Planting a tree holds so much possibility.

Someday, you’ll pick apples. String it with holiday lights. Sprawl beneath its shade with a picnic and a good book.

But first, you have to plant it. And there's a bit more to the process than just digging a hole and sticking it in the ground.


We'll walk you through it — and tell you some common tree planting mistakes to avoid.

First, The Dig

Dig a hole 2 to 3 times as wide as your tree’s root ball. Then, carefully place it in the hole, keeping the root ball intact.

Position the tree in the center of the hole so the best side is facing in the direction you want. Don’t plant it too deep. The root flare at the base of the trunk should be just above ground level.

Next, The Fill

Shovel in soil as you make sure the tree is straight. Keep filling and firmly packing in soil. Be sure there aren’t any pockets of air.

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Up Next: Water

Scoop out a bit of a basin around the hole and water your tree in well.


Don’t Forget Mulch

Once the water has soaked in, spread 2 to 4 inches of mulch in about a 3-foot diameter around the tree to protect the roots and hold in moisture. Be sure the mulch doesn’t touch the trunk.

Keep An Eye On It

Keep the soil and mulch moist — but not soggy. If the weather is dry, water your new tree every week or so for the first year. Don’t flood it. Water it slowly.

No Food, Please

Resist the urge to fertilize your tree. While new babies are always hungry, new trees are not. Adding fertilizer or chemicals could kill it. Wait a year before fertilizing.

Tree Planting Mistakes To Avoid


Yes, there’s a wrong way to plant a tree. Here are some common mistakes to avoid:

Planting Trees In The Wrong Spot

Be sure the tree you choose is right for the space. How tall will it get? How wide? Does it prefer sun or part shade? What about soil requirements? Will it drop messy fruit on your sidewalk? If you’re hoping for spectacular fall color, will your tree have it?

Do some research.

Digging A Hole That’s Too Small

It’s really important to dig a hole 2 to 3 times as wide as your tree’s root ball. Roots need plenty of room to spread out as your tree grows. Eventually, roots can spread out two to three times the width of the canopy of the tree.

Planting Too Deep

It’s tempting to really snug a tree’s root ball down into the ground, but if you set it in too deep, it can suffocate. The root flare at the base of the trunk should be just above ground level.

Not Watering Enough

New trees are thirsty — not just for a week or two, but for a year or two. Plan on a regular watering schedule for at least the first year to ensure your new tree’s health.

Provide about an inch of water a week. More than that, and your tree’s roots could rot.

Ignoring Potbound Roots

If your tree has been growing in a container, take a good look at the roots before you plant the tree. Do they spiral around in a circle?

Be sure to loosen all the roots so they face out from the trunk, not circle around it. If they continue to grow in a spiral, they’ll eventually strangle your tree.


Leave The Tree Planting To Level Green

Here at Level Green, we love planting trees. And we know exactly how to do it to ensure many years of health and happiness for you and your new addition.

If you’re not already a Level Green Landscaping client, we’d love to add you to our growing list of happy customers. Our focus is on commercial properties like offices, mixed-use sites, HOAs, municipalities and institutions in Maryland, Washington DC and parts of Virginia.

Contact us at 202-544-0968. You can also request a free consultation online to meet with us one-on-one.

We’d love to hear from you.

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