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How Do You Plant a Tree?

Planting Tips for All Sizes of Tree Seedlings


For simplicity, I want to divide planting into two categories - horticultural and wildland planting . Horticultural tree planting is geared toward urban situations where landscaping is of primary concern. Generally speaking, because these trees contain an intact root ball, they can be planted in any season.

Where these higher valued saplings and trees are planted to enhance property, more effort should be spent on each individual tree. Kim Powell, Extension Horticultural Specialist, explores the types of trees available for transplanting and gives tips on purchasing, planting, and maintaining tree transplants .

Here is a "how to" on planting balled in burlap saplings: Planting Balled Saplings

Also, you would be well advised to take my Tree Wellness Quiz before planting the saplings. Don't worry about your score. The object here is to find out what you know and to give you some help with the things you don't know.

Wildland planting, the preferred method for reforestation, is done over a much broader area. Even though this type of planting is cheaper on a per tree basis, it can be very expensive in total and should be done correctly. A plan can make your planting effort more effective.

Reforestation using "bare-root" seedlings is done by government, industry, and private individuals. The plantings are most often made using coniferous species. Hardwood wildland planting is also a viable practice, but hardwood regeneration techniques also include sprouting and dormant seeds. Many times these non-planting techniques are the preferred methods of regeneration. Also, federal and state cost-share programs have historically supported funding pine, spruce, and fir planting over hardwood planting.

Here is a "how to" on planting bare-root seedlings: Planting Bare-root Seedlings

Coniferous planting techniques are similar for most species. I have included planting guides for the western United States created by Colorado State Forest Service and for the southern United Sates created by South Carolina Forestry Commission . These sources give you a good overview on how to deliver, handle, store, and transplant seedlings. You must use proper care with a big emphasis on the correct temperature range and moisture level. Again, always observe the "ten commandments".

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