plant a tree

Plant a tree properly

Last updated on October 28th, 2023 at 01:02 pm

modesto-ashHow to plant a tree

Plant a tree properly. It’s amazing how many folks do not know how to plant a tree the correct way.   Depending on the size, trees can cost upwards of $300.00 or more.

These tips are designed for those who are looking to do it yourself. Remember planting trees that are in a small one-gallon container is the same principle as planting a 50-gallon potted tree.

It is an innovative idea to hire qualified local landscapers for trees that are larger than 40 gallons.  A tree that is large may require heavy equipment such as a back-hole or Bobcat.

Follow these steps below to help ensure a long-lasting healthy beautiful tree or shrub. Digging a hole is not rocket science but you will need the right information if you want it done correctly.

Inspect the area first

Be sure to inspect the area before digging.  The last thing you want is to break a drip or sprinkler system! You will need a shovel, pick, and access to water nearby.  Never loosen the soil from a tree that is in a container.  Exposing the entire root system will stress the tree and could kill or prevent it from growing correctly.  Remove rocks, weeds, or anything that would impede the growth of tree roots.

Before digging outdoors make sure to call 811.  This will automatically route you directly to the one-call center in your area within the United States.

What is the one-call center?  It is a free service to inform underground utilities or pipeline owners of any called-in excavation activities that could potentially affect their underground facilities. Here is a link to further information.  Call 811.

What kind of soil do you have? If you live in the Southwestern region of the U.S. it is sandy, rocky, or caliche, So, you will need to amend your soil with good topsoil and compost.  A ratio of about 50% topsoil and 50% compost will work great.


When is the right time to plant a tree?

The ideal time to plant your tree or shrub in the Southwest is in early spring or fall. However, you can plant your tree in containers any time of the year.  But in mid-summer, you will have to apply more water than what is required during the spring seasons. The only problem with planting in mid-winter is battling the cold weather and the hard ground!

Before digging into the ground make sure there are no drip or water lines in the area.  Call local utilities to check for underground cables or utility lines.  Or just dial 811 for further information.

If you have any questions about trees, plants, or shrubs, please do NOT hesitate to contact us right here.  Contact Us.

How deep and how wide should we dig to plant a tree? Good Question.  See image below

Plant a tree properly

Plant a tree properly

Plant a Tree ProperlyWe are going to plant a Eucalyptus tree. Be sure you have the right tree or shrub for your landscape or space.

Remember to use trees that are suitable for your area. Also, be sure to place plants with similar watering needs together.



dig2When planting trees always dig a hole about 6-12″ wider than the pot and do not go deeper than the depth of the container. Or twice the width of the bucket.

If planting in hard or caliche soil dig wider and deeper.  Be sure to backfill with good topsoil and organic compost.

Try to handle the tree or shrub by the container or stake.  Too deep and you smother the tree trunk, too shallow and the root system will be exposed.



How to plant a tree properly

Carefully remove the tree or shrub from the container. Tap the pot with your fist or use a small hammer to loosen the container from the root ball.

Do NOT remove the soil from the roots. Doing so may “stress the tree”. You can gently scrape the edges of the soil and roots.  Do NOT overdo this, doing so can cause your tree/shrub stress from over-exposing the root system.





digging-holePlace the plant or tree in the hole making sure it is level and straight with the surrounding landscape. We are not doing rocket science here, use common sense when planting.





How to plant a tree properlyBackfill the hole with about 50% of your native soil and 50% organic compost, and top it with organic mulch or bark.

Mulch will help retain water and help with root development.  Compost does have some fertilizer qualities.  It is best to wait 2-3 weeks before starting a fertilizer schedule.

Do not overdo the mulch.  About 1 inch in depth will do just fine.

You can also incorporate old newspapers at the bottom of the hole for composting purposes.


add-compostMake a dirt or compost border around the tree or shrub and fill it with water.







root-stimulatorUse about 4-5 tbs of root stimulator to about 1 gallon of water. You can also use vitamin B1 for root development.

