6 Steps to Follow When Planting a Tree 

Follow these basic guidelines when planting a tree and don’t hesitate to consult with a tree care professional.

When To Plant A Tree

Generally, mid November to late February is the best time to plant trees in the Houston area. Planting in late fall or winter will allow roots to become established before moisture demanding summer sets in.

Planting A Container Grown Tree

Do not remove tree from container until you’re ready to place into planting hnle. Fine roots dry out rapidly when exposed to air.

Hole Size

Dig a hole 2 to 3 times wider than the root ball and slightly shallower. The tree should be planted slightly above the original soil level (this is especially important in heavy clay soils to aid in drainage). When the hole is ready, gently remove tree while lightly pressing against sides of container. If necessary, cut container vertically to dislodge root ball.

Placing The Tree In The Hole

Set tree gently into hole, lifting by root ball. Tree should be centered and plumb. Cut any circling roots along outer edge of root ball with pruning shears. Hold tree while backfilling around root ball and tamp soil lightly to eliminate air pockets. Large clods should be broken apart before backfilling.


Remove any grass or weeds within a 3′ minimum diameter circle around tree and create a watering saucer. Cover with 3-4″ mulch composed of bark, woodchips compost, pine needles, etc. Do not use fresh grass clippings. See illustration below.


Adequate water is essential at planting time. Place water hose at base of tree and allow water to slowly trickle until soil is saturated.

The following watering schedule may be utilized with adjustments made during prolonged periods of rain or drought:

Initial watering after planting:

Root zones should be slow-soaked every seven days for four weeks.


Root zones should be slow-soaked every three weeks.

October, March & April:

Root zones should be slow-soaked every two weeks.


Root zones should be slow-soaked once a week.

Care Of Newly Planted Tree

After watering, add mulch to compensate for any settling. If necessary, stake tree to keep upright. Prune dead, diseased and damaged branches. Research has proven that pruning the crown to “compensate for root loss” actually impedes root regeneration and slows establishment. Structural pruning should be delayed until the second year of growth.


Tree Planting Tips

  • Loosen the soil far beyond the dripline of tree.

  • Brace the tree only if it will not remain upright in a moderate wind.

  • Brace with broad, belt-like materials that won’t injure the bark and remove after one growing season.

  • Cover root ball with mulch, but keep trunk exposed.

  • Keep soil moist, but not water-logged.

  • Remove dead, diseased and damaged branches.

  • Wait one year to begin structural pruning and fertilizing.

Mistakes To Avoid

  • Do not plant too deep.

  • Do not wrap trees.

  • Do not amend the soil, unless the soil is very poor.

  • Do not brace so tightly that the tree cannot sway.

  • Do not leave supports on for more than one growing season.

  • Do not disturb root ball.

  • Do not remove branches to balance crown with roots.

Remember : Call before you dig!
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