We are reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.
The trees you purchased from your local nursery might seem like they’re thriving in the pots you bought them in, but eventually, you’ll need to transplant them into their permanent homes. Here are seven of our favorite tree planting tips to help your transplants thrive.
Choose Your Planting Location Carefully
Be smart about where you choose to transplant your new tree, especially those that grow to great heights and spread their roots deep. Much of our infrastructure — power, water, gas, internet and sewage, just to name a few — is underground. If you plant a tree that will have an expansive root structure, it’s possible that it will eventually grow through and damage the wires and pipes that bring power and water into your home.
Be smart about where you choose to plant your trees. If the roots grow into city-owned sidewalks or streets you’ll be on the hook for removal costs.
Pick the Right Seasons
You can buy potted trees year-round either at local nurseries or online, but you need to be careful about the seasons you choose to plant. It will vary depending on the species you choose. Deciduous trees are best planted during the early spring or early fall — before they leaf out or after their leaves start to change color.
Coniferous trees are best moved late in the summer before they hunker down for the winter.
Skip the Fertilizer — For Now
You might think that you need to fertilize your new tree as soon as you get it into the ground, but you might be doing more harm than good. You may eventually want to apply fertilizer, but experts recommend that you wait for at least a year before you start fertilizing.
The only exception to this will be if the tree is failing to thrive in its new home. In this case, we suggest consulting with an arborist or other expert before you start experimenting with whatever you can buy at your local hardware store.
Water Enough, but Not Too Much
Another one of our tree planting tips can help you determine how much water your new transplanted tree needs. Without enough water, your newly transplanted tree will wither and die — but watering too much also creates its own set of problems. Start by deeply watering your new tree every day for the first two weeks after you plant it to help the roots start settling into their new home.
After the first two weeks, watering about once a week will be sufficient to keep the roots hydrated. Pay close attention to the ambient rainfall and seasonal temperatures. You’ll need to water more during hot and dry periods and less when you’re getting afternoon thunderstorms.
Be Mindful of Your Mulch
Once you have your newly transplanted tree in the ground, surrounding it with mulch is always a good idea. Mulch helps the soil retain moisture, which will prevent the soil and the root systems from drying out, especially when it’s hot and sunny outside.
On the other side of the coin, if you pile the area around your new tree with too much mulch, you can create a warm and moist environment that can encourage fungus growth and pests — none of which are good for your new tree. Be sparing with your mulch. A thin layer of mulch applied 1-2 inches from the trunk of the tree is your best option.
Lay Off The Pruning Shears
We always want to keep our trees trimmed back to keep them from growing unchecked but when it comes to your newly transplanted trees, keep your hands off the pruning sheers. Transplanting, whether you’re moving the tree from one location to another or moving it from a pot to the ground, is a stressful experience.
The only time you should prune a newly planted tree is there are dead or broken branches. Other than that, give your new tree at least a year to recover from the transplant stress before you start trimming it to your liking.
Let It Stand, But Be Ready to Support
Getting your tree to stand up straight on a round root ball might seem challenging but it’s a simple tree planting tip that will help your newly planted tree thrive. Dig a hole deep enough that your transplant can stand on its own. Then you can add more soil to pack it in and make it stable.
If it won’t stand on its own, you can use stakes to help prop the tree up. You’ll often see this in trees planted by your city — a new tree surrounded and supported by carefully angled 2x4s. Don’t leave the stakes in for too long though. You need to give the roots a chance to grow and strengthen, and they won’t gain the strength they need if the tree is constantly supported by stakes or lumber.
Be Patient and Take Care of Them
Trees grow for hundreds of years into bastions of strength, but in the beginning, they can be quite fragile. These tree planting tips will help you keep your new acquisitions healthy and happy while they spread their roots and reach for the sky.