Properly planting trees is one of the best investments you can make for the long-term health of your trees. When done properly, your plants will flourish and cause less heartache in the future. These recommendations are from decades of experience and echo within the fields of horticulture and arboriculture. Plants are living things that cost money, and taking 10 minutes to read this brief article will help protect your investment.
All plants are not the same. Plant selection is critical; they all have different growing requirements. Likewise, different landscapes have different growing conditions such as light exposure, soil types, surrounding toxicities, and pests and other wildlife - it's nature. We recommend thinking critically about your site or seeking consultation from a professional. The plant's mature size will dictate its proper siting relative to other plants, buildings, utilities, etc.
Please come prepared. Larger plants like trees, evergreens and larger shrubs require the use of a pickup truck (usually without a cap) or a trailer. Large plants will not fit into small cars. Please bring the following items with you:
"A plant can pull itself into the Earth to get what it needs, but it cannot push itself out when it's suffocating."
Don't dig deeper than the plant's root ball. Plant perennials and groundcovers at existing grade. For trees, shrubs, and evergreens, in most cases, plant them 1-3 inches above grade. Dig a wide hole, 1.5-2 times wider than the root ball. The wider the better.
Southeastern Wisconsin has poorly drained, compact clay soils - especially around new construction homes and commercial properties - and roots can have a slower time penetrating them. Soil that is loosened by digging and backfilling creates a healthier environment for root growth and establishment.
A plant's roots need oxygen and moisture. Planting slightly above grade ensures good drainage and more access to oxygen. Planting deep inhibits access to oxygen. Planting too deeply could damage the trunk.
Mulch retains moisture and decomposes over time. Mulch piled up and directly touching the trunk may cause the plant's bark to rot. Refer to our dig hole diagram.
Before setting the plant in the hole, use a tape measure to check the hole depth one last time. Again, the top of the ball should be 1-3" above grade. Carefully lift the plant by the root ball or roll it gently into the hole.
Do I remove the burlap, wire cage, and twine?
With the plant safely in the hole, it is time to backfill. The majority of your backfill should be the soil that came out of the hole. Amendments like compost, plant starter, or peat moss can be added to the backfill; however, it shouldn't exceed 20% of the backfill. Mix any amendments in thoroughly prior to backfilling.
Backfill in layers. After each layer, check the plant from all angles to ensure it remains straight - this is the optimal time to adjust the plant. Gently compress between each layer. Add water to help settle the soil and to give lower roots a drink. DON'T WRENCH the trunk to correct posture. Use a shovel to lift under the root zone, add backfill, and compress accordingly.
Typically, you don't fertilize during planting. Instead, allow the plant to establish before trying to stimulate growth.
If you properly install your new plant, then you shouldn't need staking. Avoid staking if possible. A wide, soft material will minimize abrasion to trunk tissue. Plan on removing any stakes within a year and when the tree is firmly in the ground. Avoid using staking to correct a plant's posture. It's healthier for the plant to dig under one side of the root zone, then add dirt, to correct posture issues.