Tree and Shrub Planting

Tree and Shrub PlantingWhen planting a shrub or tree it is vital to do it properly to ensure the plant flourishes. There are a number of key steps to plant the tree or shrub for good health and a long life.

Site Evaluation

Before choosing and planting trees and shrubs careful attention should be given to the site itself. Each site should be evaluated for the following:

  • Slope
  • Hardiness Zone
  • Soil Type
  • Exposure
  • Amount of light
  • Drainage
  • Space or size
  • Soil pH/Nutrient availability

Plant Selection

After site evaluation, select a shrub or tree type that will adapt well to that location. Match the needs of the plant to the site. When choosing the shrub or tree it is important to know the ultimate size and maintenance needs.

Choose the right plant for the location and consider existing plants in the immediate area.

Site Preparation

The planting hole should be no deeper than the rootball as measured from the trunk flare to the bottom of the ball. Planting a tree or shrub too deep is not good `either planted too deep or too high, both of which can cause serious problems.

Planting Hole Preparation

To properly plant balled and burlapped (B&B) plant material, start by locating the point at which the trunk flare begins. In some cases, the trunk flare junction may be buried in the top of the rootball and it may be necessary to loosen the burlap at the top of the ball to properly locate the junction. Measuring from the trunk flare to the bottom of the ball will give the correct planting hole depth.

Setting the Plant

Carefully set the plant in the hole so that the trunk flare is at, or 1 to 2 inches above, the existing grade. Once the plant is properly placed, cut away and remove all visible rope and burlap.
Backfilling the Planting Hole

According to research, backfilling with soil dug from the planting hole is preferable to mixing the soil with large amounts of organic soil amendments such as peat moss, compost, etc. The addition of an organic soil amendment may be called for if the existing soil is of poor quality, such as excessively sandy or heavy clay soils or those consisting of undesirable fill material.

When the hole has been filled smooth the surface soil and check to ensure that the trunk flare is completely exposed. Water the rootball and planting area immediately after backfilling.


Water is a critical factor to the successful establishment of landscape plants. Excessive or insufficient water will impede the formation and/or elongation of new roots. Immediately after planting, water the root ball and the planting area deeply.


The addition of fertilizer and limestone should be made according to recommendations based on a soil test. Avoid placing water-soluble quick-release nitrogen fertilizer directly in the planting hole as this may cause injury to roots. If needed, a slow release or organic form of nitrogen could be mixed into the planting area or be applied on the soil surface around the tree basin.


Staking is not necessary for all trees. Trunk strength, size of the canopy, wind direction and site traffic problems should all be considered before staking a tree. In most instances, stakes should be removed after one growing season.


Mulching is a cultural practice that can be of benefit in the landscape when done correctly. Mulching will reduce weeds, moderate soil temperatures, conserve soil moisture in the root zone and add an aesthetic quality to the landscape. However, improper mulching can impair plant health and may lead to the decline of the plant material.


After transplanting, prune only broken or damaged branches. Top pruning to compensate for root loss is no longer recommended. It is important to leave as much foliage on the tree as possible because carbohydrates and other products produced by photosynthesis in the leaves are necessary for root system regeneration and development.

Tree Wrapping

The bark on a tree or shrub is as important as skin to an animal. It acts as a barrier to exclude insects and disease organisms. Some bark injuries may occur because of damage from the sun (sunscald) or temperature extremes (frost cracks). For many years, it has been a common practice to use tree wrap on newly planted or thin-barked trees in an effort to reduce sun or temperature damage to the bark.


Fox Tree and Landscaping Services can help you to evaluate your site and select the proper trees or shrubs for your project. We can help with a site prep and planting and then post planting maintenance.