Digging a hole

How to Plant Trees

Properly planting a tree is simple but does require some advance preparation. Doing so will ensure your tree thrives once it is in the ground.

The below instructions are for ball and burlapped (B&B) and containerized trees.

  1. Identify a suitable planting location using Right Tree, Right Space principles.
  2. Dig a hole 2-3 times as wide as the root ball and depth that is appropriate for the surface type. Place removed dirt on tarp.

    • Flat surface – depth should be equal to the root ball height
    • Sloped surface – depth should allow the trunk flare be level with the original grade

  3. Roughen the sides of the planting hole to reduce any glazing effects that would pose a barrier to root establishment.
  4. Unwrap and remove the twine from the tree and prune any broken or dead branches.

    • If containerized, remove the tree from the container. Inspect the root ball and if necessary shave off any circling roots with a sharp, square-edged shovel.

  5. Position tree in center of hole. Recheck that root flare is at grade. Make necessary adjustments.
  6. Backfill 1/3 of hole with soil. Soil may be amended by mixing in a 40 lb. bag of soil amendment.
  7. Remove most of the wire basket and burlap material (B&B trees only).
  8. Finish backfilling making sure not to cover the root ball with soil.
  9. Construct a small berm or saucer around tree that can be filled with water.
  10. Apply mulch using the 3-3-3 rule: 3 inches of mulch in a 3-foot ring with a 3-inch space around the tree trunk. Do not volcano mulch.
  11. Put a trunk guard on to protect the delicate cambium from lawn care equipment.
  12. Install a slow release watering bag to irrigate the trees during establishment.

If you are planting a tree along a street or in a busy public space consider adding stakes to protect the tree from people and vehicles. Place two 2”x2”x2’ stakes on either side of the tree. Secure with a synthetic rope with stretch.

Instructional Videos


How to Plant a Balled and Burlapped Tree


How to Plant a Containerized Tree

More video instruction.
Great job on planting your new tree! Keep reading to learn how to care for it.