These products are not a form of fertilizer. Although some contain lesser amounts of nitrogen and potash.

They are used for root development.  Ask for these products at your local nursery.



How to plant a tree properly

euclayptus tree southwest
A nice healthy 20-year-old Eucalyptus tree.

Most trees and or shrubs require quite a bit of water when first planted. Soak thoroughly the first day but make sure it drains well. Remember to use some root stimulator as this will help stimulate new root growth.

Water at least every day for the first 2-3 weeks, even more during the hot southwestern months, typically May through August. Then cut back to about every other day depending on the type of tree or plant you have.

Remember to use mulch on the plant or tree to minimize evaporation. Mulch should be added to the soil. This will also help cool the soil and reduce weeds during summertime.

Follow this rule regarding tree growth. The first year it’s slow, the second year it creeps, and the third year it leaps!

Color Your World and Guzman’s Greenhouse offer delivery and planting services if purchased at one of our stores.

Plant a tree properly

A few other things to consider.  If your tree comes in burlap with the wire you should remove the wire. However, the burlap can stay but it’s best to cut holes in the burlap to allow the roots to shoot through.  Removing the burlap completely is a good idea but doing so may cause the soil to fall apart, thus causing the root system to be exposed.  If your root system is exposed your tree or plant might get stressed out.

What about trees that are root bound?

Container trees can become root bound if they stay in a container for too long.  This is also called root strangulation or girdling roots.  The best thing to do is to remove the container and cut the root system from about halfway down. Use a good spade shovel or a sharp knife to do this.

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    • James Bergman
    • July 19, 2016

    My shade tree is getting kind of old and I am planting a new tree to replace it for when I finally have to cut it down. So, I appreciate your tips on how to properly plant a tree. Up till now, I have been cutting an “X” in the bottom of the root ball because I was told it would help the roots grow down. Apparently, I was told wrong.

      • Paul Guzman
      • July 19, 2016

      Taking a tree out of its existing container and cutting an “X” at the bottom may damage the root system. I would gently pull it out of the container and place it the hole without disturbing the roots at all. I’ve had customers and landscapers tell me they gently loosen the outside of the roots to help get them going. But, I’ve always had success by placing them in the ground without doing anything to the soil or roots at all.

      Thanks for your input James.

    • jessica miller
    • July 20, 2016

    I read an article you wrote about using newspaper when transplanting plants in our sandy desert soil. You stated dig a hole, lay down a sheet of news paper and fill and top with 50/50 topsoil/native soil with a sprinkle of organic bonemeal. I’ve used the same newspaper method with all the shrubs and trees I’ve purchased from you and I’m happy to report my trees and shrubs are loving it !! Even my lovers of arid dry air lavenders have appreciated the newspaper bottom. I noticed with the article above you didn’t mention newspapers when planting a tree. Why then are my trees doing fantastic using your newspaper method 🙂 I hope this wasn’t an oversight.

      • Paul Guzman
      • July 21, 2016

      Thanks, for your input Jessica.
      No, this was not an oversight. However, the article was written by my brother Gary and published in the newspaper recently. This method does indeed work. The post I wrote (Plant a tree properly) was actually published on our website 8 years ago. In order to avoid confusion in the future, I will incorporate the newspaper and bone meal method into my published post.

        • jessica miller
        • August 6, 2016

        Thank you so much, Paul. I’ve not shared your article with anybody nowhere near my neighborhood LOL . My husband can attest he himself did not believe your newspaper method–he found out firsthand indeed works! I wish I were able to share photos of my trees and shrubs and veggies that have your newspaper method that I laid down vs the ones did not since Im a passionate gardener I couldn’t bear NOT to give a plant one sheet of newspaper (using absolutely no gloss pages). For your customers, here are my steps for your method: dig hole, water thoroughly, at sheet of paper, fill 1/4-1/2 way with your top quality tree and shrub soil (if planting such), 1/4 of native soil, 1/4 C organic bone meal, rake or mix thoroughly, lightly water mixture, set tree or shrub, fill using your 50/50 native soil/topsoild or tree or shrub. water thoroughly and viola ! Healthly plants with a great headstart in the ground all thanks to you!! I’ve had a black thumb all my life until recently but WOW your valuable tips awakened ourpassion to keep planting. Thank you! Thank you Paul! God Bless!

