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Proper Tree Planting

By Advance Tree Pros

It is more than just ‘Green Side Up!

Research has shown that over 95% of tree failures are related to critical errors made at the time of planting. All too often, arborists will find problems that can be traced back to the first year the tree was planted in the landscape. Planting a tree that will live for generations and provide many benefits is easy to achieve if done correctly at the beginning.


  • Make sure the location will support the tree when it reaches maturity:
    • Room for branches
    • Room for trunk
    • Room for roots
  • Test your soil prior to planting for soil type and nutrient levels
  • Select trees that will do well in your soil:
    • Tolerant of pH (acidic or alkaline)
    • Tolerant of clays or sandy soils
  • Find the “true” root flare of the tree
    • Make sure the root flare is above the soil line after planting.
    • Untie twine and pull back burlap
  • Dig the hole to twice the width of the root ball or container, but keep the root flare at grade
  • Remove any roots that appear to be circling
  • After pacing in planting site, remove as much wire basket and burlap as possible
  • Provide water for the tree for at least the first three years after planting and during drought conditions (see watering information sheet).
  • Put down 1” of compost with a 2-3” depth of hardwood mulch about 3” from the base of the tree, out to at least three feet.


  • Don’t bury the root flare below the soil
  • Don’t drill holes to plant trees
  • Don’t use starter fertilizers
  • Don’t forget to water your tree twice weekly
  • Don’t forget to remove:
    • Twine
    • Tags
    • Burlap and wire basket tops
    • Bark protection wrap
  • Don’t trim live undamaged branches at the time of planting

Common Tree Planting Myths:

  • False—Planting deeper is better. It protects the tree from falling over.
    • Even planting a tree with just two inches of soil above the root flare is enough to cause the development of epicormic sprouts that can strangle the tree over time.
    • Trees develop roots laterally, not vertically, to support themselves against wind and other forces.
  • False—Fertilizer applied at planting helps the tree become better established.
    • Research has shown that fertilizers applied at planting are actually harmful to trees. Rather than stimulating root growth, fertilizers promote above-ground growth that further stresses the tree root system.

An integrated approach

When caring for urban trees it is important to make a complete evaluation of all environmental conditions to accurately diagnose all stress factors and prescribe care based on specific circumstances. This prescriptive care will help your tree meet its full potential.