Plant Your Tree

Before Planting Your Tree

Planting the Right Tree, in the Right Place, for the Right Reason and in the Right Way will be good for you, the tree, and for Maryland.

Contact MISS UTILITY at 1-800-257-7777 for assistance in locating underground utilities before you dig the planting hole.

Diagram showing where, and where not, to plant trees

Planting Your Tree

Now that you are ready to put your tree in the ground, below you will find some information on how to plant your tree properly. Putting effort into proper techniques allows your tree to grow healthy and strong to provide the many benefits for which you planted your tree(s). You will also prevent long term problems such as excessive lean, branches dying back, and roots and branches being girdled. Some trees can live to be 80-100 years old or more. The steps you take today can have lasting effects throughout its lifetime. As the saying goes “it is better to plant a $10 tree in a $100 hole than a $100 tree in a $10 hole”.

Image showing how to plant a tree
  1. Dig hole 2-3 times as wide as container or root ball.
  2. Dig hole no deeper than height of new tree’s root ball. Top of root ball should be level or slightly above soil surface. Better 1” too high – than 1” too low!
  3. Remove container, cut large and circling roots. Gently pull and loosen outside roots from the root ball.
  4. Place tree in prepared hole, being sure the tree is straight up and centered in the hole.
  5. Do not add soil amendments such as manure, fertilizer or peat moss.
  6. Backfill hole with original soil, breaking up clumps and tamping firmly as you go. Do not tamp on the roots, only around the roots. Remove soil from grass clumps. Do not replace grass in hole.
  7. Apply 4” of mulch to entire disturbed area. Do not let mulch touch the tree trunk.
  8. After tree is planted, water to settle soil and minimize large air pockets.

Mulching

  • Retains soil moisture
  • Suppresses weed growth
  • Moderates soil temperatures
  • Improves soil fertility
  • Eliminates need for mowing and weed trimming around base of trees

Apply 4” of mulch evenly to the entire disturbed surface area around the tree. Avoid mounding mulch. Keep the mulch 2” clear of trunk to avoid creating favorable places for pests and rotting of bark.

Watering

Water for recently planted trees is essential! Some water is better than none, but 3-5 gallons a week, if it doesn’t rain, is ideal. Water slowly to avoid runoff.

Browning, wilting, scorch, and dieback are most often caused by lack of water. Don’t wait for signs of moisture stress to show before watering.

Fertilizing

You may begin to fertilize your trees the second year after planting to improve growth rate and density of foliage. Apply slow release fertilizer late September to early November. Broadcast about ¼ lb of 33-0-0 (nitrogen) per 5’x5’ area from the trunk outward. Or apply a balanced fertilizer (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and micronutrients) according to the manufacturer’s label. Remember, too much fertilizer will injure your tree!