Preparing The Site
If possible, prepare the site before you bring in the tree. Keep the root ball well watered and keep the tree in a shaded place until you are ready to plant. It is imperative to expose the trunk flare on each balled and burlapped tree before the planting site is dug so that the depth of the planting site can be properly measured. The trunk flare is the point where roots begin to branch from the trunk. (The top of the root ball is not always the trunk flare.) Remove burlap from immediate trunk area of tree. Pull back excess soil around trunk of tree to locate trunk flare. Measure the height from the base of the trunk flare to the bottom of the root ball. Dig to the depth of the trunk flare. •Trunk flare and top of root ball should be at grade.
•Dig the space at least 3 times the diameter of root ball.
•Break up compacted soil. Sides of planting space should not be packed. Leave bottom of space firm.
•Do not amend soil unless planting in building rubble, poor, or severely disturbed soils.
How to Plant a Tree
You can print this list and check off the items as you go along.
•Lift tree into planting space by root ball, not the trunk.
•Balance tree upright in center of planting space.
•For trees in wire baskets, cut and remove wire.
•Cut away strings and burlap or plastic, exposing root ball. Do not remove soil from root ball.
•If tree is container grown, cut and remove container.
•Prune dead or crushed roots and straighten or cut circling roots. Make clean cuts.
•Begin refilling with soil, watering as you fill to firmly set tree. Gently tamp.
•Never plant too deep. Trunk flare and top of root ball should be at grade. (Trunk flare may be hidden within the root ball.) Fill soil up to the tree base just to where roots begin to branch from trunk.
•Prune only dead or injured branches. Do not paint wounds.
•Remove tree wrap, tape or string on trunk. Trunks should be wrapped only to protect them in transit to planting site.
•Stake and brace most trees at planting time. Support tree but allow it to move or sway.
•Use wide, belt-like strapping to attached to two sturdy stakes. Do not use rope or wire through a hose.
•Mulch lightly and evenly with 2" of composted material at least to the diameter of crown of tree. Leave 3" circle of bare soil around the trunk. Deep layers of mulch can be harmful.
•Do not plant flowers under tree.
•Do not fertilize at planting time.
Content provided by the The National Arbor Day Foundation and USDA Forest Service Northeastern Area. To see the tree-planting information on the Arbor Day Foundation's website, please click here.