          • Paul Guzman
          • August 6, 2016

          Thank You Jessica. This is an excellent comment it will benefit those who are looking for successful planting tips. Thanks for your comment and God Bless you.

    • Adam
    • April 11, 2018

    This is such a great how to, step by step protocol. Thanks alot!

    • Sherry
    • June 10, 2018

    How do you avoid Caliches deposits? Or can you tell before you plant if there is a Caliches barrier. I have lost two trees after their roots struck shale!

    1. Reply

      Clayish soil (AKA caliche) is hard dirt and will retain water, this will make your plants and lawn susceptible to root rot and fungus. Try aerating the hard soil with an aerating tool. You could rent one at your local nursery or rent center. The thing to do is aerate then incorporate some gypsum into the soil. This will help loosen the soil. The one caveat to all this is that It will take several applications over the course of several years before you get good results!

    • Patsy
    • August 31, 2018

    Shouldn’t new trees be staked to keep the roots from moving around before they take hold?

    1. Reply

      Hello, Patsy. Yes, medium to smaller sized trees should be staked down especially during the Southwest windy seasons. I will soon write a post on how to properly stake a newly planted tree. Thanks for reminding me.

    • Linda M Elkins
    • August 31, 2018

    I have several very small trees to plant this fall–any tips will be helpful and appreciated since I have NEVER planted trees. These are tender and not very tall from root stock

    • Linda M Elkins
    • September 15, 2018

    Please send some tips

    • Jessie
    • November 6, 2018

    Thanks for this Paul, I might need this because I’m planning to plant one in our backyard. Hope I can email you for related questions.
    lawn care company columbia

    1. Reply

      Absolutely, please keep in touch.

    • Burt
    • December 4, 2018

    Thanks for this guide. I love how short and to the point it is!

    1. Reply

      Thanks, for your comment Burt we value our visitor’s comments.

    • Mike
    • December 16, 2018

    Thanks, Paul on your tree planting tips. I didn’t know you could still plant your trees in the mid-winter.

    1. Reply

      Hello, Mike. Yes, you can plant trees in and around the southwest area. However, up north where the ground freezes really hard it’s best to wait until the end of winter. Thanks for your comment.

  1. There is more to planting a tree than just throwing it in the ground. Thanks for these tree planting tips.

    1. Reply

      Yes, purchasing a tree does cost money and the last thing you want is for it to die because of improper planting. There are different techniques for other parts of the USA. In the Southwest, the soil is typically sandy and lacking nutrients.

  2. If you are going to take the time and money to plant a tree, you might as well do it right. Thanks for all the info.

  3. Reply

    A great guide on tree planting. I appreciate your effort just to teach readers the basic steps of planting trees. Tree Service Charlottesville.

    1. Reply

      Thanks, for the positive comment Hunter.

  4. Reply

    So nice guide! We need to enlighten the world to plant more trees. This post helps a lot for us. Harrisonburg Tree Service Company.

    • Nestor Hernandez
    • December 22, 2022

    This is a pretty complete list on how to plant a tree the proper way, we need more lists like this one more than ever! It’s vital that we start reforestaring every free space we can help save the earth! and after you’re all hot and tired from all the work planting the tress I’m sure that you’ll want to refresh yourself in a room with AC, so call my top 1 ac services in gainesville to ensure that your AC is working at a 100%!

  5. Reply

    Very much appreciated. Thank you for this excellent article. Keep posting!

    1. Reply

      Thanks for the compliment.

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