How to plant a tree: short version

Trees can be planted in any of the three following forms: container grown (most dyg trees are this); rootballed (for larger trees and some imported plants from Holland; or 'bare root'. Container grown trees are available year round and can be planted year round. Root-balled and bare-root trees are only available during the dormant (winter) period. Root-balled trees are normally 'field grown' and most mature specimens are sold this way. Bare root trees are economical, lightweight and fast to plant, but require some care and speed in the planting.

  1. Dig a hole that is as wide or wider than it is deep, with the profile of a bowl rather than a bucket.
  2. Remove grass or weeds
  3. Do not enrich soil, but loosen the sides of the hole well and ensure there is good drainage and plenty of space for roots to spread in all directions.
  4. Remove the tree from its container, loosen the roots well, unsuring that they are not still travelling in the circular shape left by the pot, and locate the 'root flare. The root flare is the part of the tree trunk where it widens out and major roots appear. Snip off or ignore any smaller, hairy or 'adventitious roots' further up the stem.
  5. Position the tree in the hole and check it will be at the right height (see below) and adjust soil levels in the bottom of the hole if necessary.
  6. Put in the tree stake with a sledge or lump hammer, making sure it is firm, and it will be snugly against the tree and not cause any rubbing.
  7. Backfill with the same soil that you excavated when you dug the hole. Plant the tree so that the beginning of the root flare is visible at soil level. It is critical not to plant the tree too deep.
  8. Lay your shovel a cross the hole to see where the shovel meets the root flare and adjust the planting depth accordingly. If you anticipate settling of the soil, plant a little high. It is better to plant too high than too deep
  9. Create a 'doughnut' of soil or bark mulch around the base of the tree, so that there is a small well to facilitate watering, ensuring that the soild or bark is not mounded up against the tree.
  10. Fix the stake to the tree using a tree tie. This should be about one third of the way up the tree. The tree tie should be tied in a figure of 8 to avoid rubbing and damage to the tree. Read more about tree staking...
  11. Stand back and check the tree. Snip off any dead, diseased or damaged bits should there be any, but do not carry out any other pruning at this stage.
  12. Make sure that the base of the tree is kept weedand grass free while the tree establishes, and to protect from mower and strimmer damage.