How to Plant a Tree/Shrub

Posted by Crystal Stykalo on

Congratulations on the purchase of your tree/shrub!

Let’s get it into the ground asap. Follow these 9 steps to have the best success in growing your new tree/shrub. 

Step 1: Choose the proper site for the plant.

Click here to read our article on How to Choose the Right Plant for Your Location.

Step 2: Dig the Planting Hole 

Dig the planting hole 2x the diameter of the root ball at the surface of the soil sloping down to about the width of the root ball at the base. The bottom of the hole should be flat. You’re creating an upside cone with the point cut off.

Tip: Never dig deeper than the root ball

Step 3: Remove the Tree from the Pot

Loosen the soil in the pot by gently laying the tree on its side and pressing on the sides on the container until the root ball comes loose. Then gently pull the tree out of the pot.

Tip: Cutting the container with a sharp knife may be necessary

Step 4: Loosen the Roots

Roots matted at the bottom or circling around the root ball should be teased loose with your fingers and straightened. If roots are densely matted and can’t be teased apart, they should be cut in 2 places with a sharp knife to stop any circling.

Large roots that develop and grow across the other roots at the base of the trunk can “girdle” the tree. Girdling roots can choke off the water supply to the tree causing decline and death of the entire tree.

Step 5: Place the Plant in the Hole 

Orient the tree/shrub so it looks the best from the direction it will be viewed most often.

Make sure the trunk is straight/vertical. You may have to tilt the root ball to achieve this. That’s okay. Having a straight tree is more important than the root ball sitting flat in the hole.

Step 6: Backfilling the Hole

Use the material you dug out of the hole as much as possible. Install the material in 2 lifts; firming and compacting the bottom half to support the root ball, then to finish the grade sloping away from the trunk.

After firming the bottom half it’s a good idea to add some slow release fertilizer into the planting hole. Make sure the fertilizer pellets aren’t touching the roots. These Agriform Planting Tablets are our favourite to use when planting a tree.

Step 7: Create a Water Saucer Tree with a watering ring

Using the remaining soil, create a dike around the tree at the edge of the planting hole. This will allow water to collect over the root zone.

Step 8: Add Mulch

 Add a 4-inch layer of wood mulch over the disturbed soil. Cover everything from the trunk to the outside of the water saucer. This will help suppress weeds and conserve soil moisture.

Step 9: Water

Thoroughly water your new tree/shrub. The most important factor in successfully planting is maintaining adequate soil moisture to encourage root growth. Check out our Tree and Shrub Care: Part 1 – Watering article for tips on how to keep your new tree well watered.

Newly planted tree


Spending some time to properly plant your new tree will greatly increase its survival rate at its new home. I hope you enjoy planting your new tree and watching it grow for years to come!

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