or hardscape.

When to Plant

The optimum planting time can vary drastically by region and elevation in the United States. The celebration of Arbor Day in any given state is a good indicator of optimum planting conditions for that region. Spring planting allows tree nurseries to provide a much wider selection of trees, than in the fall. Planting trees in the spring allows more time to establish and grow more over the course of the warmer months in order to best survive the dormant season. Additionally, a qualified tree care provider has the experience and knowledge to help you plant a tree at any time of year provided there is a follow up with an after-care program to ensure the best plant health.

Plant It, Don’t Bury It

Planting the tree too deeply will drastically reduce its healthy lifespan, as well as cause potential hazards as it grows. Planting trees too deeply can fall over in even moderate winds – usually causing damage or injury. Dig the planting hole slightly shallower than the tree root ball and at least twice as wide. This is to allow for flattening and settling of the root ball. The uppermost large woody lateral roots should be planted within one to two inches of the soil surface. You’ll have to poke into the top of the root ball with a stiff wire to find the topmost lateral roots. Place the root ball on a stable subgrade to minimize settling. Water the rootball sufficiently and add a 3 – inch later of composted wood chip mulch over the top.
TCIA hopes you will enjoy the spring with a successful tree and shrub planting in your landscape.

Find a Professional

A professional arborist can assess your landscape and work with you to determine the best trees and shrubs to plant for your existing landscape, and how best to protect them. Homeowners who would like a professional arborist to assess their trees should contact the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA). TCIA is a public and professional resource on trees and arboriculture since 1938.  TCIA has the nation’s only Accreditation program that helps consumers find tree care companies that have been inspected and accredited based on: adherence to industry standards for quality and safety; maintenance of trained, professional staff; and dedication to ethics and quality in business practices. An easy way to find a tree care service provider in your area is to use the “Locate Your Local TCIA Member Companies” program.

You can use this service by visiting

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