How to Plant Container-Grown Trees

Transfer a tree from its container with this step-by-step guide.

Materials Needed

  • container trees of choice
  • garden fork or rake
  • watering can or garden hose
  • fertilizer
  • shovel
  • stick or bamboo cane
  • mulch
  • wooden stake (optional)

Step 1: Prepare ground before planting

Remove Weeds and Prepare Soil for Sod

Remove Weeds and Prepare Soil for Sod

Before laying sod, prepare the soil by removing weeds, adding in organic matter, and digging in sand to help with drainage.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Loosen the soil with a fork to improve drainage, remove weeds, and incorporate some organic matter and all-purpose fertilizer at the specified rate over 6-10 feet (2–3 m) of ground surrounding the planting area to ensure that your tree is well nourished.

Step 2: Dig a hole

Planting a Tree

Planting a Tree

Photo by: DK - How to Grow Practically Everything © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Soak the tree roots thoroughly. Dig a planting hole the same depth as the root ball and up to three times as wide. Break up any compacted soil around the sides with a garden fork.

Step 3: Place tree in hole

Check Tree Planting Depth with Bamboo Cane

Check Tree Planting Depth with Bamboo Cane

Check the planting depth of a tree by placing a stick or cane across the top of the planting hole. The stick should lay flat across the hole and the root ball.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Check the planting depth by laying a stick or bamboo cane across the top. This may be easier if you remove the container first.

Step 4: Remove container and scrape excess soil from base of trunk

Tease Out Encircling Roots

Tease Out Encircling Roots

Photo by: DK - Garden Design © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - Garden Design, 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Be sure to also tease out any roots that have grown around the edge of the root ball.

Step 5: Put the tree back in hole and spread roots out evenly

Hold Planted Tree Upright and Fill In with Soil

Hold Planted Tree Upright and Fill In with Soil

Place tree in hole and spread out the roots evenly. Hold the tree upright while refilling the hole with dirt and water well.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Water in well, thoroughly soaking the roots. Ask someone to help you hold the tree upright while you replace the excavated soil.

Step 6: Replace excavated soil in and around the roots

Firm in Newly Planted Tree Using Foot to Compact

Firm in Newly Planted Tree Using Foot to Compact

Firm in the replaced soil around newly planted tree with foot to eliminate any air pockets. Water tree well, and use mulch around the trunk.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Firm the soil in well with your foot to eliminate any air pockets, but be careful not to compact the soil. Water the tree well. Apply a mulch, leaving a gap around the trunk. Stake large trees after planting to prevent damage from wind-rock.

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