You have selected a disease and insect-free tree that has a strong trunk, and
now the future success of the tree depends on one major factor: how well you
plant it. Here’s how:
- Select the planting site with the mature height and spread of the tree in
- Dig the planting hole, making it three to five times as wide as the root
ball, but no deeper than the root ball. This type of planting hole not only
encourages the lateral roots to spread out, but also helps stabilize the
tree by providing firm support below. The uppermost lateral root should be
just below grade level.
- The next step is to test the drainage of the planting hole. Pour a few
gallons in the bottom of the hole; the water should soak in within an hour.
If it does not, you have a drainage problem that needs to be addressed
before the tree is planted. Choose another site, plant the tree on a slight
mound, or install a drain. Checking the drainage is very important because
tree death due to drowning is a major problem in the urban landscape.
- Next, remove the tree from the container, burlap, or wire basket, and
place the tree on undisturbed soil. All ropes, burlap and wire should be
gently removed from the root ball.
- Now, while keeping the roots moist, spread them out from the root ball,
and prune out any mushy or brittle roots. If you find that the tree is pot
bound, or that most of the roots are not viable, return the tree to the
- Back fill the hole with the original un-amended soil. Tamp the soil
lightly to remove air pockets, and water well as you backfill.
- Apply organic mulch over the planting area, but keep the mulch several
inches from the tree trunk. Keep the area free of grass, weeds, mowers, and
trimmers. Pruning, except to remove dead or crossed branches, and
fertilizing are not suggested.
The time you spend to select and prepare the planting site, and the care with
which you handle the tree at planting is reflected in the rate at which the tree
will reestablish its root system, and recover from transplant stress. Proper
planting technique is all about the future of your tree.
Dennis Patton, DPatton@oznet.ksu.edu
County Extension Agent, Horticulture
Johnson County, Kansas
Kansas State University Research and Extension