University of Tennessee
Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center
Oak Ridge Forest Cumberland Forest Highland Rim Forest Arboretum

Tree Planting Tips

Types of Trees

Trees purchased from wholesale and retail nurseries and garden supply stores generally come in one of three forms


Balled and Burlapped (B & B)


Container Grown


Bare Root

Planting Tips

Digging the Hole As a general rule, trees should be transplanted no deeper than the soil in which they were originally grown. Trees planted too deep or to shallow may develop unnaturally, have weakened root systems, and grow poorly. The hole should be wide enough to allow the root structure to expand sufficiently to nourish and properly anchor the tree.

B & B Planting Remove all string and twine from B&B trees and cutaway burlap or at least bulled-back from the top third of the ball (mandatory in the case of synthetic or plastic burlap).

Container Grown Planting Carefully remove from the container and check the roots. If they are tightly compressed or potbound, use your fingers or a blunt instrument (to minimize root tearing) to carefully tease the fine roots away from the tight mass and then spread the roots prior to planting.

Bare Root Planting Plant as soon as possible after purchasing. Care should be taken to ensure that the roots are kept moist in the period between purchase and planting. To plant, first build a cone of earth in the center of the hole around which to splay the roots. Make sure that when properly seated on this cone the tree is planted so that the trunk flare is clearly visible and the crown, where the roots and top meet, is about two inches above the soil level. This is to allow for natural settling.

Proper Hole Preparation

Potbound Root

Watering Newly planted trees should be watered at the time of planting. In addition, during the first growing season, they should be watered at least once a week in the absence of rain, more often during the height of the summer. However, care should be taken not to overwater as this may result in oxygen deprivation.

Mulching To conserve moisture and promote water and air penetration, the back filled soil surrounding newly-planted trees can be covered with mulch consisting of material such as bark, wood chips or pine needles (although the acidity associated with pine needles is not suited for many plants). Mulch depth should be between 3 to 4 inches.

Fertilizing Generally, newly planted trees do not need to be fertilized the first year they are planted. During that first year plants are re-establishing root-to-soil contact and the addition of fertilizers may stimulate tree growth before the root system is fully developed to support or sustain growth. This may be a particular problem with B&B trees which have some of their root systems removed during digging.

Staking and guy-wiring Staking may be necessary for some newly planted trees while they are establishing a root system capable of supporting their own weight. Only stake a tree long enough to stand on its own. Leave room for the tree to sway in the wind but not rub against the stake.

Wrapping A technique of winding a crepe-type paper or spiral plastic around the barks of trees to prevent the sun-scalding of thin-barked trees like soft maples and crabapples during the first one or two winters after planting. Remove the wrapping each spring to prevent moisture buildup, disease and insect infestation.

Return to Urban Forestry Demonstration

University of Tennessee - Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center
901 South Illinois Avenue, Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37830 · Telephone: 865-483-3571 · Email: UTforest@utk.edu